US Secret Service agents and military personnel took as many as 21 women back to their hotel in Colombia in an incident last week involving alleged misconduct with prostitutes, a Republican senator said on Tuesday.
“There are 11 agents involved. Twenty or 21 women foreign nationals were brought to the hotel, but allegedly marines were involved with the rest,” Senator Susan Collins of Maine — who was briefed by the director of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan — said in an e-mail.
“Director Sullivan is rightly appalled by the agents actions and is pursuing a vigorous internal investigation,” said Collins, the senior Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee. “He ordered all the agents to return to Washington immediately, and all have been interviewed.”
More details about the incident that marred US President Barack Obama’s weekend trip to the Summit of the Americas in Categena, Colombia emerged on Tuesday.
A Marine Corps spokesman said two marine dog handlers assigned to support the Secret Service are being investigated to determine whether they were involved in soliciting prostitutes.
The spokesman, Captain Kevin Schultz, said the marines were on the advance team and were not in direct contact with Obama.
The Secret Service has revoked the top security clearances of its 11 agents and placed them on administrative leave due to the incident.
The agents brought the prostitutes to their beachfront hotel in Cartagena, before Obama arrived for the summit, according to a local police source. A US official said that more than 10 military service members also may have been involved.
“The president has confidence in Director Sullivan,” Obama’s spokesman Jay Carney said. “The director acted swiftly in response to this incident and is overseeing an investigation.”
Another lawmaker who has spoken with Sullivan, Representative Peter King, said that investigators in Colombia for the Secret Service were interviewing the women involved, who had left identification at the hotel desk, King said.
“So far there is no information that any of them were involved with any narco-terrorist group or any organized crime. Nor is there any indication that the women were looking for the men,” he said, addressing a concern that the agents might have been set up by someone with intent to compromise them.
King said he understood that each of the 11 agents took a woman to his room.
“A number [of the agents] are saying they did not consider them prostitutes,” he said.