Entries in Colombia (8)


White House Denies IG’s Suggestion Advance Team Volunteer Was Involved in Colombia Scandal

USSS(WASHINGTON) -- The White House Friday rejected an inspector general’s suggestion that a White House Advance Staff volunteer may have been involved in the U.S. Secret Service scandal involving Colombian prostitutes.

In a letter to Congress, Charles Edwards, the Acting Inspector General for the Department of Homeland Security, noted that while the scope of his “investigation was limited to the conduct of the DHS personnel in Cartagena, we did find a hotel registry that suggests that two non-USSS personnel may have had contact with foreign nationals.” Since the two instances were outside his area of inquiry, Edwards “did not conduct any additional investigation into this finding and has made no determination related to these individuals because they are not DHS personnel.”

One “of these employees is a Department of Defense employee affiliated with the White House Communication Agency,” Edwards said, “and the other, whose employment status was not verified, may have been affiliated with the White House advance operation.”

White House spokesman Eric Schultz responded, saying, “As we’ve said for months, the White House review concluded that no members of the White House advance team, either staff or volunteers, engaged in inappropriate conduct during the President’s trip to Colombia.”

A senior administration official pointed out that the U.S. Secret Service noted that one of its agents had been falsely accused in the scandal because, according to a letter from Secret Service director Mark Sullivan to Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., in May, a Pentagon “employee admitted to writing a USSS room number on the registration card when he brought his female guest into the El Caribe Hotel.”

The Obama administration suggests that an internal White House investigation concluded that the same happened to this other individual -- a civilian volunteer with the White House Advance Team.

“Based on an inaccurate hotel records, at least two people were wrongly implicated in Colombia -- one of which was Secret Service personnel, as Director Sullivan has made clear, and the other was a White House volunteer for the advance team,” the senior administration official noted. “In the White House review, we found no other corroborating materials, and concluded that the hotel record was erroneous and that the volunteer did not engage in any inappropriate behavior.”

The White House would not name the individual in question.

The April scandal -- which came to light because one of the Secret Service agents refused to pay his bill -- resulted in eight agents losing their jobs and another losing his security clearance. More than 10 members of the U.S. military were punished for their participation in the scandal.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


White House: We’re Clean in Prostitution Scandal

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The White House on Monday tried to halt a ballooning Secret Service scandal involving the alleged hiring of prostitutes by saying it had reviewed "advance team" members who were in Colombia before President Obama's arrival and determined they had done nothing wrong. But the White House refused to share details of the review.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said that last Friday a White House lawyer began an investigation of the team members who were in Cartagena during the prostitution scandal, and that it found "no indication of any misconduct" by the White House team.

The decision to review the advance team was made by the White House counsel and the chief of staff's office, Carney said. He declined to confirm how many interviews were undertaken or any other details. "I don't think it's useful to get into the details of how the review was conducted," Carney said.

"I don't have, and I'm not going to give you, a blow-by-blow of what is involved in the review," said Carney.

Carney was pressed about a report on the news website Nextgov that said a person in the White House Communications Agency, a military group that informs the president and his staff members, was under investigation. He declined to answer questions about it, saying they were for the Defense Department instead.

Carney also lashed out against "rumors" on the Internet published by writers "with no editors and no conscience."

"If someone comes to us with some credible allegation that anybody at the White House was involved in any inappropriate conduct, I'm sure that we'll look at it, but there isn't that," he said. "There is an attempt by some to throw rumors out there."

Of the "communications agency," Carney said that "these are military personnel staffed by the military."

"They are not members of the White House staff," he said. "They are not chosen by the White House senior staff."

Members of Congress investigating the agents' trip to Colombia have speculated that more employees would be fired and wondered whether White House staff was involved.

Six Secret Service employees, including two supervisors, have already lost their jobs as a result of an investigation into a night out in Cartagena in which agents drank heavily and mingled with prostitutes before a visit by President Obama.

The Secret Service said last week that 12 employees had been "implicated" in the investigation, and the military said 11 of its service members are being investigated.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


More Secret Service Firings Likely, Former Director Denies Cultural Issue

Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A former director of the Secret Service says events of the caliber of the Colombian prostitution incident didn’t occur during his tenure at the agency.

“I don’t believe in the past these types of things have happened,” said W. Ralph Basham. “They certainly didn’t happen on my watch.”

Basham, who headed the service from 2003 to 2006, denied allegations of wider misconduct within the body charged with protecting the president and other governmental officials. On CBS’ “Face the Nation” this morning he said that while it was not unheard of for disciplinary action to be taken against agents, he could not remember ever removing one from duty.

“This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service,” he said.

Six agents have been fired or resigned since news broke that members of the agency and a military advance team had hired prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of a trip by President Obama to the country. Some lawmakers now question how such a blatant break of professional decorum could occur without the support of a larger culture.

Today the chairman of a House committee charged with investigating the incident confirmed that more firings were likely as the full scope of the event becomes clear. On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., said he expected more firings in the “near future.”

“I would say anyone we have found to be guilty will [lose their job,]” he said. “What they were thinking is beyond me.”

King emphasized that the investigative focus should not be on the moral conduct of the accused, but rather the national security vulnerabilities presented by the incident.

While expressing his support for the current head of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, this morning the congressman sent a 50-question letter to the director requesting answers for specifics of the investigation.

Meanwhile on CNN Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., suggested the House Oversight committee would send a similar letter to the Pentagon this week regarding the military’s involvement.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Harry Reid: Secret Service Scandal Suggests ‘Stupidity’ 

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Asked in the wake of the Secret Service scandal if Congress should be more involved in reforming the culture of the U.S. Secret Service, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., declared Thursday that lawmakers just cannot legislate against stupidity.

“There’ll be committees of jurisdiction that will hold hearings on this. But all -- understand this: There’s not a committee hearing that’s going to take the place or stop people from being stupid. There is not a bill we can pass to cause people to have common sense,” said Reid.

He added there will be various investigations and committee hearings going forward on this in due time, as they should.

“I mean, think about this: People that are here to protect the president -- they go to Colombia and have a fight with a prostitute over how much she should be paid,” he continued, “And that’s a little -- that’s either very stupid or total lack of common sense.”

All that said, Reid says he has “great confidence” in the Secret Service.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secret Service Agents Brought Prostitutes in 'Contact with Sensitive Info'

Joe Raedle/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The partying U.S. Secret Service agents and officers who allegedly brought prostitutes into their Cartagena, Colombia, hotel rooms brought the call girls “into contact with sensitive security information,” the Chair and ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform wrote to Mark J. Sullivan, the director of the U.S. Secret Service on Wednesday.

Sources tell ABC News that this was a reference to Sullivan, in a Monday meeting with congressional investigators, expressing concern that there was sensitive information in one or more of the rooms at the Hotel Caribe.

The charge is contained in a letter from Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., who wrote to Sullivan on Wednesday that the “nation’s capacity to protect the President, the Vice President, and visiting foreign leaders, among others, is dependent on the character and judgment of the agents and officers of the U.S. Secret Service.  The actions of at least 11 agents and officers in Colombia last week showed an alarming lack of both.”


“The facts as you described them raised questions about the agency’s culture,” the two congressmen write.  “The incident in Cartagena is troubling because Secret Service agents and officers made a range of bad decisions, from drinking too much, to engaging with prostitutes, to bringing foreign nationals into contact with sensitive security information, to exposing themselves to blackmail and other forms of potential compromise.”

In addition, the committee leaders asked for detailed information about the incident, including a “description of the Secret Service’s current understanding of possible agent misconduct that occurred on the evening of Wednesday, April 11 and the morning of Thursday, April 12″; a “complete description and account of all U.S. Government personnel who were involved in or had contemporaneous knowledge of misconduct by agents and officers”; a timeline; summaries of all disciplinary actions since 2002 that have been taken against the 11 agents and officers involved in the Colombian incident; and a determination as to whether “all women involved in this incident were at least 18 years of age.”

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Argument About the Bill Alerted Hotel Authorities to Secret Service and Prostitutes Cavorting, WH Official Says

George Doyle/Stockbyte/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- A senior administration official briefed on the accusations against the Secret Service agents pulled from duty in Colombia tells ABC News that a heated argument between at least one of the alleged prostitutes and at least one of the Secret Service agents first alerted authorities of the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena to the cavorting between Secret Service agents and prostitutes.

The argument was a dispute over the bill for services rendered, the administration official said.

Hotel Caribe authorities went to investigate the ruckus and learned that there had been some activity between Secret Service agents and prostitutes, the senior administration official said.

Hotel authorities then went down to the reception desk to see who else of the American guests may have signed in female guests — call girls — for the evening.

Initially, this official said, that inspection led the hotel authorities to have questions about 22 Americans — 17 Secret Service agents and five special operations soldiers who were there to assist the Secret Service. Their names were reported to the lead U.S. military official on the ground.

That is not to say that all 22 men had hired prostitutes, the administration official underlined. Some of those about whom the hotel raised questions may merely have been attending a party and violating curfew. Eleven Secret Service agents have been sent back to the United States. The five U.S. Special Forces members remain in Colombia, per the request of the Secret Service.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Secret Service Officials Sent Home From Presidential Trip for Alleged Misconduct

Hemera/Thinkstock*UPDATE: An American official who is not authorized to speak about the incident tells ABC News the officers were not agents tasked with guarding President Obama.

The incident may have only involved one or two individuals, the American official said.  It’s likely an entire unit was pulled while an investigation is underway. The officers were sent home and a new unit was brought in to replace them.

While prostitution is legal in certain parts of Colombia the Secret Service said it takes allegations of any soliciting seriously.

The alleged misconduct happened before President Obama arrived in Colombia on Friday afternoon for the Summit of the Americas. Secret Service said that the security surrounding the president was never compromised.


(CARTAGENA, Colombia) — U.S. Secret Service officials were sent home from President Obama’s trip to Colombia because of allegations of misconduct, apparently involving prostitution.

While the Secret Service would not confirm the number of personnel involved, the allegations make this an acutely embarrassing incident for the elite security tasked with protecting the president.

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“There have been allegations of misconduct made against Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the president’s trip,” spokesman Ed Donovan, a special agent, told ABC News this evening. “Because of this, those personnel are being relieved of their assignments, returned to their place of duty, and are being replaced by other Secret Service personnel.

“The Secret Service takes all allegations of misconduct seriously. This entire matter has been turned over to our Office of Professional Responsibility, which serves as the agency’s internal affairs component. These personnel changes will not affect the comprehensive security plan that has been prepared in advance of the President’s trip,” Donovan added.

The beach-resort city is hosting the Summit of the Americas this weekend. The president left Washington on Friday to attend the series of meetings with his Latin American counterparts. He is scheduled to return home Sunday.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio


Obama Praises Killing of Leader of FARC in Colombia

Photo Courtesy - The White House(NEW YORK) -- Prior to holding a formal bilateral meeting with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos, President Obama spoke on Thursday's raid on the FARC camp, which led to the killing of the rebel group's number two leader, Jorce Briceno.

“Yesterday was a big day for the people of Colombia and those who are seeking peace in the region,” the president said in New York City Friday, “because of outstanding work by Colombian security forces they were able to embark on a mission that resulted in a death of the leader of FARC.”

President Obama went on to say that Colombians have been plagued by “this terrorist insurgency for a very long time,” but because of this success, the country now has a “chance to see continued stability in Colombia and in the region.”

Santos express that his country is now entering a “new era,” and that they can finally turn to focusing on a “more progressive agenda,” including social development and environmental issues.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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