(WASHINGTON) -- After a private briefing on the status of the Pentagon investigation into the Secret Service prostitution scandal, the two top lawmakers on the Senate Armed Services committee expressed disappointment over the slow pace of the investigation and a lack of concrete information to emerge.
Sen. John McCain, the ranking Republican on the committee, called Wednesday’s update on Capitol Hill, delivered by Vice Adm. William Gortney, the director of the Joint Staff, a “very disappointing briefing” and “a waste of time,” noting the dearth of concrete information about the scandal in which Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel allegedly brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms prior to President Obama’s arrival in Colombia for a summit with Latin American leaders.
McCain expressed frustration that despite the committee’s obligation to conduct oversight on national security issues, there were few answers.
“They wouldn’t even have information as to who was in charge on the ground in Cartagena. It was remarkable,” McCain, R-Ariz., said. “There are clearly implications to national security when prostitutes were in these individuals’ rooms. [The military personnel] have the schedules of the president’s activity the following day. We need that information. That’s our duty to have that information and make decisions accordingly. This briefing today gave us no details on any aspect of it.”
“Our obligation constitutionally,” McCain added, ”is oversight of the activities of the men and women in the military and our national security. That’s the job of the Senate Armed Services committee. Right now the Pentagon is being totally uncooperative in allowing us to fulfill those obligations.”
Sen. Carl Levin, the chairman of the committee, was more subdued, telling reporters that he thought the briefing was “sketchy” but he also explained that “it was a preliminary briefing because the [Pentagon's] investigation is not completed.”
“The military is traditionally reluctant to provide details of an investigation before it’s completed because of their fear of undo command influence and the fear of prejudicing proceedings that might be carried out under the uniform code of military justice,” Levin, D-Mich., said. “I was surprised that it was not fuller, but they gave us the reasons for why they proceeded this way, and that’s where we’re at.”
The Pentagon did not comment after Wednesday’s briefing.
Since the scandal broke on April 13, the Secret Service has moved quickly to investigate its officers. Already, 12 agents either have been cleared of serious misconduct, have resigned, retired, or been notified of personnel actions to permanently revoke their security clearances. Some agents could face firing for cause.
Levin said he was told that the Pentagon’s investigation should be complete by the end of next week and that he and McCain are expecting a comprehensive update the following week.
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