Secret Service Pley Club Scandal: Investigator Arrives In Colombia; Two Marines Under Investigation
A U.S. Army spokesman said Tuesday that an investigator is in Colombia investigating soldiers' involvement in a scandal surrounding the Secret Service and prostitutes from the Pley Club prior to President Barack Obama's visit last week.
Army Col. Scott Malcom told USA Today that an officer from the Southern Command arrived in Colombia on Monday night. The Southern Command is the Pentagon's headquarters for operations in South America.
It has been alleged that 11 Secret Service agents and at least 10 military personnel, including one from every branch, participated in misconduct ahead of Obama's arrival for the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. Those allegedly involved were sent home and their security clearances revoked.
Malcom told USA Today that the initial investigation has revealed that some of the troops violated their curfew, meaning they were either not in their rooms when required or had an unauthorized person in the room. Malcolm, a chief spokesman for U.S. Southern Command, didn't say how long the investigation will last.
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He did tell the Military Times on Monday that the personnel suspected of misconduct were supporting the Secret Service and not providing direct security to the president.
The Military Times reported Tuesday that two Marines are among those under investigation. NPR added that five Army Special Forces soldiers and two Navy SEALs were also involved.
Capt. Brian Block, a Marine Corps spokesman at the Pentagon, said both persons are military working dog handlers who were a part of the president's advance team. Advance teams usually arrive days before presidential visits to ensure that security is tight while dog handlers sweep for explosives, the Military Times explained.
Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told her that "20 or 21 women foreign nationals were brought to the hotel."
"There's a lot of different stories, and the 11 guys, there's different stories from them," said Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.
Secret Service investigators are also in Cartagena, seeking to interview women who are said to have accompanied 11 agents --including snipers and explosives experts -- to their hotel rooms after a night of heavy drinking, King told the New York Times.
The agency knows their identities because the hotel where they stayed had a policy requiring women to leaving copies of their identification cards before going into rooms, said King, who was briefed on the investigation on Tuesday morning by Sullivan.
King has said there is no reason at this time to believe that national security was comprised or that Obama's security was affected.
Paul Morrissey, assistant director for the Secret Service, issued a statement that none of the personnel in question were assigned to the Presidential Protective Division.
Still, King believes that an investigation is needed to put to rest the chance that security in any way was compromised.
"It's too risky to just accept that," King said. "Let's face it, historically women, and prostitutes in particularly, have been used to infiltrate or get information."
Obama has called for a "thorough" and "rigorous" investigation into the allegations of misconduct. The president has also said that if the scandal surrounding the Secret Service is confirmed he would be angry.
Reports are that Sullivan considers this a serious investigation and is also angry that such an incident happened.
Ronald Kessler, the correspondent who broke the story, has said that in order for there to be a reform, Sullivan must be fired.
"The problem is management, which cut corners, and I think that is a symptom of that," Kessler said.
Kessler asserted the Secret Service doesn't require regular physical fitness or firearms testing and that it has its agents fill out their own test scores.
"Ultimately there can be an assassination if they don't have high standards," Kessler said, adding that he doesn't think behaviors like the Colombia allegations are routine. "The standard should be that this should have never happened."
In November 2009, Michaele and Tareq Salahi of Virginia, met and shook hands with the Obamas after sneaking into a state dinner at the White House. It was a security breach that prompted an apology from the Secret Service.
Sullivan released a statement at the time that the agency was "deeply concerned and embarrassed."
"The preliminary findings of our internal investigation have determined established protocols were not followed at an initial checkpoint, verifying that two individuals were on the guest list," Sullivan said, as reported by the New York Times.
"Although these individuals went through magnetometers and other levels of screening, they should have been prohibited from entering the event entirely," he added. "That failing is ours."
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