WASHINGTON - Three more Secret Service officers resigned Friday in the expanding prostitution scandal that has brought criticism of agents’ behavior in Colombia just before President Obama’s visit for a summit meeting last week. Agency Director Mark Sullivan came to the White House late Friday to personally brief Obama in the Oval Office.
The Secret Service announced the new resignations, bringing to six the number of agency officers who have lost their jobs because of events at their hotel in Cartagena.
An additional agency employee was implicated Friday, a government official said, commenting on condition of anonymity. That brings the number to 12. One has been cleared of serious misconduct but still faces administrative action, an official said.
Obama’s spokesman has assailed Republican criticism that has attempted to blame a lack of presidential leadership for the scandal and has said Obama would be angry if allegations published proved to be true. Friday’s was Obama’s first personal briefing by Sullivan on the subject, officials said.
Eleven Secret Service employees had been noted earlier. The 12th has been placed on administrative leave.
The scandal also involves at least 11 members of the military who were working on security before Obama arrived in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas. The Pentagon acknowledged Friday that an 11th person, a member of the Army, was implicated.
The incident in Colombia involved at least some Secret Service personnel bringing prostitutes to their hotel rooms. News of the event, which involves at least 20 Colombian women, broke a week ago after a fight over payment between a prostitute and a Secret Service agent spilled into the hotel hallway. A 24-year-old Colombian prostitute told The New York Times that the agent agreed to pay her $800 for a night of sex but the next morning offered her only $30. She eventually left the hotel, she told the newspaper, after she was paid $225.
Two Secret Service supervisors and another employee were forced out of the agency earlier in the week. All of the agents being investigated have had their top-secret clearances revoked.
The lawyer for two Secret Service supervisors said that Obama’s safety was never at risk, and he criticized leaks of internal government investigations in the case, signaling a possible strategy for an upcoming legal defense.
The Secret Service briefed about two dozen congressional staff members Friday, mainly from the Senate Judiciary Committee, according to one individual who was there but was not authorized to be quoted by name.
The person said investigators have photo identification and names from a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel registry for all the women who stayed overnight and are in the process of conducting interviews. Investigators have interviewed maids and said no alcohol or drugs were found in the rooms.
Those under investigation were offered polygraphs and drug tests. It is unclear whether anyone accepted, the person said.
As for the military personnel involved, Pentagon press secretary George Little said Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was getting regular updates on the investigation.
“He understands the level of interest in this issue,’’ Little said. “He has serious concerns about the alleged misconduct.’’
Little said members of Congress have not yet been briefed on the military investigation but would be “in the near future.’’
In a letter to Secret Service employees Monday and obtained by the AP, Sullivan said the agency had moved in a “swift, decisive manner immediately after this incident was brought to our attention.’’