Military personnel caught up in Secret Service scandal
CARTAGENA, Colombia -- Five members of the U.S. military may have taken part with Secret Service agents in misconduct involving prostitutes at a hotel in Cartagena,and have been confined to their quarters for violating curfew.
The service members -- assigned to support the Secret Service at this weekend’s Summit of the Americas -- may have been involved in “inappropriate conduct” at the Hotel Caribe, where a team of now-recalled Secret Service agents was staying, the United States Southern Command said Saturday.
Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the Southern Command, said in a statement that he was "disappointed by the entire incident and that this behavior is not in keeping with the professional standards expected of members of the United States military."
He said the military would conduct an investigation and the personnel would face appropriate punishment.
Meanwhile, the military service members are under orders not to have contact with other individuals and will return to the U.S. after the completion of their mission at the summit.
The incident has threatened to mar President Obama’s meeting this weekend with leaders from Central and South America gathered for a regional summit on trade and security.
On Friday, 11 Secret Service agents who had been in Cartagena to prepare for Obama’s arrival were relieved of duty and sent home after allegations of misconduct involving a prostitute.
The Secret Service said Saturday that the agents involved -- none of whom are assigned to Obama’s protective detail -- have been interviewed and placed on administrative leave pending an investigation.
“The Secret Service demands more from its employees, and these expectations are met and exceeded every day by the vast majority of our workforce,” Paul S. Morrissey, assistant director of the U.S. Secret Service Office of Government and Public Affairs, said in a statement. “This incident is not reflective of the behavior of our personnel as they travel every day throughout the country and the world performing their duties in a dedicated, professional manner.
“We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused.”
Obama was aware of the incident, aides said, but he is confident that the agency can handle it properly. An advisor declined to describe Obama's reaction, calling the media interest in the matter a "distraction."
Col. Scott Malcom, a spokesman for the U.S. Southern Command, said Saturday that the episode came to the attention of authorities after an incident drew local police to the Hotel Caribe, where the agents and military personnel were staying. Military officials then determined that the service members involved had violated curfew.
-- Matea Gold reported from Washington and Christi Parsons reported from Cartegena