The Pentagon is investigating 10 U.S. military members in a widening probe into whether an advance team of Secret Service and military personnel hired local prostitutes or engaged in other misconduct before President Obama visited Colombia for a summit last week, U.S. officials said.
The Pentagon investigation is focusing on five Special Forces Army soldiers, two Marines, two Navy personnel and one member of the Air Force, a U.S. military official said. The Navy and Air Force personnel are members of explosive detection unit, the official said.
Authorities originally said only five service members were under investigation but later widened the inquiry after a preliminary probe by a military officer from the U.S. Embassy in Bogota found that more people may have been involved, officials said.
At least five of the 10 military personnel are on their way back to the United States, and a U.S. military colonel is en route to Cartagena to supervise the Pentagon portion of the investigation.
Senior officials admitted Monday that the scandal has embarrassed the White House, the Secret Service and the Pentagon.
“We let the boss down,” Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference Monday, referring to Obama. “I can speak for myself and my fellow chiefs: We’re embarrassed by what occurred in Colombia, though we’re not sure exactly what it is.”
All 10 of the service members were staying at the Cartagena hotel, along with 11 Secret Service agents are suspected of cavorting with prostitutes.
More military personnel might have been involved in misconduct before Obama’s trip
Washington Post, By David Nakamura & Scott Wilson, April 16
A probe into the alleged misconduct of nearly a dozen U.S. Secret Service agents has expanded to include more than five military personnel, Defense Department officials said Monday, as the scandal that erupted during President Obama’s trip to Colombia last week put high-level officials on the defensive.
A preliminary investigation by the Defense Department, which included a review of video from hotel security cameras, found that more military personnel than initially thought might have been involved with the Secret Service in the carousing at the center of the probe. Already, 11 Secret Service agents have been placed on leave amid allegations they entertained prostitutes, potentially one of the most serious lapses at the organization in years.
The charges are triggering scrutiny of the culture of the Secret Service where married agents have been heard to joke during aircraft takeoff that their motto is ”wheels up, rings off” and raising new questions at both the agency and the Pentagon about institutional oversight at the highest levels of the president’s security apparatus.
”œWe are embarrassed,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters in a briefing at the Pentagon. ”We let the boss down, because nobody is talking about what went down in Colombia other than this incident.”
Even though Secret Service officials have said Obama’s security was not compromised, lawmakers who oversee the agency have grown increasingly outraged as new allegations surface.
”I find this to be so appalling,” said Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. ”I can’t help but think, what if the women involved had been spies? It’s such a breach of trust, and it’s virtually unbelievable. I’m truly shocked.”