U.S. Secret Service Questioned 220 Employees in Colombia Probe

The U.S. Secret Service questioned 220 people over three weeks to determine who was at fault in a Colombia prostitution scandal that led to nine employees being found guilty of “serious misconduct,” the agency’s director said.

Additionally, the Secret Service, after interviewing 28 people, found no evidence that a separate incident had occurred in El Salvador as alleged in the media, Director Mark Sullivan said in a prepared statement.

Sullivan is scheduled to answer questions today from the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee about the episode last month in Cartagena, Colombia, where nine Secret Service employees allegedly hired prostitutes. The employees, who have been or are in the process of being removed, were part of a team preparing security for a visit by President Barack Obama.

“I can assure this committee that the Secret Service is committed to investigate any allegation of misconduct where witnesses are willing to come forward with facts,” Sullivan said in the statement.

The Secret Service so far has been “completely transparent and cooperative” in its probe, acting Inspector General Charles K. Edwards of the Department of Homeland Security, which is conducting its own investigation, said in a prepared statement.

Not Compromised

Sullivan repeated agency assurances that Obama’s security wasn’t compromised because of the incident. The Secret Service formed a working group last month that is reviewing its standards of conduct, he said.

Sullivan must explain what he is doing to ensure there is no “code of silence” among agents that keeps questionable behavior from being reported, Senator Joe Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who heads the committee, said in a prepared statement.

“We need to know if there were warning signs that this kind of behavior was happening in the years prior to Cartagena that should have moved the Secret Service to act in a way that would have made it less likely,” Lieberman said.

Separately, at least two U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents “entertained female foreign national masseuses” in one of the agent’s Cartagena apartment, said Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the panel, in a statement yesterday.

The Justice Department’s inspector general is investigating the DEA agents’ “potential misconduct,” which is unrelated to the Secret Service incident, said Jay Lerner, a spokesman for the inspector general, in a statement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Jeff Bliss in Washington at jbliss@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Mark Silva at msilva34@bloomberg.net

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