Secret Service drug use
ABC News has learned that Secret Service investigators are probing reports from a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel worker who said he saw a line of white powder, which he believed to be cocaine, on a table in a Secret Service agent's room. The hotel worker told the New York Post he responded to clean up the room after there was a dispute between a Secret Service agent and a prostitute over payment.
"When I went upstairs I walked into a messy room. The room was littered with two whiskey bottles -- and a line of white powder, I believed to be cocaine, was on top of a round glass table in the room," the staffer told the Post.
According to Rep. Peter King of New York, who was briefed by the Secret Service, the agency is taking the hotel worker's allegations seriously.
"This is one of the things the Secret Service is investigating," King told ABC. "Agents are randomly tested for drugs. I know the director will take further action if more information on this becomes available."
The Secret Service declined to comment on the records, but sources familiar with the investigation say inspectors in Colombia have yet to be told that information directly. However, sources said the agency will follow up anyway and question agents who travelled to Colombia about possible drug use.
According the New York Post story, the hotel worker described a chaotic, morning-after scene in the hotel lobby, with the prostitute screaming in the lobby that she had not been paid.
The worker said, "The agent was supposed to pay her a fine on top of the pay rate for her sexual services, but he didn't."
The worker explained that visitors to area strip clubs are expected to pay a fee to the club, and then pay the woman directly for any sexual services.
The scandal, already dubbed the "biggest in Secret Service history," keeps getting worse. Last night saw the first ramifications for the officers involved, as three of the 11 are now gone from the agency — one "removed for cause," one retired and one resigned. Multiple outlets are now reporting that the officer removed for cause plans to sue.
ABC reported that the Secret Service reserved the party space for about 30 people. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who was briefed by Secret Service, said that "20 or 21 women foreign nationals were brought to the hotel" after the Secret Service agents picked up escorts at the Prey Club and at other night clubs.
Also buried in the ABC report is this:
The Secret Service has also widened their investigation of the officials to include possible drug use during their partying in Cartagena, ABC News confirmed.
The New York Times had an interview yesterday with one of the escorts, a 24-year-old single mother who was told she would get $800 from one of the officers only to get $30 at the end of the night. That led to the dispute, police getting involved the next morning and the tip of the scandal.
Also yesterday, Paul Morrissey, the Secret Service's assistant director, said the agency is continuing to investigate the other eight members involved.
"Since these allegations were first reported, the Secret Service has actively pursued this investigation, and has acted to ensure that appropriate disciplinary action is effected," Morrissey said in a statement. "We demand that all of our employees adhere to the highest professional and ethical standards and are committed to a full review of this matter."
This morning, the agency said three of 11 employees under investigation were leaving the Secret Service.
"Although the Secret Service's investigation into allegations of misconduct by its employees in Cartagena, Colombia, is in its early stages, and is still ongoing, three of the individuals involved will separate or are in the process of separating from the agency," a statement from Assistant Director Paul Morrissey said.
The agency today said it was conducting a full, thorough, fair investigation of the scandal, which included the use of polygraphs.
US Senator Susan Collins said she told Secret Service director Mark Sullivan she found it hard to believe the episode was the only one of its kind, because "there were too many people involved".
"He said they were scrubbing the files and looking at whether there were any hints that there had been previous incidents," Collins told reporters outside the Senate.
Secret Service agents and military personnel took as many as 21 women back to their hotel in Colombia, according to Collins, marring President Barack Obama's weekend trip to the Summit of the Americas in the Colombian coastal city of Cartagena.
Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, spoke to Sullivan about the episode on Monday and Tuesday, when she pressed him to look into the files.
"Think of all the missions and countries that the Secret Service visits in advance of the president's trips.
"I think they should look at disciplinary records, at whether supervisors had admonished (them) even informally," she said. "My instinct is that this was not one-time."
Another Republican lawmaker who spoke with Sullivan on Tuesday, Senator Charles Grassley, said Sullivan had asked him not to reveal whether polygraph tests were being offered to Secret Service agents under investigation.
Some news media have reported that polygraphs have been offered, and accepted by some of the agents.
"My concern is, is this a culture that goes beyond 11 people?" Grassley told reporters.
Details continued to emerge about the scandal.
Under investigation are 11 Secret Service agents who have been placed on leave and had their security clearances revoked, as well as 10 US military service members in Colombia.
The military service members being investigated are two Marine dog handlers, five Army Special Forces members, two Navy explosive-ordnance experts and one Air Force member, a US official said.
The Americans brought prostitutes to their beachfront hotel before Obama arrived for the summit, according to a local police source in Colombia.
But some of the Secret Service agents have said they did not think the women were prostitutes, according to US Representative Peter King.Collins said both the Secret Service and the US military had investigators in Colombia interviewing the women who were brought to the hotel by the Americans.King said on Tuesday the investigators had not found that the women were involved in the drug trade or organized crime.
Another concern is whether sensitive information was compromised by taking foreigners into agents' hotel rooms, Grassley said, but he believed adequate precautions appear to have been followed.
At least four congressional committees are looking into the events but no one has announced any hearings on the matter.
Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he and the panel's chairman, Senator Carl Levin, expected to get a briefing soon on the investigation from Pentagon chief Leon Panetta.