US Secret Service, marines hired 20 women

2012-04-17 22:27

Washington - About 20 women were brought to the hotel in Colombia where Secret Service agents were accused of inviting prostitutes back to their rooms, a US lawmaker said on Tuesday after being briefed on the widening scandal.

Senator Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she was briefed by Secret Service director Mark Sullivan late on Monday on the events at last weekend's summit attended by US President Barack Obama.

"He told me that there are 11 Secret Service agents and officers involved," she said in a statement.

"Some 20 women foreign nationals were brought to the hotel in [Colombia], but allegedly marines were involved with the rest."

She later told reporters that some of the agents involved "were uniformed personnel who are assigned to building security. Others were these specialised agents who do security details."

The agents were pulled back to headquarters in Washington after claims that US personnel invited prostitutes to their rooms, proved an embarrassment at the Summit of the Americas.

"Director Sullivan is rightly appalled by the actions of these Secret Service personnel and is pursuing a vigorous internal investigation," Collins said, adding that Sullivan told her that all agents involved "have been interviewed".

The Pentagon said earlier that more than five US military personnel were also being investigated over alleged misconduct in the resort of Cartagena, the summit's host city.

Dispute over payment

The US source said on condition of anonymity that the agents, who have been placed on administrative leave, had their security clearances suspended pending an investigation into the allegations.

Collins said she put several questions to Sullivan.

"Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons, or in any other ways jeopardised security of the president or our country?"

Obama said on Sunday that he expected a "rigorous" investigation into the alleged scandal, warning he would be "angry" if the claims - reportedly also involving a dispute over payment to a prostitute - were proven true.

The military is conducting a separate probe and has confined the service members involved to their barracks.

None of the Secret Service personnel involved - both agents and uniformed officers - was assigned to Obama's personal security detail.

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