US Secret Service sex scandal swells

2012-04-15 21:02

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Washington - A US lawmaker said on Sunday the number of agents involved in a Secret Service sex scandal during President Barack Obama's Colombia trip could rise and said the agency may need some "soul searching".

"We think the number might be higher and we're asking for the exact amount of all the people who were involved," Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight Committee, said on the CBS programme Face The Nation.

Eleven members of the service, known for their robust handling of security for senior members of the US government, were suspended and sent home following allegations of misconduct in the resort city of Cartagena.

Five US military personnel were also being investigated for behaviour said to have taken place at the same hotel where the Secret Service staff were staying. They have been taken off duty and confined to barracks.

"We've got to ask, where are the systems in place to prevent this in the future?" Issa asked, adding it was not yet determined whether hearings would be held on the scandal. "The question is, is the whole organisation in need of some soul searching, some changes?"

The allegations against the Secret Service and military has overshadowed the gathering of regional leaders. None of them was assigned to Obama's personal security detail.

The 11 agents were taken to the service's Washington headquarters for interviews on Saturday after being sent home as part of the agency's internal affairs division's investigation.

Republican Representative Peter King, who chairs the House Homeland Security Committee, earlier told The New York Times the 11 agents were suspected of bringing women back to their rooms.

While prostitution is legal in designated areas in Colombia, such behaviour would violate agency rules of conduct, in part because it could expose the agents to blackmail, facilitate espionage and help an enemy get inside a security perimeter, King told The Times.

White House spokesperson Jay Carney has said Obama had full confidence in the Secret Service.

A senior House Republican says he doubts that a Secret Service scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia was a one-time incident.

Rep Darrell Issa warns the agency that protects the president that Congress will want to make sure it doesn't happen again.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  security
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