In all, 11 Secret Service employees — either agents or staff members of the agency’s uniformed division — and 10 military personnel are suspected of being involved in a night of carousing that included heavy drinking, visits to strip clubs and prostitutes on April 11, two nights before Obama was to arrive in the seaside town of Cartagena for an international summit.
The agency and the Defense Department are each investigating the alleged misconduct. The remaining eight Secret Service personnel are on administrative leave, and their top-secret security clearances have been suspended. The military has returned its service members to their home bases.
“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,” the Secret Service said in a statement.
Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.), chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, called the men’s alleged misbehavior a “gross violation of public trust.”
The allegations — and accompanying negative publicity — have deeply angered rank-and-file members of the Secret Service, severely lowering morale at the agency.
In interviews, current and former agents said they are particularly outraged by the alleged involvement of the two senior supervisors, both of whom have two decades of experience and were sent on the trip to oversee the less-experienced members of the team. Both of those supervisors have spent significant time on presidential protective details, dating to the Clinton administration, according to current and former agents. The two are based in Washington.
“I was really disappointed. I’ve learned a lot from both of these guys,” said one agent, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to reporters. “I was surprised they were involved. Especially because they are senior people.”
Those familiar with details of the investigation said the two supervisors were sent to Cartagena as leaders of Secret Service “jump teams,” squads made up of several dozen special agents and uniformed officers that are deployed to a site in the days before the president arrives.
It is customary for the jump teams to fly aboard giant Lockheed military transport aircraft, nicknamed “car planes,” which also carry the presidential limousine, Chevy Suburbans and other vehicles that make up the president’s motorcade.
Several of the agents reportedly were part of the elite counter-assault team, which reports to the special operations division, not the presidential protective detail. The rest were uniformed officers who work with bomb-sniffing dogs or magnetometers.