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More Secret Service resignations due: US lawmaker

22 april 2012, 17:26
0
Peter King. Photo courtesy of sanfranciscosentinel.com
Peter King. Photo courtesy of sanfranciscosentinel.com
More agents will be forced out of the Secret Service as early as Thursday, a US lawmaker said, as the White House warned foes not to "politicize" the prostitution scandal blighting the agency, AFP reports.

"It is our understanding the resignations could come today or tomorrow," Republican Peter King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told AFP, a day after three of the elite presidential protection agency's 11 employees involved were forced to leave.

King did not say how many more agents might lose their jobs over the misconduct, in which the agents as well as 10 military personnel allegedly visited a strip club, cavorted with prostitutes and drank heavily in Cartagena, Colombia while preparing security for President Barack Obama who attended a regional summit there.

But House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, who described the incident as "disgusting," said it might be time for the Secret Service to clean house.

"I don't see how those who were involved in this should be able to continue in their work," she told a press briefing.

Thursday saw a handful of people involved in the scandal identified by US media.

The Washington Post, citing several people who know the agents, named David Randall Chaney and Greg Stokes as two Secret Service supervisors, each with nearly two decades of experience, involved in the scandal in Colombia.

Chaney, 48 and married, had posted photographs of himself on Facebook including one showing him on duty behind Sarah Palin, the 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, according to the Post.

"I was really checking her out, if you know what i mean?" Chaney wrote in the comments section, the paper reported.

Chaney was allowed to retire, while Stokes was told he would be fired.

An attorney for the men, Lawrence Berger of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, would not comment on details of the allegations, and said any judgment about their roles is "premature."

"It's our ultimate position that nothing they may or may not have done in Colombia negatively impacted the efficiency of their mission... or the president's visit," the Post quoted Berger as saying.

Meanwhile, the New York Daily News published photos of Dania Suarez, who the paper identified as the Colombian escort whose argument with one of the agents over payment started the scandal.

Suarez, a 24-year-old single mother, has gone into hiding, the paper said, citing neighbors.

CBS News reported that US investigators were on the ground in Colombia and have identified all women involved, and that none were underage.

With the Secret Service under the microscope -- and lawmakers preparing to probe the agency in a hearing next week -- Republican Senator Jeff Sessions called on Obama to "assert discipline" in the wake of the sleazy episode.

"I believe that the president of the United States is the chief executive officer for the entire governmental bureaucracy," said Sessions, mentioning another scandal that was sparked when details emerged this month over excesses at a Las Vegas conference held by the General Services Administration.

"The president needs to assert discipline, management directions throughout the executive branch, and presidents are to be held responsible."

Obama's spokesman Jay Carney dismissed the complaint by Sessions as sounding "very much like a lawmaker attempting to politicize something that is not at all political."

Obama's spokesman also declined to pass judgment on Secret Service management and practices, other than repeating that the president would be "angry" if the allegations turned out to be true.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid expressed exasperation over agents who were supposed to be among the most disciplined in federal service but who instead proved to be a major embarrassment.

"People that are here to protect the president will go to Colombia and have a fight with a prostitute over how much she should be paid? That's either very stupid or a total lack of common sense," he said.

Around 20 women are said to have been invited back to the Caribe hotel in Cartagena by agents and military personnel preparing for the arrival of Obama at a weekend Summit of the Americas.

Cummings and Republican Darrell Issa, who chairs the House oversight committee, expressed concern in a Wednesday letter to Secret Service director Mark Sullivan that the agents may have been careless with "sensitive security information."

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