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Senate broadening Secret Service probe after prostitution scandal

By the CNN Wire Staff
April 22, 2012 -- Updated 1840 GMT (0240 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Senate committee Chairman Lieberman asks whether there's a pattern of misconduct
  • House committee Chairman King asks for minute-by-minute timeline
  • The actions of a few should not denigrate the many professionals, Axelrod says
  • Collins and Maloney suggest more female agents could help avoid such a scandal

Washington (CNN) -- A Senate committee will expand its probe into the U.S. Secret Service this week following a scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia in advance of a recent trip by the president.

The Homeland Security Committee will send the Secret Service "some questions this week, as the beginning of our broader investigation, asking whether... this was an exception, or is there anything in the records that show this is a pattern of misconduct that has gone on elsewhere by Secret Service agents on assignment, but off-duty?" Sen. Joe Lieberman, the committee chairman, told "Fox News Sunday."

"Why wasn't it noticed if that was the case? What's the Secret Service going to do to make sure it never happens again?"

Some Secret Service members and agents allegedly brought back several prostitutes to a hotel in Cartagena, according to sources familiar with the U.S. government's investigation.

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The Secret Service says 12 members of the agency have been implicated in the incident.

Across the Sunday political talk shows, officials expressed confidence in Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, saying they believe he has handled the scandal well and will get answers.

"History is full of cases where enemies have compromised" people with security or intelligence information through sex, said Lieberman, I-Connecticut. He added that based on what he has been told so far, "there is no evidence that information was compromised" in this case.

Down the road, the committee will hold a public hearing on the matter -- perhaps more than one, Lieberman said.

"Anyone who's found to be guilty" will lose his job, Rep. Peter King, Chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told NBC's "Meet the Press."

King told CNN last week that four investigators were assigned to his committee's probe.

One person who was "partially exonerated" will instead likely face administrative action, King said.

In a letter sent to Sullivan on Friday, King listed a series of questions, including how many employees were aware of the alleged incident and how many total employees were in Cartagena in support of President Obama's trip to the Summit of the Americas when the incident occurred earlier this month.

"Please provide a comprehensive, minute-by-minute timeline of all known actions, locations, and possible violations of U.S. or Colombia law," codes of conduct, and directives, King wrote in the letter.

But King and other officials are quick to emphasize that those allegedly involved in cavorting with prostitutes at a hotel in Cartagena are the exceptions.

"In any organization things can go wrong," President Obama's chief campaign strategist David Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday. "I must say that in my experience the Secret Service has been completely professional, so impressive. I always felt like they were ... willing to do anything to protect the president and the people around the president. And so this was really disappointing.

"Obviously we have to get to the bottom of it, but those problems should not denigrate the efforts of so many who do such a good job."

Sen. Susan Collins, ranking member on the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney of the House Oversight Committee suggested having more female agents could help avoid such scandals.

"I can't help but wonder if there'd been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened," Collins told ABC's "This Week."

Maloney agreed, and added that she was told 11% of agents in the Secret Service are women. The agency did not immediately confirm the figure to CNN Sunday.

"We probably need to diversify the Secret Service and have more minorities and more women," she said.

Six Secret Service members have left their jobs in the wake of the incident in Cartagena, Colombia, which came while they were on a security detail in advance of President Obama's trip for the Summit of the Americas.

One employee "has been cleared of serious misconduct, but will face administrative action," the Secret Service said.

Five employees are on administrative leave and have had their security clearances temporarily revoked.

In addition, the U.S. military is investigating 11 of its own troops for possible heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes.

White House staff have not been implicated in the controversy.

After the scandal broke, President Obama called for a "thorough" and "rigorous" invsetigation. "If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I'll be angry," he said.

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