More Secret Service Agents Out as Scandal Inquiry Expands

Three more Secret Service agents resigned Friday amid an ongoing prostitution scandal that has now implicated a 12th employee as well. Ray Suarez and Julie Pace of The Associated Press discuss the state of the investigation into conduct by officers and military servicemembers last week in Colombia.

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    Several more Secret Service careers are ending amid a scandal involving allegations of prostitution and a presidential trip.

    Ray Suarez has the story.


    With new details unfolding all week about just what happened during the president's trip to the Summit of the Americas, the Associated Press is reporting the Secret Service has placed another employee newly implicated in the scandal on leave.

    Officials tell the AP two more agents are resigning today, while another has been fired, bringing to six the Secret Service employees forced out so far.

    For Secret Service agents, it's been a week of disclosures culminating in the news that more will lose their jobs. They were among 11 agents recalled from this hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, last week on allegations they used prostitutes they met at a local strip club.

    The Washington Post today identified two of the three agents ousted earlier this week in the scandal. It turned out one of them, David Chaney, had posted a picture on Facebook of his time protecting Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in 2008.

    His comment read, "I was really checking her out, if you know what I mean."

    Palin had her say on FOX News last night.

    SARAH PALIN (R), former Alaska governor: Well, check this out, bodyguard. You're fired. This president, for one, he better be wary there of when Secret Service is accompanying his family on vacation. They may be checking out the first lady.


    Meanwhile, Pentagon officials are looking into allegations that 11 service members were involved as well. And in Cartagena, U.S. and Colombian authorities continue to investigate the club where the Americans allegedly picked up as many as 21 prostitutes.

    For the latest details, we turn to Julie Pace, a White House reporter with The Associated Press. She traveled to Colombia with Mr. Obama and has been tracking developments this week from Washington.

    And is the investigation turning up new details that's pulling in these new people under suspicion?

  • JULIE PACE, Associated Press:

    It appears that there are new details that are emerging from this investigation.

    Already today, we've heard from the Secret Service, through briefings that they are having with lawmakers and federal officials, that the number of Secret Service employees that are being investigating is up from 11 to 12. We heard from the U.S. military today that the number of people that they're investigating in this is up from 10 to 11.

    So the scope of the investigation continues to widen. The Secret Service is continuing to brief lawmakers on the Hill. They are briefing the White House. We heard that the president today just received a briefing from Director Mark Sullivan, the director of the Secret Service. So it appears, as more people are being implicated in this investigation, that there are new details that the investigators are learning.


    Careers are ending, but some people are leaving on their own steam and some are being fired. What's the difference and why is it important?


    It's a small difference, but it is important.

    The people in the agency who are being fired are being fired because the investigators are finding cause. The people who are resigning are perhaps being implicated to some degree. They may be making a choice that, for their careers, perhaps for their family, that it's best for them to resign, maybe to try to avoid being fired.

    But, as I said, it's an important difference, but it is a small difference.


    With these latest departures that have been reported throughout the day by the AP and others, how many people remain yet to learn their fates? Are they fighting their dismissal, and what are they basing that fight on; do we know?


    Well, where we stand right now is we had three people on Wednesday who were forced out of a job. Today, we're reporting that there are three additional people who are being forced out of their jobs.

    And with the disclosure that there are 12 people that the Secret Service is investigating, that means that there are six others at this point, perhaps more, we don't know, that are still being investigated. It remains unclear whether these people are going to be able to hang on to their jobs or whether we're going to see more firings.


    Susan Collins of Maine, the senator, has asked openly whether there has to have been previous incidents of this kind. She doubted that this could have been the first time these advance teams ever could have behaved in this manner.

    Can we expect that previous trips are now under the same kind of microscope that the Colombian trip was?


    It's certainly possible, because this is raising questions about the president's security. That's really what this all comes down to right now.

    And that means that there are going to be questions not just about what happened in Colombia last weekend, but about what happened when the president has traveled overseas many times previously, when he's traveled domestically as well. These agents and officers travel with the president everywhere that he goes.

    So it's a question that's being asked at the Secret Service. It's a question that lawmakers certainly are asking, and that the White House is frankly asking, and all of us in the press corps obviously as well.


    What's a jump team, who are they, and what do they do?


    So a jump team is one of the teams that goes to the place where the president is going to go ahead of him. Some of them travel on a support plane. Some of them travel on the plane that actually brings the president's limousine, some of the equipment that travels ahead of the president.

    So they arrive at the site before the president does. You know, the president arrived in Colombia on Friday. The incident that we're talking about happened Wednesday, Thursday. So these agents and officers had been on the ground for some time before the president got there.


    Now, with the addition of a new servicemember in this inquiry as well, let's ask a little bit more about that. Are they in a different line of command? Is the inquiry being handled internally by the Justice Department separately from the one that involves the Secret Service agents?


    Well, right now, everybody seems to be saying the Secret Service has a process happening. The Secret Service appears to be having a thorough process.

    So people want to let this process play out right now. You have a lot of talk about whether Congress, which does have an oversight role here, may have its own congressional investigation. But so far what we've heard is everybody wants to let the Secret Service have their own investigation. There has been some discussion about Mark Sullivan, the Secret Service director, calling for an independent review of this investigation.

    But right now everything that everyone is focused on is what is happening inside the Secret Service.


    Any more known about this big party itself? Today and through the week, it's been mentioned that 20 or 21 women were involved and a similar number of men. What you can tell us about that?


    Well, right now, we do know from some of the lawmakers that have been briefed on Capitol Hill that there were about 20 to 21 women who were brought back to the Hotel Caribe, which is in Cartagena.

    It is not the hotel that the president stayed at. And there are a lot of rumors, a lot of witness accounts that are coming out of Colombia right now. Associated Press reporters on the ground there have been told that the agents who we believe to be involved in this incident were drinking heavily.

    There are reports that they were going out to a bar and partying and bringing people back to the hotel. But right now we're trying to really be cautious about a lot of that detail. You have investigators who are down there trying to dig up that information as well. So we do have some rumors coming out of there, but we're trying to be cautious about what we are reporting as this investigation unfolds.


    But that would be the venue that involved not only Secret Service agencies, but — agents, but the service people as well?


    Exactly. They stayed in the exact same hotel.

    And really, you know, the information that we're getting is very specific at this point to the Secret Service agents that are involved. The military side of this, we're not hearing a lot of details so far. All we hear from the military is that the now 11 service members that are being investigated were staying at the same hotel, the Hotel Caribe, as the Secret Service officers, and that they are being investigated for some type of misconduct.

    So that is where a lot of the unknown questions are right now on the military side of things.


    Julie Pace of The Associated Press, thanks for joining us.


    Thank you.