King: Secret Service studies prostitute interviews

Tucandela, the white building on the right, is a popular club and bar in the center of Cartagena, Colombia. The walled-in old colonial interior is ground zero for meetings between Colombian prostitutes and men. (Jose A. Iglesias/El Nuevo Herald/MCT)

WASHINGTON -- The Secret Service is poring over interviews with 10 of 12 women involved in the Colombia prostitution scandal and so far there’s no indication that any posed a national security threat, a House committee chairman said Tuesday.

House Homeland Security Committee Peter King said in an interview that the Secret Service was still translating the interviews.

A letter from the service “reaffirms that none of the women have any connections to any terrorist groups, none show up on any watch lists, so far,” King said. The Secret Service also reported having interviewed almost all of the agents, officers and supervisors who were there, he said. And it revealed that Director Mark Sullivan asked for an independent probe before the scandal became public.

“That’s important because obviously he wasn’t trying to cover it up,” said King, R-N.Y.

The information came in response to 50 questions King sent the Secret Service after the scandal erupted last month. Other House and Senate committees also are seeking information, including the timeline of the events in Cartagena, Colombia, and details about allegations in other cities and whether the Secret Service culture permitted or encouraged such behavior.

The Secret Service has issued only limited public statements since the April 12 incident, which implicated a dozen agents, officers and supervisors and 12 other U.S. military personnel in a night of heavy drinking in Cartagena before President Barack Obama’s visit to the Summit of the Americas. Some were accused of bringing prostitutes back to their hotel rooms.

The Secret Service has forced eight employees from their jobs and was seeking to revoke the security clearance of another employee, which would effectively force him to resign. Three others have been cleared of serious wrongdoing. The military was conducting its own, separate investigation but canceled the security clearances of all 12 enlisted personnel.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Mich., told reporters last week that he expects the Pentagon investigation to wrap up this week and had scheduled a briefing on its findings on Tuesday.

But the president’s elite protective agency has drawn the most scrutiny, and Sullivan has labored to answer lawmakers’ questions in many cases before they are asked. On Friday, the Secret Service announced that a chaperone would travel on all overseas trips, alcohol consumption was prohibited 10 hours before shifts and that foreign nationals were not permitted in hotel rooms.

The inspector general for the Homeland Security Department has launched an investigation into whether classified information was compromised during the Cartagena incident, as well as examining whether Secret Service has a “cultural problem” where such behavior has been tolerated by the head office, according to two congressional staffers who were briefed on the investigation. The process is expected to take about a year.

Both staffers spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak publicly about an ongoing investigation.

AP Intelligence Writer Kimberly Dozier contributed to this report.