CARTAGENA, Colombia – US President Barack Obama said Sunday (Monday in Manila, April 16) he expected a “rigorous” probe into a sex scandal involving Secret Service agents, warning he would be “angry” if the allegations were true.
The incident — which saw 11 Secret Service and five military personnel pulled from their duties in Cartagena, Colombia at the Summit of the Americas — overshadowed the talks attended by Obama and other regional leaders.
The US Secret Service, which has sent the men back to the United States, is investigating claims they brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena late Wednesday and had a dispute over payment with one of the women.
“I expect the investigation to be thorough and rigorous,” Obama said at a press conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos at the end of the summit.
“If it turns out the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry.”
The military is conducting a separate probe and has confined the service members to their barracks.
None of the Secret Service personnel involved — both agents and uniformed officers — was assigned to Obama’s personal security detail.
But Obama stressed that any member of his traveling party should be on their best conduct as they represent the United States.
“My attitude with respect to the Secret Service personnel is no different than I expect out of my delegation sitting here. We’re representing the people of the United States,” he said. “And that means that we conduct ourselves with the utmost dignity and probity.
“What’s been reported doesn’t match up with those standards,” the president added.
While prostitution is legal in designated areas in Colombia, such behavior would violate the agency’s rules of conduct, in part because it could expose the agents to blackmail, facilitate espionage and help an enemy get inside a security perimeter, US congressman Peter King told The New York Times.
White House spokesman Jay Carney says Obama had full confidence in the Secret Service and that the incident had no impact on the president’s security.
The last major lapse for the agency was in 2009, when aspiring reality television stars Tareq and Michaele Salahi crashed a White House state dinner.