The Secret Service prostitution scandal that overshadowed President Barack Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas began two days before he arrived in Colombia last week.
The scandal has initially ensnared 11 Secret Service agents and five members of the military, though it is unclear how many of them actually hired prostitutes or how closely involved they were in the alleged activities. All 11 of the Secret Service agents were summoned back to Washington, D.C., and were interviewed at the agency’s headquarters over the weekend while the members of the military were confined to their hotel rooms over the weekend.
The group was on the ground to prepare security for Obama’s trip and were staying at the Hotel Caribe, which has a policy of having visitors of hotel guests leave by 7 a.m. When one woman stayed in an agent’s room past that time, the hotel manager showed up at the door, according to an account relayed to reporters by Rep. Peter King (R-NY). King, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said he was told in a briefing Saturday by the Secret Service that all 11 were suspected of bringing women back to their rooms.
The agent confronted by the hotel manager reportedly initially refused to open the door to his room, and the hotel called the local police on Thursday morning, King said, according to MSNBC. Once they showed up, the woman said she wouldn’t leave until she was paid. The unidentified agent allegedly said he didn’t owe any money but ended up paying her. Colombian law enforcement officials subsequently notified the U.S. embassy.
The Secret Service said the group of 11 was “comprised of both special agents and Uniformed Division officers, none of whom are assigned to the Presidential Protective Division.” The 11 members of the team were replaced by agents from Puerto Rico and Florida before the President arrived in Colombia on Friday.
The five members of the military were assigned to Joint Task Force Summit of the Americas and “violated the curfew established by the United States Senior Defense Official in Colombia and may have been involved in inappropriate conduct,” according to the Pentagon.
While prostitution is generally illegal in Colombia, there are “tolerance zones” where such activity is ignored. Hiring hookers is against Secret Service rules and any married agents who hired prostitutes would have violated their top-secret security clearance by engaging in an extra-marital affair.