While U.S. Secret Service agents were throwing back whiskey and paying up to $200 for services from the women at Pley Club, a brothel in Cartagena, Colombia, they revealed their identity by bragging about being the ones who “protect Obama,” ABC News reported.
Each of the agents took a woman back to his room, according to Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), who is chairman of House Homeland Security Committee and member of the House Permanent Selection Committee on Intelligence. “A number [of the agents] are saying they did not consider them prostitutes,” King said.
The Americans were in Colombia to prepare for President Barack Obama’s April 13 visit to the Summit of the Americas, when they ventured down for some late-night entertainment. Up to 21 persons have been implicated since the investigation began last Thursday, after one of the women at the brothel complained about not getting paid. Eleven Secret Service members and as many as 10 U.S. military personnel are being questioned about potential involvement, according to military officials. The Secret Service revoked the top security clearances of its 11 agents and placed each of them on administrative leave due to the incident. Two government officials announced Monday that those involved range in experience from relatively new to nearly 20-year veterans.
“The president has confidence in [Secret Service] Director [Mark] Sullivan,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney. “The director acted swiftly in response to this incident and is overseeing an investigation.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said she was told by the Secret Service that just as many women were involved. She questioned whether the incident could have endangered the president. While the department argues over the number of individuals involved, Senator Collins’s press secretary, Kevin Kelley, said the number is not the issue.
“It’s outrageous that the department is arguing about the number when, clearly, this incident never should have happened in the first place,” Kelley said. Collins said the most prominent issue was, and always is, the safety of our country. “Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons or in any other [ways] jeopardized security of the president or our country?” she asked.
After speaking to Sullivan, Collins questioned if there were any evidence of previous misconduct. She further asked, “Given the number of agents involved, does this indicate a problem with the culture of the Secret Service?” Sullivan has promised to provide updated reports to Collins, as he continues to investigate and “pursue appropriate action against the agents should the allegations prove true.”