News Column

Collins: Prostitutes In Secret Services Scandal 'Could Be Spies'

April 18, 2012

The women Secret Service and military crew took to a Colombian hotel before President Barack Obama arrived "could be spies," said Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine.

"We don't know who these women are," she told reporters in Washington. "They could be spies. They could be associated with hostile forces. They could have disabled the agents' weapons or planted listening devices or in other ways breach security. It is very serious."

She said investigators suspect the agents and military personnel brought as many as 21 prostitutes to the sprawling beachfront Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, April 11 during a night of carousing before Obama's April 13 arrival for the sixth Summit of the Americas.

Officials said 11 Secret Service and nine military personnel were suspected of the misconduct. None of them have been identified.

Some of the "20 to 21" women accompanied Secret Service agents, and others escorted members of the military, which is conducting its own investigation, said Collins, the senior Republican on the Senate Homeland Security Committee.

Collins said she was briefed on the matter by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Peter King, R-N.Y., also briefed by Sullivan, said Tuesday interviews by Secret Service investigators in Colombia would help address concerns any of the women had ties to organized crime or drug cartels.

The youngest of the women was 20 years old, he said.

The agents had not yet been briefed on their specific assignments or started their official duties when they went out and met the women, King said.

They have "different recollections about what happened, or are not telling the truth," he said.

Some officers "are claiming [the women] aren't prostitutes, just women they met in a bar," King was quoted by The Wall Street Journal as saying.

That wouldn't necessarily resolve the concerns, he said, because "Secret Service shouldn't be bringing outside people into a secure zone."

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama had "confidence" in Sullivan -- appointed to his post by President George W. Bush in 2006 -- and would await the results of the agency's investigation before weighing in further.

"The director acted swiftly in response to this incident and is overseeing an investigation that obviously needs to be conducted," Carney said, adding the administration would not "speculate about conclusions it might reach."

Source: Copyright United Press International 2012

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