Tue April 17, 2012
New Information Emerges In Secret Service Scandal
Originally published on Tue April 17, 2012 3:15 pm
MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:
This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.
AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:
And I'm Audie Cornish.
We have new information now in the investigation of Secret Service misconduct. Agents are alleged to have hired prostitutes before President Obama's visit to South America last week. The Secret Service director has been talking with members of Congress, and NPR's Ari Shapiro joins us now to tell us what he's hearing. Hey there, Ari.
ARI SHAPIRO, BYLINE: Hi, Audie.
CORNISH: So first up, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine. She's the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. What did she have to say?
SHAPIRO: Well, she met with Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan for about 30 minutes, and released a statement that confirms what we've been told before - that 11 Secret Service agents were involved. All of them have been brought back to Washington, D.C. She said in this statement that some 20 foreign national women were brought to the hotel where the agents were staying. And she said those that were not associated with the Secret Service agents were involved with troops who were in Colombia ahead of the president's visit.
And we've been told by military personnel today that there were two Marine Corps dog handlers involved with this incident; two Navy personnel involved; also, five members of the Army Special Forces. So that's nine from the military, 11 Secret Service agents...
CORNISH: Yeah, it's gone beyond the Secret Service.
SHAPIRO: ...20 women, and that's the math for you there.
CORNISH: So what's the word from the House? I know congressman Peter King released some information. He is the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
SHAPIRO: Right. He says investigators have gone down to Colombia to interview the women. They're able to identify these women because when they showed up at the hotel, they had to give copies of their identification cards.
CORNISH: And these investigators - from the Secret Service.
SHAPIRO: Well, so there are two parallel investigations happening. There's a military investigation, and there's a Secret Service investigation. I should say that the congressional committee that Darrell Issa, a congressman from California, runs - that he's not said whether he believes there should be a third investigation, but he's leaving open the possibility.
So investigators are in Colombia. Congressman Peter King says the Colombian government is helping out a little bit, not being - not standing in the way of the investigation. And then he says the agents who are still in D.C. are telling conflicting stories. The quote was: The 11 agents are having different recollections about what happened or are not telling the truth. And congressman King described the Secret Service director - Sullivan - as, quote, an angry guy.
(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)
CORNISH: OK. Well, then talk about the White House. What do they have to say about this?
SHAPIRO: Not a whole lot. Today, spokesman Jay Carney got a lot of questions at the White House briefing.
CORNISH: I can imagine.
SHAPIRO: In answer to most of them, he said, we're going to let this investigation run its course. Maybe we'll talk in more detail once we know what the investigation found. He did say that President Obama has confidence in the Secret Service director. But apart from that, he batted aside most of these questions.
CORNISH: So at this point, give me an understanding of what are the big questions that are outstanding at this point.
SHAPIRO: Well, there are lots of them, lots of unanswered questions. Perhaps the most important one is, was the president's security compromised in any way? There's report from ABC News that the Secret Service agents were bragging to the prostitutes that they were involved in protecting President Obama. That could, obviously, be a real cause for concern.
People want to know, were these simply your average, run-of-the mill, ordinary prostitutes; or did they have some interest in obtaining information about the United States? And then more broadly, given the number of people involved - from the Secret Service; from the military - there's some question about, was this an isolated incident; was it just sort of a few bad apples, as it were? Or does it reflect a broader culture of bad behavior?
CORNISH: All right. NPR's Ari Shapiro, thank you for keeping us up to date on this.
SHAPIRO: Good to talk to you, Audie. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.