Two more Secret Service employees resigned Tuesday in the aftermath of an overseas prostitution scandal that President Barack Obama said involved “knuckleheads” but doesn’t typify the agency that protects the first family and other dignitaries.
On the eve of a congressional hearing that will address the scandal, Secret Service officials announced that the two unidentified employees resigned and a third has had his national security clearance permanently revoked. Two other Secret Service employees were cleared “of serious misconduct and will face appropriate administrative action,” agency officials said in a statement.
Lawmakers who were briefed on Tuesday’s moves said that one of the agents who quit stayed at the Hilton hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, where the president stayed for the Summit of the Americas. The others lodged at the Hotel Caribe.
The Secret Service actions come a day after Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the Pentagon suspended the security clearance of 11 military members for their possible roles in the sex scandal. Last week, six Secret Service employees were fired, resigned or were forced to retire in the wake of the scandal, while another employee was cleared of misconduct but will still face administration discipline.
Meanwhile, the Secret Service and the Pentagon continued their probes into a scandal that began in a disagreement over money between a Colombian prostitute and a Secret Service employee inside the Hotel Caribe. Congress gets its first crack at addressing the scandal Wednesday when the Senate Judiciary Committee questions Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano. Lawmakers have expressed their disgust over the Colombia incident and have called for swift action to address any problems within the Secret Service.
At least four congressional committees are investigating the Colombia incident, fearing that the agents’ bad judgment in their contact with foreign nationals could have compromised national security or endangered Obama during his Cartagena visit.
At the same time, the chairs of Senate and House committees with jurisdiction over the Secret Service have expressed support for Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and said he doesn’t need to be removed. White House officials have said they retain their faith in the service despite the seedy sex scandal.
“These guys are incredible,” Obama said in a taped interview Tuesday on NBC’s “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon,” which will air early Wednesday. “They protect me. They protect Michelle. They protect the girls. They protect our officials all around the world.”
Obama added: “So a couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do, but what were they thinking, I don’t know. That’s why they’re not there anymore.”