- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 14, 2012

President Obama’s weekend trip to Colombia is being rocked by the disclosure that up to a dozen Secret Service agents there have been relieved of their duties amid allegations of misconduct with prostitutes.

As the scandal unfolded Saturday, the U.S. Southern Command announced that five U.S. military members also had been confined to quarters as a result of possible involvement in the incident. Gen. Douglas Fraser, commander of the U.S. Southern Command, said he is “disappointed by the entire incident and that this behavior is not in keeping with the professional standards expected of members of the United States military.”

Speaking of the military personnel, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters in Cartagena Saturday afternoon that “it is our understanding that this is part of the same incident” as the Secret Service.

Mr. Carney confirmed that the White House was informed of the incident by the Secret Service on Thursday and that Mr. Obama was told on Friday. He would not answer further questions about the incident.

The Secret Service did not provide details of the accusations but acknowledged that some agents have been replaced in Cartagena, site of the summit of the Americas where Mr. Obama arrived Friday.

President Obama waves upon arrival in Cartagena, Colombia, on Friday, April 13, 2012, to attend the sixth Summit of the Americas. At right is Michael McKinley, U.S. ambassador to Colombia. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
President Obama waves upon arrival in Cartagena, Colombia, on Friday, April 13, ... more >

“There have been allegations of misconduct made against Secret Service personnel in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the president’s trip,” said Edwin Donovan, Secret Service spokesman, in a statement. “Because of this, those personnel are being relieved of their assignments, returned to their place of duty, and are being replaced by other Secret Service personnel.”

According to various news reports, 11 special agents, including at least one supervisor, allegedly brought prostitutes back to the hotel where the president was expected to stay later in the week.

Rep. Pete King, New York Republican, told POLITICO that when one of the women did not leave the next morning, the hotel manager went to check on the room. When the guests did not come out, the manager called the police.

The hotel required the guests to leave IDs at the front desk and leave by 7 a.m. the next morning, Mr. King said. As chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, he received a briefing of the episode Saturday by the Secret Service.

The Secret Service agents arrived about a week before Mr. Obama and were staying in the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, the Associated Press reported. A hotel employee told the AP that the guests had been drinking heavily throughout the week. Members of the news media and White House staff also had rooms booked at the hotel.

Mr. Donovan said the development would not affect the president’s security at the summit.

“The Secret Service takes all allegations of misconduct seriously,” Mr. Donovan said. “This entire matter has been turned over to our Office of Professional Responsibility, which serves as the agency’s internal affairs component. These personnel changes will not affect the comprehensive security plan that has been prepared in advance of the President’s trip.”

The story broke Friday night as Mr. Obama was preparing to attend a dinner with more than 30 world leaders. The Associated Press reported that the allegations involve prostitutes; the wire service said the alleged activities occurred before Mr. Obama arrived in Colombia. The White House had no comment.

The episode threatened to overshadow Mr. Obama’s participation in the summit, in which the White House wants to focus on boosting trade with Latin America to help the U.S. economy. Mr. Obama is scheduled to take part in two days of meetings before returning to Washington Sunday night.