Secret Service strips security clearances from agents in Colombia prostitution scandal

Olivier Knox

The Secret Service has stripped 11 agents tied to a prostitution scandal in Colombia of their "Top Secret" clearances and taken away their badges and guns, an agency spokesman told Yahoo News on Monday.

"They've had their security clearances suspended pending the outcome of the investigation," Special Agent in Charge Edwin Donovan said by telephone.

The agents have been placed on a "Do Not Admit" list that bars them from Secret Service facilities and have turned in their service identification and firearms -- all steps resulting from having been placed on paid administrative leave, Donovan said.

The investigation could lead to the agents being exonerated and restored to their full status. But a law enforcement official said they could also be fired or even face criminal charges.

News of the revoked clearances came as the top U.S. military officer, Army General Martin Dempsey, said the Pentagon was "embarrassed" by the involvement of an unspecified number of military personnel in the scandal."We are embarrassed by what occurred in Colombia — though we're not sure exactly what it is," he said, referencing an ongoing investigation into the misconduct allegations.

Dempsey, speaking at a joint press conference with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, deplored the fact that media coverage of the scandal had drowned out President Barack Obama's diplomatic efforts at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

"We let the boss down," Dempsey candidly and contritely told reporters. "Nobody's talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident. So to that extent we let him down."

House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Pete King (R-NY) told CNN that it was his understanding that the incident involved 11 prostitutes. "Eleven women were brought back with eleven men," said King, whose committee oversees the Secret Service.

Asked whether this was an isolated incident or a broader problem of the agency's professional culture, King replied "I don't see any pattern."

King said he had confidence in Secret Service chief Mark Sullivan "from what I've seen thus far," crediting him with a speedy response when news of the scandal broke.

President Barack Obama said in Colombia this weekend that he would be "angry" if the charges, which involve allegations of consorting with prostitutes, turn out to be true.

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