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More resignations coming in Secret Service prostitution scandal

WASHINGTON (MCT) — More resignations are expected soon in the Secret Service prostitution scandal.

“It is our understanding the resignations could come today or tomorrow,” Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said Thursday. He has been briefed by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.

The Secret Service announced Wednesday that it was seeking to fire one supervisor tied to the alleged misconduct. Another supervisor is retiring, and a third agent will be allowed to retire. Eight other employees have had their security clearances suspended pending the investigation.

The 11 agents plus 10 members of the military allegedly patronized prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, last week before President Obama arrived for the weekend Summit of the Americas. 

The Secret Service and the Pentagon are conducting parallel investigations, including interviews with women believed to be prostitutes who were brought into Hotel the Caribe, where the American advance team was staying. Up to 21 women have been identified.

Officials are able to find some of the women because they were required to leave personal identification at the front desk before they went up to the rooms. Local police were called after a disturbance broke out early on April 12, reportedly after one of the women complained she had not been paid for sex.

White House officials have said the president’s security was not compromised. Officials have resisted being pulled into discussions about whether misbehavior was tolerated in the Secret Service, or how far up the chain resignations may go.

“The fact of the matter is this is an incident that requires investigation,” Jay Carney, the White House spokesman, said Thursday. “The Secret Service has acted with speed in addressing the matter, investigating the matter, holding people accountable and continuing to push forward with the investigation. When there are results of the investigation and we can assess those, we may have more to say about it.”

Carney repeated that the president has confidence in the Secret Service director, although he said they had not spoken in recent days. Aides in the White House chief of staff’s office were in regular contact with Sullivan, and have briefed the president, Carney said.

Members of Congress are questioning if the incident is part of a pattern at the Secret Service. Several retired agents say they don’t believe so.

“My opinion … is that this is an anomaly,” said Patrick Morrissey, who retired in July after a 27-year career that included a stint as head of the elite counter-assault team, a heavily armed group that protects a perimeter around the president. “Most of the men and women in the service try to be quiet professionals, avoid the limelight, and do their jobs. I never before heard of our folks being involved with prostitutes.”

Arnette Heintze, a 20-year agent who retired in 2003 after serving in senior roles, echoed that assessment. But he said it didn’t make the scandal any less damaging.

“This is a disgrace,” he said.  “What an embarrassment.”

Heintze said the Secret Service deserves credit for quickly pulling the 11 people out of Colombia and launching an investigation. And he disputed the notion that the incident posed a security risk. 

The hotel was not where the president stayed, he said. Bringing prostitutes to an agent’s room “posed no greater threat than the housekeeper cleaning the room each day. That facility was not a crucial component to the security plan that they were making for the president.”

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Tribune Washington Bureau reporter Kathleen Hennessey contributed to this article.

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