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Secret Service sex scandal: What happened in Colombia?

Last updated on: April 24, 2012 10:00 IST

Secret Service sex scandal: What happened in Colombia?

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The United States Secret Service prostitution scandal has now grown to include a 12th member of the elite security agency, even as the Pentagon has suspended clearances of all implicated military personnel. Rediff.com takes a look at the chain of events.

The Secret Service has already forced out six of its employees, including two supervisors since the scandal broke out on April 12, when a fight broke out over payment between a Secret Service officer, who was a part of President Barack Obama's advanced security team, and a prostitute in the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia.

New details of the sordid night emerged as a single mother and self-described prostitute told that she met an agent at a discotheque, believed to be the PleyClub, in Cartagena and after a night of drinking.

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Image: A prostitute stands in front of the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena
Photographs: Reuters

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"They never told me they were with Obama," she said, calling the men "very discreet".

The woman, who opted to remain anonymous, said she and one of the agents agreed the agent would pay her $800 for sex at the hotel.

The next morning, when the hotel's front desk called because the woman had not left, the pair argued over the price.

In an interview in Colombia, she said the two argued after the agent initially offered to pay her about $30 and the situation escalated, eventually ending with Colombian law enforcement involved.

She said she was eventually paid about $225.

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Image: US President Barack Obama walks with Secret Service agents by his side
Photographs: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

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The US defence department said that the 12th person was in Columbia in advance of President Barack Obama's arrival, and was assigned to the White House Communications Agency, a unit that provides secure communications for the president. The soldier has been relieved of his duties at the White House, officials said.

In addition to the 11 agents, 10 military personnel were suspected of being involved in a night of carousing that included heavy drinking, visits to strip clubs and prostitutes on April 11, two nights before Obama was to arrive in the seaside town of Cartagena for an international summit, The Washington Post said.

Meanwhile, the White House has internally investigated and ruled out misconduct of its staff members who helped arrange the president's trip ahead of his arrival in Columbia.

A top official from the president's office clarified that the White House Communications Agency is a military unit, and not chosen by White House senior staff members.

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Image: A Secret Service agent stands guard as US President Barack Obama departs on the Marine One helicopter for travel to Colombia for the Summit of Americas, from the White House in Washington
Photographs: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters

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The Pentagon has also suspended security clearances of the 12 personnel. "The Secret Service continues to conduct a full, thorough and fair investigation, utilising all investigative techniques available to our agency," Secret Service Assistant Director Paul Morrissey said in a statement.

"This includes polygraph examinations, interviews with the employees involved, and witness interviews, to include interviews being conducted by our Office of Professional Responsibility in Cartagena, Colombia," Morrissey said.

"The remaining eight employees continue to be on administrative leave. Their security clearances remain suspended," he added.


Image: A US Secret Service Agent holds the limousine door of US President Barack Obama
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters

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