CBS: Second hotel involved in Cartagena hooker probe

posted at 1:21 pm on April 23, 2012 by Ed Morrissey

Why did Senator Joe Lieberman call for an investigation of White House staffers in the probe in the scandal hitting the Secret Service and the Pentagon over activity in Cartagena, Colombia prior to President Obama’s arrival at the Summit of the Americas?  A CBS update yesterday shows that at least one agent brought a prostitute not just to the Hotel Caribe but also to the Hilton — which is where Obama and his staff were due to stay:

Suspicion is spreading in the Secret Service scandal beyond the agents in just one Colombian hotel.

CBS News correspondent Whit Johnson reports that a law enforcement official told CBS News that the latest agent under investigation brought a woman back to the Hilton Hotel in Cartagena, Columbia, just five days before the president would be staying there.

Until now, the Hotel Caribe had been the focus of the scandal, where the other 22 members of the Secret Service and military accused of inappropriate behavior were checked in.

This should have lawmakers angry.  Having prostitutes in the agents’ rooms at the Caribe opened up the possibility of access to sensitive security materials.  Bringing a prostitute into the same hotel where Obama would stay risked penetrating any security precautions that had taken place at that time.  Furthermore, if the White House had an advance team at the hotel at the same time — which seems likely — it leaves an open question about whether any contact took place, or perhaps participation in the same revelries.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced earlier this afternoon that the Pentagon has suspended security clearances for all military personnel connected to the scandal:

“We have suspended the security clearances of individuals there, pending results of this investigation,” Panetta told reporters traveling with him on his flight to Colombia.

“Frankly, my biggest concern is the issue of security and what could possibly have been jeopardized by virtue of this kind of behavior.”

Eleven U.S. military personnel have been implicated in the scandal so far, along with 12 Secret Service agents. Within the military, six of them are from the U.S. Army, two from the Marines, two from the Navy and one from the Air Force.

It was not clear how many of those military personnel had security clearances, however. None of them have been charged with any crime at this point.

“Those who had security clearances, those have been suspended,” said Pentagon spokesman George Little.

I assume they mean that the clearances were suspended when the scandal first came to their attention, and not just today.  That would be SOP while investigating a potential breach like what happened at Caribe.  It will be interesting to see what else comes to the surface about the Hilton, and whether any military personnel at that hotel took part in the frolicking.

Update: Meanwhile, the White House is busily parsing what staffer means:

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney sought to distance the Obama administration from the White House Comunication Agency member under investigation over the Secret Service prostitution scandal.

“WHCA, as we call it, is staffed entirely by military personnel, not by White House staff,” Carney told reporters when asked about reports that  “They are not members of the White House staff, they are not chosen by the White House.”

He added that “there have been no specific, credible allegations of misconduct by anyone on the White House advance team or White House staff.”

So far ….


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