More Military Personnel Might Have Been Involved in Misconduct Before Obama’s Trip
A preliminary investigation by the Defense Department has determined that more than five military personnel might have been involved in the hotel misconduct that occurred last week in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of President Obama’s visit to the city, a military spokesman said Monday.
Col. Scott Malcom of the U.S. Southern Command declined to specify how many more service members might be implicated. He said that military investigators were still trying to gather the facts about a night of partying Wednesday among Secret Service agents and military personnel who were part of the president’s security advance team for the Summit of Americas.
In a phone interview, Malcom said a military officer assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Colombia had conducted a preliminary review of surveillance tapes at the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, which led investigators to believe that more than five U.S. military personnel may have been involved in the misconduct. Later, Malcom sought to clarify his remarks, saying he assumed investigators had reviewed the tapes, among other evidence, but did not know for certain.
“We are embarrassed,” Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters Monday when asked about the military’s reaction. “We let the boss down because nobody is talking about what went down in Colombia other than this incident.”
The disclosure that the military probe has expanded suggests that authorities could uncover new evidence of misbehavior. The Secret Service has placed 11 agents, accused of bringing prostitutes to their rooms that night, on administrative leave pending a separate investigation by that agency. On Monday, the agency revoked the top secret security clearances of all 11 men, spokesman Edwin Donovan said.
The revocation of such clearances is not uncommon and does not signal that the agency is on the verge of firing the officers, Donovan emphasized. He noted that security clearances can be reinstated after internal investigations are complete, depending on the findings.