WASHINGTON - The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has released new details of serious allegations of misconduct against Secret Service agents since 2004. The allegations include sexual assault, leaking sensitive information, publishing pornography and involvement with prostitutes.
The long list of allegations against Secret Service officers was quietly released under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act to the Associated Press and other news organizations. The complaints include claims of illegal wiretaps, improper use of weapons and drunken behavior and a report from 2011 of a case of alleged attempted sexual assault by a male employee on a female employee during a work trip. In 2008, an on-duty Secret Service officer was arrested in Washington, D.C. in a prostitution raid. Some of the claims were resolved administratively and others are being formally investigated.
The agency provided a brief written statement saying the list reflects an intake log that includes allegations compiled over an eight-year period of time. The statement says the vast majority of the items mentioned in the log do not involve alleged misconduct by Secret Service officers, and that all allegations of employee misconduct are taken seriously and fully investigated.
The release of new allegations follows a prostitution scandal in April involving Secret Service agents sent to Cartagena, Colombia before President Barack Obama's arrival at the Summit of the Americas. Several Secret Service agents were implicated in the scandal as having brought prostitutes from strip clubs back to their hotel. Eight officers have been forced out of the agency and at least two are fighting to get their jobs back. The Pentagon is also investigating 12 military members who were allegedly involved in the Cartagena incident. Prostitution is legal in Colombia, but off-limits for U.S. government employees because of possible security risks.
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing last month on the Secret Service prostitution scandal. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan apologized for the behavior of the agents involved.
"I have tried to figure this out between the alcohol, the environment, these individuals did some really dumb things," Sullivan said.
The ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security Committee, Republican Senator Susan Collins, said she does not believe the misconduct in Cartegena was an isolated incident.
"I continue to believe that the problem is broader than you believe it to be," Collins said.
Some of the agents who were forced to quit have complained that rules for off-duty conduct on foreign trips were vague. Secret Service Director Sullivan rejected any suggestion that the Colombia incidents reflect a culture of misconduct.
"The thought or the notion that this type of behavior is condoned or authorized is just absurd," Sullivan said.
Several U.S. lawmakers are calling on the Secret Service to take steps, including stricter behavioral guidelines and more frequent polygraph tests, to try to prevent embarrassing and potentially risky behavior in future.