Accessibility links

Breaking News

Pentagon 'Embarrassed' by Alleged Misconduct in Colombia

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (file photo)

Pentagon officials say they are "embarrassed" about the alleged misconduct involving Secret Service members, military staff and prostitutes in Colombia.

The U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Martin Dempsey, said in a press conference at the Pentagon Monday that the military arm "let the boss down" by causing a distraction to an important regional engagement for the president.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta added that it is a "requirement" for our forces to abide by the "highest standard." He said that if found in violation, the people involved in the scandal will be held accountable.

Eleven Secret Service personnel who were stationed in Colombia ahead of President Barack Obama's visit were sent home and placed on administrative leave pending an investigation that involved prostitution. At least five U.S. military staff assigned to support the Secret Service were confined to their barracks in Colombia after the allegations.

The alleged misconduct reportedly took place before Mr. Obama arrived in the resort city of Cartagena Friday for the sixth Summit of the Americas.

On Sunday, Mr. Obama cast the incident as isolated and praised the Secret Service as a whole.

He said agents who misbehave are vulnerable to blackmail and therefore could risk the security of those under their protection.

The Secret Service has said none of the personnel involved was assigned to protect Mr. Obama.