(CNSNews.com) - Senate Homeland Security Chairman Joseph Lieberman said on Wednesday that although he has “no evidence” that a foreign intelligence service was involved in the scandal arising from members of the Secret Service patronizing prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, he also “can’t rule out the possibility.”
Lieberman’s committee has oversight over the Secret Service, which is a part of the Department of Homeland Security.
At a Tuesday press briefing, at which Lieberman was joined by Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who is the ranking member of the Homeland Security Committee, CNSNews.com asked the senator: “Can you rule out the possibility that a foreign intelligence service was involved in the Secret Service scandal, and, if not, do you think Congress should investigate that possibility?”
“Well, I can’t rule out the possibility because I am not conducting that particular investigation, the Secret Service is,” said Lieberman.
“As you know,” he said, “they have had twelve people under different forms of discipline, resignation or termination.
“But I spoke to Director [Mark] Sullivan today and they have about 15 more people they want to interview who were down in Cartagena in this time to make sure they have been exhaustive about this,” Lieberman continued. “But I certainly have no evidence that a foreign intelligence service was at all involved in this case in Cartagena.
“Of course, as I have said before, I know my concern, I know Sen. Collins’s concern, is that when a Secret Service agent is on assignment, but even off duty, and puts himself in a position where he is acting in a way that he could be compromised than that is more than just a frolic that is potentially jeopardizing the safety of the president of the United States,” said Lieberman.
In letters to the director of the Secret Service and the secretary of Defense, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee has said that at least 11 Secret Service agents and officers and 12 military personnel were involved in questionable activities in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to president Obama’s visit to that city earlier this month.
In an April 18 letter to Secret Service Director Sullivan, Oversight Chairman Darrell Issa (R.-Calif.) and Ranking Member Elijah Cumming (D.-Md.) said: “The incident in Cartagena is troubling because Secret Service agents and officers made a range of bad decisions, from drinking too much, to engaging with prostitutes, to bringing foreign nationals into contact with sensitive security information, to exposing themselves to blackmail and other forms of potential compromise.”
Issa and Cummings sent a similar letter on April 25 to Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
“Our nation’s capacity to protect the President, the Vice President, and other high-ranking officials when they travel abroad depends on the strong character and sound judgment of uniformed personnel who, along with U.S. Secret Service plan and implement those trips,” Issa and Cummings told Panetta. “The recent actions of a group of uniformed military personnel on assignment in Cartagena, Colombia, showed an alarming lack of both.”
The Oversight Committee has requested that the Secret Service provide the committee by May 1 with a detailed accounting of what its agents and officers did in Colombia. It has requested that by May 8 the Defense Department provide a detailed accounting of what its personnel did in Colombia.
Lieberman has said he will hold a hearing in the Senate Homeland Security Committee to examine the Cartagena incident.