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The Trail: 2012 Presidential News from the Field / National Security

Dempsey: 'We Let the Boss Down' in Colombia

Secret Service prostitution scandal may involve several U.S. troops.

April 16, 2012

The nation's top military officer apologized on Monday for American troops' alleged role in a widening sex scandal in Colombia, acknowledging that the flap had "distracted" from President Obama's visit to the key Latin American ally.

Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters that the military was "embarrassed" that at least five troops may have joined Secret Service agents in hiring prostitutes there.

"We let the boss down," Dempsey said.

 

Dempsey's comments come as the number of service members implicated in the incident may rise; Pentagon press secretary George Little said on Monday that while he didn't have an exact number, the original number may be too low. The U.S. Southern Command had previously said only five service members were under investigation.

"We believe that there may be more than five involved in this incident," Little said, according to the Associated Press.

Eleven Secret Service officers have been accused of hiring prostitutes at a hotel in Colombia. All of the officers were sent home, and the military members under investigation were staying at the same hotel, the Associated Press reports. The 11 officially confirmed to be under investigation have had their security clearances revoked, CBS News reports. Three of the 11 agents are members of the elite Counter-Assault Team, a group of heavily armed agents whose job it is to "neutralize" an attack against the president. According to NBC, officials have said this revelation makes the incident more serious.

However, the number of Secret Service officers under investigation may be as large as 20, NBC is reporting.

The incident has raised questions about the judgement of the agents charged with protecting Obama and it is being investigated by both the Secret Service and the military's Southern Command.

Dempsey said that the troops would be punished if the probe concluded that they'd violated military rules.

"We'll hold those accountable if it turns out that they violated orders or policies," he said.

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