In his first Congressional testimony about the Secret Service prostitution scandal, the agency’s director faced a grilling from skeptical Senators who raised concerns that the conduct seemed prevalent and accepted among agents and their supervisors.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and ranking member Susan Collins (R-Maine) both asked Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan whether higher-ups condoned agents’ sexual encounters while on assignment.
Sens. Tom Carper (D-Del.), Scott Brown (R-Mass.), Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) raised similar concerns, saying it seems unbelievable that the incident in which 12 agents, including two supervisors, brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Colombia was the first of its kind.
Sullivan denied, however, that such conduct was normal or condoned.
“I’ve been part of this organization for 29 years, and I’ve never seen anything like this in my life,” he said. “The notion that this type of behavior is condoned or authorized is just absurd.”
Collins dug in on the fact that the agents who brought prostitutes to their hotel and registered them as guests did so under their real names.
“It suggests to me that the agents were so unconcerned about being caught or about the impropriety of their actions that they didn’t even seek to conceal it,” she said.
Sullivan responded that he was dumbfounded by the agents’ actions.
“I just think between the alcohol and, I don’t know, the environment, that these people did some really dumb things,” he said. “I have no excuse for those actions. All I can tell you is we acted quickly and brought them back here and initiated the investigation.”
Sullivan said the agency is investigating the incidents but is not yet ready to release any of the findings. Still, he said he believes the agents were outliers and that the vast majority of the roughly 7,000 Secret Service agents are professional and trustworthy.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.