WASHINGTON – Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Ranking Member Susan Collins, R-Maine, Wednesday pressed Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan about a culture of misconduct that might have existed at the agency long before the Cartagena scandal became public.
Speaking publicly about the troubled agency for the first time at a Committee hearing, Sullivan insisted several times that he was unaware of such a culture after 29-years at the agency, as an agent, including with the President’s detail, and as director. The Senators, however, felt differently.
“This isn’t ‘Animal House.’ The mission of the Secret Service is too important to the nation for its agents to engage in risky behavior,” Lieberman said. Addressing Sullivan, he continued: “Going forward you have to assume Cartagena was not the only case of serious misconduct. You need to put in place rules and procedures that will make sure this great agency won’t be subject again to the suspicions that many people now have, including us, about its culture of permissiveness.
“The Secret Service has built an extraordinary reputation for selfless and skilled devotion to the important and dangerous work its agents do. I witnessed their commitment and dedication first hand. The credibility of the Secret Service is too important and its mission is too critical to leave any question unanswered.”
Collins said: “It is my strong belief that the vast majority of the men and women of the US Secret Service are professional, disciplined, dedicated, and courageous. They do an extraordinarily difficult job extraordinarily well. The honorable conduct of the many true professionals of the Service stands in stark contrast to the misconduct that occurred in Colombia last month, on the eve of the President’s visit there. The timing makes the appalling behavior all the more troubling not only to me but also to the majority of Secret Service personnel past and present. The behavior is morally repugnant, and I certainly do not want to downplay that fact.
“My concerns, however, go beyond the morality of the agents’ actions. First, this reckless behavior could easily have compromised individuals charged with the security of the President of the United States. And second, the facts so far lead me to conclude that, while not at all representative of the majority of Secret Service personnel, this misconduct was almost certainly not an isolated incident.”
A Washington Post article reported that four employees are challenging their dismissals, claiming to be “scapegoats” for an agency embarrassed by its past tolerance of similar misconduct. Sullivan was only aware of two challenges and told the Committee any employee who tried to rescind his resignation, would have his security clearance revoked.
Department of Homeland Security Inspector General Charles Edwards — who had previously announced he would oversee the Secret Service investigation into Cartagena and then examine the agency’s culture – told the Senators he would conduct his own investigation into what happened in Cartagena, and re-interview the 200 witnesses who already spoke to Secret Service investigators.
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