Ex-Secret Service director on scandal: "This is an aberration"
(CBS News) In the midst of a widening Secret Service scandal, a former director of the agency said on "Face the Nation" that the charges against agents for actions in Colombia last week were an "aberration," and that incidents like this for which agents have been fired did not happen when he was head of the agency.
Ralph Basham spent 31 years in the Secret Service, and was director from 2003 to 2006 - immediately prior to current Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan.
"Face the Nation" anchor Bob Schieffer asked Basham whether as Director he ever faced problems at the agency similar to those reported last week, when several Secret Service agents allegedly brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms in Cartagena prior to a summit attended by President Obama.
"Absolutely not... this is an aberration," Basham said. "This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service. And, obviously, this is a huge story. It's a huge issue, because this sort of thing does not happen in the Secret Service."
In the past week, six agents have been removed from the Secret Service, and six more are on administrative leave as the investigation continues.
Basham said that incidents like the Colombia scandal were not commonplace while he was the agency head. "I don't believe in the past these types of things have happened. They certainly didn't happen on my watch, and I spent over three decades in this organization. And I can tell you this is not what that organization is like."
"But you had supervisors involved here, these weren't rookies," Schieffer said. "who obviously got to be supervisors - some of that time they must have in the service [when] you were the director. You're saying there was never any indication of anything like this when you were there?"
"Well, Bob, that's not to say that we did not have situations where agents, officers got themselves into inappropriate situations and had to be brought back, and in some cases the discipline went all the way to removing them from the service. But to this magnitude, absolutely not."
"How many agents were removed for things like this while you were there?" Schieffer asked.
"I can't recall one instance where the action went to the point of removing an agent from duty," Basham replied. "There were agents who were disciplined - you know, given time off, that sort of thing - but I can't recall one actually being removed."
The former director also praised his successor in the interview, saying Sullivan "took immediate and decisive action" to remove the agents from Cartagena. And he looked toward the future of the agency, saying "they'll get through this."
"Certainly, this incident is an extremely embarrassing incident, but it is an incident. And I believe if you look back at the history of the Secret Service, you've got to recognize that this is not characteristic of the organization," Basham said. "They'll get through this. They'll learn from this. And they'll move on to the important business... of protecting this nation's leaders."
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