DHS inspector general launches Secret Service investigation
(CBS News) Under pressure from members of Congress, the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General is launching its own investigation into the Colombian prostitution scandal that's done great damage to the reputation of the United States Secret Service.
In a message to congressional investigators, the inspector general said that his office notified the Secret Service last week "of our intent to conduct a comprehensive review of the matter."
The objectives of that investigation, according to text of the notice obtained by CBS News, are to determine whether the Secret Service responded to the scandal adequately, whether they investigated the incident sufficiently and whether appropriate actions to have been taken to stop similar scandals from happening again. The DHS independent investigators will also determine how well the Secret Service "is administering workplace programs such as diversity, recruitment and discipline."
But the move is not sure to satisfy members of Congress. Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa has criticized the Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General for not opening an outside investigation sooner and for just allowing the Secret Service to investigate itself and the White House to investigate its own advance team.
An aide to Grassley said it's unclear at this point whether the investigation will be broad enough, and they are seeking more answers from the Inspector General on the scope of the investigation before determining whether this investigation is adequate.
In the notice to Congress yesterday, the Inspector General explained the delay by saying they recognized investigators from the Secret Service's Office of Professional Responsibility were already "on the ground in Colombia" and so they "determined that the USSS was best positioned to immediately initiate the investigation with the full understanding that they would keep OIG informed as the investigation progressed." The IG insists that the Secret Service "has been completely transparent and forthcoming with specific details and findings of their investigation."
Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairman Joe Lieberman and Sen. Susan Collins, the top Republican on the committee, also want more answers. They sent a letter to Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan today asking for more details related to the Colombian prostitution scandal as part of the committee's investigation into the scandal.
"Specifically, we wish to determine whether those events were indicative of a pattern of behavior by agents or officers of the Secret Service, and need to be addressed systemically, or if they instead constituted an isolated incident warranting action only with respect to the individuals involved," Lieberman and Collins said to Sullivan in the letter.
The senators listed 15 specific questions to Sullivan, including whether the incident reflects a pattern of behavior in the agency. They ask him to say explicitly whether agents could engage in prostitution or use of drugs if those things are legal in that foreign country, and they also ask for reports of any similar incidents reported to Secret Service Office of Professional Responsibility since 2007. So far, USSS and DHS have said there have been no similar incidents reported, but they've only gone back to 2009.
Sullivan has seen similar inquiries from numerous committees on Capitol Hill, including from House Homeland Security Chairman Pete King, R-N.Y., and the Oversight and Government Reform Chairman and Ranking Member Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md. The oversight committee is expecting a formal response from Sullivan as early as today.
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