Ex-USSS head: Agents aware of prostitution risks

Secret Service scandal in Columbia
Former Secret Service director Brian Stafford tells CBS News that agents are regularly briefed of the danger associated with prostitution
CBS News

(CBS News) WASHINGTON - On Wednesday, the director of the Secret Service took swift action against three of his own after that prostitution scandal. About 21 Americans -- 11 from the Secret Service and 10 from the Pentagon -- are under investigation for bringing prostitutes back to their hotel in Colombia. They were in Colombia to prepare security for the president's visit over the weekend. CBS News chief White House correspondent Norah O'Donnell got the first word of the day's developments.

Three members of the Secret Service are out in the wake of this embarrassing scandal: One supervisor was allowed to retire; another supervisor was told he would be fired; and a third uniformed officer has resigned. And in a statement, the assistant director of the Secret Service is promising a full, thorough and fair investigation.

CBS News has learned the scandal unraveled when a Secret Service agent got into an early morning quarrel with a woman he'd invited back to his hotel room. A top law enforcement official said the agent did not know the woman was a prostitute when he met her in a bar and was surprised when she demanded at least 150 American dollars the next morning. The agent reportedly offered just $30 and that's when a disturbance inside the El Caribe hotel triggered the involvement of Colombian authorities, who contacted the U.S. embassy staff.

CBS News has learned the agents were interviewed at Secret Service headquarters and offered lie detector tests Tuesday.

3 agents removed from Secret Service over scandal
Ex-Secret Service agent: Agents "weren't thinking"

"Does the Secret Service need to wrap up this investigation quickly to save the reputation of the Secret Service? O'Donnell asked Brian Stafford, the former director of the agency.

"Oh, I think you're exactly right," he said.

Stafford has protected six presidents. He also told us that agents and officers are formally briefed on the dangers of soliciting prostitutes.

"So to be clear, agents have been briefed regularly?" asked O'Donnell.

"Oh yes," said Stafford.

"That prostitution can be dangerous because of potential espionage or blackmail?"

"They're briefed regularly on that, yes. It's a universal briefing that's been given as long as I can remember, and there's no doubt everybody going on that trip representing our government in that presidential contingent is aware of that and aware you can't do that and obviously should be aware of the consequences if you do."

Now this investigation is far from over. Of the 11 agents and officers who are accused of conduct, three are gone. The other eight remain under investigation and have had their security clearances suspended.

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    Norah O'Donnell is the anchor and managing editor of the "CBS Evening News." She also contributes to "60 Minutes."