Published April 23, 2012
The White House has determined its advance team was not engaged in "any inappropriate conduct" as part of the Colombia prostitution scandal, after launching an internal review out of "an abundance of caution."
Press Secretary Jay Carney announced the findings of the review Monday, as the Pentagon moved to suspend security clearances for the U.S. service members who have been implicated in the scandal. A senior U.S. defense official also confirmed that one more military member is now under investigation, bringing the total number of U.S. service members implicated to 12 -- the latest individual was assigned to the White House communications team, though apparently not part of the White House staff itself.
With the number of Secret Service agents and military personnel tied to the alleged misconduct growing, the White House had faced questions from lawmakers about whether any of its own staff were involved. Carney earlier had dismissed those suggestions, but said Monday that the White House counsel conducted a review as a matter of "due diligence."
"There's no indication that any member of the White House advance team engaged in any inappropriate conduct or behavior," Carney said.
Earlier Monday, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that the security clearances were suspended for service members allegedly involved, in the first disciplinary action to be announced on the military side.
The move follows a similar decision by the Secret Service to suspend clearances for its own agents who were implicated. A total of 12 military members and a dozen Secret Service agents so far have been tied to the alleged misconduct in early April ahead of President Obama's visit to Cartagena.
"My biggest concern is the issue of security and what could possibly have been jeopardized by virtue of this kind of behavior," Panetta said Monday.
Panetta discussed the case with reporters en route to Colombia. Panetta's trip to Colombia and other South American countries was already scheduled and is not related to the ongoing investigation into the prostitution scandal.
Both the military and Secret Service have been scrambling to investigate the alleged misconduct in Cartagena, as congressional lawmakers launch their own probes and demand to know more about whether any sensitive information could have been compromised by the indiscretions of U.S. personnel.
Obama has stood by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan in the wake of the scandal, praising the director for his swift response to the embarrassing incident at a Cartagena hotel. The behavior of the agents allegedly first drew the attention of hotel staff and others after one of the prostitutes complained about payment.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.