Published October 19, 2012
A U.S. senator whose staff has reviewed a major internal report on the Secret Service prostitution scandal flagged a series of "potential discrepancies" between what allegedly happened and what Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and other administration officials claimed -- on the heels of a series of FoxNews.com reports detailing those discrepancies.
Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management, released a lengthy memo Friday airing his concerns about the administration's handling of the scandal and chiding the administration for refusing his requests for more information.
In doing so, the senator brought into the public eye concerns that until now have been expressed only privately among officials, and reported by FoxNews.com.
"Unfortunately, there are discrepancies between the statements made and the information in the (report)," Johnson wrote.
Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, also put out a brief statement Friday expressing concern about the findings in the investigative report by the Department of Homeland Security inspector general. "It looks like the Inspector General's report confirms our fear that there is a broader history of inappropriate action by personnel within the Secret Service. Even worse, the IG report casts doubt and suspicion on the statements that national security wasn't at risk," he said.
Johnson's memo said, as reported Tuesday by FoxNews.com, that the inspector general's report reveals senior Secret Service members "were aware" that one of the women in Colombia raised flags in the intelligence community even though Sullivan testified before Congress that none of the women had a connection to anything criminal.
Multiple high-ranking law enforcement officials close to the investigation had told FoxNews.com that at the time of his testimony, the intelligence community had found one confirmed hit -- meaning one of the prostitutes hired by a member of the Secret Service showed up in a CIA database of known criminals -- and one partial, unconfirmed, hit.
Johnson's memo said that upon further review, "it was determined that one of these women was not the same woman" in the database. The other woman, however, "is still of concern" to the intelligence community, he wrote. The memo went to members of the Senate committee.
Further, Johnson said the report uncovered hotel records suggesting, as FoxNews.com had reported, that "female foreign nationals" were signed in as guests to a White House Communications Agency worker -- who was an officer in the Defense Department -- and a "reported member of the White House staff and/or advance team."
Johnson noted that White House Press Secretary Jay Carney had previously said there's "no indication" of any White House advance team involvement. The administration has claimed the White House advance team member was erroneously named in the hotel record, but Johnson noted that the DHS OIG was unable to investigate the possible White House involvement.
Johnson's memo went on to reveal that the DHS OIG investigation found "solicitation of prostitutes may be more prevalent than Congress was led to believe, and that there may be a culture of acceptance inside of" the Secret Service.
He said the investigation found one agent "self-reported to having solicited prostitutes both in El Salvador and Panama" in 2008-2009.
"The investigation further uncovered allegations of similar misconduct in China and Romania," he wrote, adding that at least 11 service personnel "admitted to having knowledge of similar misconduct occurring on other occasions."
Nevertheless, Sullivan had testified before the Senate committee that he did not think this behavior was "systemic within our organization."
Johnson went on to list a series of complaints about the administration's handling of the review. He said the Justice Department refused the OIG's request for get permission to interview the prostitutes. He questioned the Secret Service's own internal investigation, and said the agency "may have interfered with the transparency" of the OIG probe -- since 10 senior Service officials "refused to be interviewed" and eight other current and former employees were unreachable.
Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., chairman of the homeland security committee, said in light of the memo he was reserving judgment -- and expressed concerns about the memo itself.
"This unauthorized leak of sensitive, selective information from the IG's report is unfair to the United States Secret Service and its director, Mark Sullivan," he said in a statement. "Both have served our nation honorably and ably for a long time and deserve the benefit of a presumption of innocence unless real evidence leads to a different conclusion. I will await the Inspector General's finished report before making any judgments."
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan did not immediately reply to a request from FoxNews.com for comment on the Johnson memo.
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