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Report finds Secret Service does not have 'culture' problem, despite questions over probe

Hotel Caribe_AP_660.jpg

Apr. 14, 2012 photo of the El Caribe Hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. ((AP))

A long-awaited watchdog report has largely cleared the Secret Service in connection with questions over whether last year's prostitution scandal speaks to a broader "culture" problem. But the report itself was released under a cloud, coming just days after the inspector general leading the investigation -- who had been accused of going easy on the administration in prior reports -- resigned and moved to another position. 

The latest report, from the Department of Homeland Security inspector general's office, deems that the agency mostly does not have a widespread culture problem. The report suggests top Secret Service officials "acted quickly and appropriately" in response to misconduct allegations and that the salacious incidents do not reflect the character of the "overwhelming majority" of Secret Service personnel, one source said. 

Lawmakers critical of the agency have suggested otherwise, in the wake of agents being caught last year with prostitutes while on assignment in Colombia for a presidential visit. One of those lawmakers, Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said in a brief statement Friday that the Secret Service is not completely in the clear. 

"While it is important to note that the DHS-IG did not find the Secret Service behavior in Cartagena to be a 'widespread culture problem,' this report does confirm that there is a certain subculture at the Secret Service that engages in risky behavior that could put national security and the mission of the Secret Service at risk," Collins said. 

The Secret Service said in a statement it takes misconduct allegations "seriously," and "as this DHS/OIG report makes clear, the agency takes appropriate action when misconduct is identified." 

The agency says it has accepted the report's recommendations, including setting up a hotline for employees to report misconduct.

Interestingly, the report was released just days after Acting IG Charles Edwards stepped down and accepted a position within DHS. 

The IG had come under scrutiny from senators who aired allegations that he was misusing his office, as well as bowing to political pressure and watering down his reports. 

Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Ron Johnson, R-Wis., sent a letter to Edwards in June cataloguing complaints they had received. The letter claimed they had received allegations that information in his office's earlier report on the Secret Service prostitution scandal was "intentionally changed and withheld." 

Further, the letter aired allegations that he violated "anti-nepotism laws" to employ his wife, misused official funds to travel to Florida to attend Ph.D. classes and used his own staff to work on school assignments. 

Edwards has denied wrongdoing.