A military investigation reveals new details about the prostitution scandal that engulfed both military and Secret Service personnel in Colombia.
A dozen U.S. service members brought women, likely prostitutes, to their hotel rooms in Colombia and also allowed dogs to soil bed linens and building grounds shortly before President Barack Obama arrived in the country for an April summit, according to a military investigation that followed the announcement of punishments for the men.
The report provided to The Associated Press on Friday revealed new details about the conduct of the service members.
Seven Army soldiers and two Marines have received administrative punishments for what the report described as misconduct consisting "almost exclusively of patronizing prostitutes and adultery." Three of the service members have requested courts martial, which would give them a public trial to contest the punishments.
One Air Force member was reprimanded but cleared of any violations of the U.S. military code of justice, and final decisions are pending on two Navy sailors, whose cases remain under legal review.
According to the investigator's report, the problems involving the servicemen came to light when hotel staff complained to U.S. officials that military members had female guests in their rooms after 6 a.m., a violation of hotel policy. They also complained that dog handlers allowed their dogs to sleep in beds, soil hotel linens and soil other public areas around the building. It's not clear, the report said, whether the dog problems were limited to military handlers, but officials said those issues were corrected right away.
The wider scandal involving the Secret Service erupted after a public dispute over payment between a Secret Service agent and a prostitute at a Cartagena hotel. The Secret Service and the military were in the Colombian coastal resort to prepare for Obama's participation in a Latin American summit. Twelve Secret Service employees were implicated, eight of them ousted, three cleared of serious misconduct and one is being stripped of his security clearance.
The military report concluded that "the combination of unstructured free time, the prevalence of legalized prostitution and military members' individual choice to commit misconduct," were the primary causes of the transgressions. It also found that there was no evidence that the interaction with prostitutes presented any risk to national security, and that no sensitive materials were compromised.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia but is a violation of the U.S. military code of justice. Hotels in Cartagena require that any guests, including prostitutes, must be signed in, must pay a guest fee and must arrive after 11 p.m. and leave by 6 a.m. The time constraints, the report said, are largely because the hotel doesn't want families or other guests to witness the prostitutes' presence.
U.S. Southern Command, headed by Gen. Douglas Fraser, conducted the investigation into the military members' involvement in the April incident, which brought shame to the elite presidential protection force and unearthed revelations of other episodes of misconduct within the Secret Service.
The military contingent included seven Army soldiers — including six special operations forces, two Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal technicians, two Marine dog handlers and an Air Force airman. All of the military had behind-the-scenes roles and were not directly involved in presidential security.
The report said that 12 military members brought women to their rooms — 11 in the Hotel Caribe on April 11 and one in the Hilton Hotel the previous week.
The investigation also concluded that there was no broad coordinated effort to commit the misconduct or to cover it up later, although there were some instances where military members may have made misleading or "factually unlikely" statements when questioned about the matter. It said that all of the women were over the age of 18, were not criminals or terrorists or part of any human trafficking network.
The report said evidence substantiating the wrongdoing came from statements from the military members, eight of the prostitutes, hotel log books and security video.
The report also discounted leadership problems, saying that military and civilian leaders "did not create or foster an atmosphere of tolerance for prostitution or marital infidelity."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.