Government inspectors analyzing abuses by members of the US Secret Service which protects the president concluded Friday that there is no widespread sexual misconduct among its employees.
The long-awaited findings by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) were prompted by a 2012 scandal in which 13 Secret Service agents were suspected of engaging with prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia while preparing for President Barack Obama’s visit to the city.
“Although individual employees have engaged in misconduct or inappropriate behavior, we did not find evidence that misconduct is widespread in USSS,? the DHS’s inspector general’s office concluded in a 144-page report released Friday.
US lawmakers ordered the study last year after the scandal broke and witnesses at congressional hearings testified that there was not a culture of sexual deviancy or patterns of misbehavior at the elite agency.
While the report backed up that assessment, it warned the Secret Service that it “should continue to monitor and address excessive alcohol consumption and personal conduct within its workforce.”
The inspectors made 14 recommendations to the Secret Service “aimed at improving processes for identifying, mitigating, and addressing instances of misconduct and inappropriate behavior.”
Eleven of the recommendations have been successfully addressed, the report said.
Inspectors used interviews and an anonymous electronic survey as the basis of their findings. Forty percent of the 6,447 employees invited to complete the survey responded.
The anonymity and low number of the responses may cause concern among lawmakers as they follow up on the case.
While inspectors found no widespread culture of misbehavior at USSS, “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,” Senate Republican Susan Collins said Friday.
The report’s findings suggested that special agents might be fearful of retaliation by management — or concerned about protecting a colleague — should they report misbehavior.
“Of the 19 electronic survey respondents who indicated they observed solicitation of prostitutes, none of them reported the behavior,” according to the report.
The report acknowledged that the agents at the heart of the Cartagena scandal “solicited prostitutes, consumed excessive amounts of alcohol, and patronized questionable local establishments.”
Five of the agents resigned or retired, five others had their security clearances revoked, and three were cleared of serious misconduct.