(WASHINGTON) — The director of the Secret Service on Wednesday apologized for the distraction caused by last month’s sex scandal in Colombia, testifying to Congress that the agency is taking steps to prevent future embarrassing encounters from happening.
Director Mark Sullivan tried to assure a Senate committee that Secret Service agents make appropriate decisions the “overwhelming majority” of the time, but “we had some individuals who made very bad decisions” on the trip to Cartagena before President Obama’s arrival.
Sullivan said he is reviewing the Secret Service’s ethics policy and training as a result of the investigation into the agents who brought prostitutes back to their hotel after a night of partying.
“Any type of misconduct we take extremely seriously,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan had not spoken publicly about the scandal until Wednesday morning. He appeared nervous at times, once calling Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine “secretary” before correcting himself.
The night before, the Washington Post reported that four Secret Service employees who lost their jobs in the fallout from the scandal are challenging their dismissal. The agents reportedly say they were made into scapegoats even though the Secret Service has tolerated similar behavior.
The sex scandal and subsequent investigation were an embarrassment for the agency and resulted in a handful of agents losing their jobs, and a dozen military members being accused of hiring prostitutes as well.
“Between the alcohol and, I don’t know, the environment, these individuals did some really dumb things,” Sullivan told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Republicans have tried to tie the flap to the Obama administration, arguing that the president is responsible for overseeing all federal agencies. The White House has said that none of its employees were involved in the scandal in the days before Obama arrived in Cartagena.
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