3 more Secret Service agents lose their jobs; 2 cleared

By KEVIN JOHNSON AND AAMER MADHANI | USA Today | Published: April 25, 2012

WASHINGTON - Three more Secret Service agents are being ousted from the agency and two others have been cleared of major wrongdoing related to allegations of misconduct with prostitutes during President Obama's recent trip to Cartagena, Colombia, the agency announced Tuesday.

The latest disciplinary action completes the agency's immediate personnel review of all 12 agents implicated in the sex scandal that overshadowed the president's participation in the Summit of the Americas and has since launched multiple congressional inquiries of the agency's operations in the run-up to the international gathering.

In all, nine agents are expected to leave the agency and three have been cleared of serious misconduct, according to Secret Service Assistant Director Paul Morrissey.

"The Secret Service is committed to conducting a full, thorough and fair investigation in this matter and won't hesitate to take appropriate action should any additional information come to light," Morrissey said, adding that the investigation would continue.

In an interview earlier Tuesday, Obama said the scandal shouldn't discredit the entire agency. He said he didn't understand what agent and military personnel suspects were thinking. In addition to the Secret Service agents, the conduct of 12 military personnel also is being reviewed.

"The Secret Service, these guys are incredible," Obama told talk-show host Jimmy Fallon. "They protect me, they protect our girls -- a couple of knuckleheads shouldn't detract from what they do."

Separately, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta suggested on Tuesday that Cartagena incident isn't the first of its kind involving military personnel. Panetta told reporters traveling with him in Brazil that three Marines on a U.S. Embassy security team and one U.S. Embassy staff member were demoted for allegedly pushing a prostitute out of a car in Brasilia late last year after a dispute over payment.

"Where it takes place, you can be sure that we will act to make sure that they are punished and that that kind of behavior is not acceptable," Panetta said.