Moving swiftly, the Secret Service forced out three agents Wednesday in a prostitution scandal that has embarrassed President Obama. A senior congressman welcomed the move to get to the bottom of the tawdry episode but warned "it's not over."
The agency announced three agents are leaving the service even as separate U.S. government investigations were under way.
The Secret Service did not identify the agents being forced out of the government or eight more it said remain on administrative leave. In a statement, it said one supervisor was allowed to retire and another will be fired for cause. A third employee, who was not a supervisor, has resigned.
The agents were implicated in the prostitution scandal in Colombia that also involved about 10 military service members and as many as 20 women. All the Secret Service employees who were involved had their security clearances revoked.
"These are the first steps," said Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Secret Service.
King said the agency's director, Mark Sullivan, took employment action against "the three people he believes the case was clearest against." But King warned: "It's certainly not over." King said the agency was "reasonably confident" that drug use was not an issue with the three agents forced out on Wednesday.
The embarrassing scandal erupted last week after 11 Secret Service agents were sent home from the colonial-era city of Cartagena on Colombia's Caribbean coast after a night of partying that reportedly ended with at least some of them bringing prostitutes back to their hotel. The special agents and uniformed officers were in Colombia in advance of Obama's arrival for the Summit of the Americas.
New details of the sordid night emerged Wednesday. A 24-year-old self-described prostitute told the New York Times that she met an agent at a discotheque in Cartagena and after a night of drinking, the pair agreed the agent would pay her $800 for sex at the hotel. The next morning, when the hotel's front desk called because the woman hadn't left, the pair argued over the price.
"I tell him, 'Baby, my cash money,' " the woman told the newspaper in an interview in Colombia. She said the two argued after the agent initially offered to pay her about $30 and the situation escalated, eventually ending with Colombian law enforcement involved. She said she was eventually paid about $225.
The tawdry episode took a sharp political turn when presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he would fire the agents involved.
Romney told radio host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday that "I'd clean house" at the Secret Service. "The right thing to do is to remove people who have violated the public trust and have put their play time and their personal interests ahead of the interests of the nation," Romney said. While Romney suggested to Ingraham that a leadership problem led to the scandal, he told a Columbus, Ohio, radio station earlier that he has confidence in Sullivan, the head of the agency.
Sullivan, who this week has briefed lawmakers behind closed doors, said he has referred to the case to an independent government investigator.