Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Join us at the main post office today at 5:30 PM/Colombia Prostitution Scandal Prompts Probe

The Pledge of Resistance-Baltimore will host its annual Tax Day protest on Tuesday, April 17 from 5:30 to 6:30 PM at the Main Post Office, 900 E. Fayette St., Baltimore 21233.  The Pledge will leaflet and wave placards to highlight that 50% of the federal budget goes to the Pentagon.  Call Max Obuszewski at 410-366-1637 or reach him by email at mobuszewski at verizon.net.


During a Witness Against Torture protest at the White House some years back, several members of the National Campaign for Nonviolent Resistance were roughed up by the Secret Service.  I am wondering if anyone involved in that assault were also refusing to pay sex workers in Colombia.



Colombia Prostitution Scandal Prompts Probe

By David Lerman on April 17, 2012


The Pentagon is investigating the involvement of U.S. military personnel in misconduct involving prostitution in Colombia before President Barack Obama arrived for a summit, an incident that the top armed forces commander said left the service “embarrassed.”

The scandal, which prompted the recall of 11 Secret Service agents to the U.S., also ensnared members of the military who were in the resort city of Cartagena, Colombia, as part of the preparation for Obama’s arrival at the Summit of the America’s last weekend.

“We are embarrassed,” Army General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said at a Pentagon briefing yesterday. “We let the boss down,” he said, referring to Obama.

The summit, which concluded April 15, was supposed to focus on trade in the Western Hemisphere and the U.S. relationship with Latin America. Instead, news from the weekend meeting was dominated by the allegations of misconduct among the U.S. personnel who were in Colombia to provide for the president’s security.

The incident was sparked when a Cartagena prostitute refused to leave the hotel room occupied by the U.S. Secret Service until she was paid, according to U.S. Representative Peter King, a New York Republican who was briefed on the investigation as head of the House Homeland Security Committee, which has oversight responsibility for the agency.

Intelligence Inquiry

A routine intelligence investigation into the episode is under way to determine whether any classified information was lost or compromised as well as the identities of the women involved and whether they may have been recruited by a foreign intelligence service or a group with hostile intentions toward Obama, according to two U.S. officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because the inquiry is confidential.

Some of the soldiers involved were on an Explosive Ordnance Disposal team, or bomb squad, according to the officials.

Eleven U.S. Secret Service agents, working in advance of Obama’s arrival at the summit, were returned to the U.S. and placed on administrative leave April 12 as a result.

In addition, five members of the U.S. military who were staying at the same hotel violated a curfew set by the senior defense official at the U.S. embassy in Colombia, according to Army Colonel Scott Malcom, the public affairs officer for the U.S. Southern Command.

More Than Five

“We believe that there may be more than five involved,” George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters yesterday without providing details of the role of the military personnel or their branches of service.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the military is conducting an investigation of the incident.

“We expect them to abide by the highest standard of behavior,” Panetta said of military personnel. “That’s a requirement.”

Obama, during a press conference before leaving Cartagena, said he will await the outcome of what was expected to be a “thorough” investigation by law enforcement.

“If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry,” Obama said. “We’re representing the people of the United States. And when we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards.”

‘So Appalling’

Senator Susan Collins of Maine, the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, told reporters she will ask Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan whether such incidents had happened previously and would like the committee to hold a hearing on the episode.

“I find this to be so appalling,” Collins said. “I can’t help but think: What if the women involved had been spies? What if they’d been members of the drug cartel? What if they’d planted equipment or eavesdropping devices?”

The Senate Judiciary Committee, which oversees the Secret Service’s budget, has also requested details about the incident, according to a panel staff member who spoke on condition of anonymity because the committee hasn’t commented on the incident.

Issa’s Question

Republican Representative Darrell Issa of California, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, said his panel will conduct “an over-the-shoulder investigation” as the Secret Service looks into the case.

The incident obscured what should have been an opportunity to trumpet a free-trade agreement with host Colombia and expanding trade to fast-growing economies such as Brazil, said Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas in Washington.

“This is not what you want to be dominating the news,” Farnsworth, who helped organize the first regional summit for President Bill Clinton in Miami in 1994, said in a phone interview. “It overshadows what should have been a highlight of the president’s engagement with the Western Hemisphere.”

To contact the reporter on this story: David Lerman in Washington at dlerman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Steven Komarow at skomarow1@bloomberg.net; John Walcott at jwalcott9@bloomberg.net

Donations can be sent to the Baltimore Nonviolence Center, 325 E. 25th St., Baltimore, MD 21218.  Ph: 410-366-1637; Email: mobuszewski [at] verizon.net. Go to http://baltimorenonviolencecenter.blogspot.com/


"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs


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