CARTAGENA, Colombia - The US Secret Service, embroiled in a deepening sex scandal, said Sunday it had suspended 11 agents assigned to President Barack Obama's trip to Colombia amid reports they had used prostitutes.
Five US military personnel are also being investigated for misconduct said to have taken place at the same hotel where the Secret Service staff were staying in the Caribbean resort city of Cartagena, and have been confined to barracks.
US Secret Service Assistant Director Paul Morrissey said the allegations were made on Thursday against the Secret Service personnel, who included both special agents and Uniformed Division Officers, though none of them was assigned to Obama's personal security detail.
"The nature of the allegations, coupled with a zero tolerance policy on personal misconduct, resulted in the Secret Service taking the decisive action to relieve these individuals of their assignment, return them to their place of duty and replace them with additional Secret Service personnel," he said in a statement.
But Morrissey stressed that "these actions have had no impact on the Secret Service's ability to execute a comprehensive security plan for the president's visit to Cartagena."
The personnel involved were taken to the service's Washington headquarters for interviews on Saturday as the agency's internal affairs division investigates the matter.
"As a result, all 11 employees have been placed on administrative leave.
This is standard procedure and allows us the opportunity to conduct a full, thorough and fair investigation into the allegations," Morrissey said.
He said the incident, which threatened to overshadow the Summit of the Americas, "is not reflective of the behavior of our personnel as they travel every day throughout the country and the world performing their duties in a dedicated, professional manner."
"We regret any distraction from the Summit of the Americas this situation has caused," he added.