WASHINGTON (AP) - The prostitution scandal at the Secret Service claimed its first casualties Wednesday. The agency announced three agents are leaving the service, even as separate U.S. government investigations were under way. The tawdry episode took a sharp political turn when presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney said he would fire the agents involved.
The Secret Service did not identify the three agents leaving 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 agent set to be fired would sue. King said Sullivan had to follow collective bargaining rules but was "moving as quickly as he can. Once he feels the facts are clear, he's going to move."
The scandal, which has become an election-year embarrassment for the Obama administration, 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 President Barack Obama's arrival for the Summit of the Americas.
In Washington and Colombia, separate U.S. government investigations were already under way. King said he has assigned four congressional investigators to the probe. The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, led by Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., sought details of the Secret Service investigation, including the disciplinary histories of the agents involved. Secret Service investigators are in Colombia interviewing witnesses.
In a letter to Sullivan, Issa and Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee's ranking Democrat, said the agents "brought foreign nationals in contact with sensitive security information." A potential security breach has been among the concerns raised by members of Congress.
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.
At least 10 military personnel who were staying at the same hotel are also being investigated for misconduct.
Two U.S. military officials have said they include five Army Green Berets. One of the officials said the group also includes two Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal technicians, two Marine dog handlers and an Air Force airman.