Under tough and skeptical questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano on Wednesday described the recent Secret Service prostitution scandal as "inexcusable" but also defended the agency by saying the situation never endangered President Barack Obama.
Napolitano, the former governor of Arizona, said the behavior of agents who solicited prostitutes just a few nights before Obama's arrival in Colombia for a summit "cannot be tolerated," and said she treats the accusations "very seriously."
Judiciary Committee Chairman Pat Leahy, D-Vt., also said the agents' conduct was inexcusable.
"No one wants to see America embarrassed," Leahy said.
Out of 12 agents considered to be involved, nine have so far been dismissed from the Secret Service, and more are possible.
Some Republican senators such as Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who is the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee, have suggested criminal activity by the White House travel agency may have been involved, but so far the activity seems confined to the agency.
Napolitano's department now includes oversight of the Secret Service.
Napolitano and Leahy agreed that they share confidence in Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, and Napolitano said investigators have combed through two and a half years of agency records and have yet to find any similar examples of misconduct.
The Senate's Homeland Security and Governmental Oversight Committee, chaired by Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., also plans hearings into the Secret Service scandal.
Also Wednesday, Napolitano called "unacceptable and unprofessional" the actions of a Secret Service agent who posted a comment on his Facebook page accompanying a photo of him guarding former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin in 2008.
The agent had posted a comment that showed him watching Palin from behind and read, "I was checking her out, if you know what I mean?"
by RTT Staff Writer
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