PUBLISHED: 10:49 EST, 26 April 2012 | UPDATED: 11:26 EST, 26 April 2012
The Secret Service is investigating a news report that employees allegedly engaged the services of prostitutes in El Salvador on another trip abroad for the president, an agency official said.
Seattle television stationKIRO-TV reported on Wednesday that there are allegations that during a trip last year to El Salvador, agents engaged in activities similar to those in a prostitution scandal that emerged after a presidential trip to Colombia.
The Secret Service official, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss ongoing investigations, said the agency is trying to determine whether the reports are accurate.
‘Others’: Secret Service agents, paid to protect Barack Obama, hired prostitutes in El Salvador last year as they did in Colombia, according to a new report
The Seattle television report also included allegations that U.S. embassy officials and officers from the Drug Enforcement Administration and FBI have routinely engaged the services of prostitutes in San Salvador.
The report came hours after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told lawmakers that what happened in Colombia was an isolated incident and that it would surprise her if there were a broader problem.
The Colombia scandal erupted the morning of April 12, when a fight over payment between a prostitute and a Secret Service officer spilled into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe.
Since then, a dozen Secret Service employees, including two supervisors, and 12 military personnel have been implicated.
Eight of the Secret Service officers have been forced out, the agency is trying to permanently revoke the security clearance of one, and three others have been cleared of serious wrongdoing but will face administrative discipline.
Ongoing: The report reveals that federal agents hired prostitutes in El Salvador prior to the Colombia scandal at the Caribe Hilton (pictured)
One of the Secret Service officers was staying at the Hilton hotel in Cartagena, Colombia, the same hotel where President Barack Obama later stayed for the Summit of the Americas.
Little is known about the fate of the six Army soldiers, two Marines, two Naval personnel and one Air Force airman, though Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said this week that all have had their security clearances suspended.
A 12th serviceman, assigned to the White House Communications Agency, a military unit that provides security communications for the president, has been relieved of his duties at the White House.
Ms Napolitano’s testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday was the first public questioning of a Homeland Security official since the tawdry affair became public.
‘Isolated’: The report comes after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told senators that the Colombia scandal was a one-time issue
She said the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility had never received previous complaints in the past two and a half years, but it was unclear why she specified that period.
‘Work’: Dania Suarez (pictured) is known for being hired by federal agents for prostitution services in Colombia
The chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, praised the Secret Service as ‘wise, very professional men and women’ and called it shocking that so many of the agency’s employees were involved in the scandal.
Ms Napolitano said if the misconduct was a pattern, ‘that would be a surprise to me.’
‘It really was, I think, a huge disappointment to the men and women of the Secret Service to begin with, who uphold very high standards and who feel their own reputations are now besmirched by the actions of a few,’ Ms Napolitano said.
But Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, of South Carolina, pressed Ms Napolitano about whether she believes this was the first incident involving prostitutes and the Secret Service.
‘The only reason I suggest that we need to maybe look at little harder is because we’re lucky to have found out about this,’ he said. ‘If there hadn’t been an argument between one of the agents and, I guess, a prostitute, for lack of a better word, about money, we’d probably have never known about this.’
Meanwhile, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday that the agents who resigned because of the scandal are considering whether to challenge their dismissals.
If they do, the newspaper reported, they may reveal how colleagues and managers drank heavily, went to strip clubs and hired women for sex in their free time while on official trips for the president.