April 23, 2012

Collins to Secret Service: Add women agents

She suggests misconduct like the Colombia scandal could be prevented if the culture had more diversity.

By Jason Singer jsinger@pressherald.com
Assistant City Editor / Online

Secret Service

Do you agree with Sen. Susan Collins that there should be more female Secret Service agents

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Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee ranking Republican Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington in March 2011. On Sunday, Collins said the Secret Service needs more women agents.

2011 file photo/The Associated Press

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U.S. Sen. Susan Collins and U.S. Rep. Carolyn Maloney suggested Sunday that diversifying the male culture of the Secret Service with more female agents would probably discourage behaviors like the ones that led to the recent prostitution scandal.

Maloney, D-N.Y., appearing with Collins on ABC's "This Week with George Stephanopoulos," noted that only 11 percent of Secret Service agents are women.

"I can't help but wonder if there were more women who had been part of this detail (in Colombia) if this would have ever happened," said Collins, R-Maine.

Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate's Homeland Security Committee, also said "there's no evidence of underage women" being involved, despite a report that Colombia is investigating whether underage prostitutes were hired.

"It would make matters worse," Collins said. "But it is beside the point as far as the broader issue. ... What are Secret Service agents doing bringing unknown foreign nationals to their rooms?"

The Secret Service scandal erupted about 10 days ago, when an argument over payment between a Secret Service agent and a Colombian prostitute spilled into the hallway of the Hotel Caribe, where agents and military personnel were staying as part of a security detail in advance of President Obama's arrival for the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.

The scandal now includes 12 Secret Service agents and 11 military personnel who brought in Colombian prostitutes, according to media reports.

Three officers have already resigned, and three others -- including two supervisors -- were forced out of the agency as part of the investigation. More than 200 people have been interviewed so far, according to The Associated Press.

Most of the criticism came because the prostitutes may have had access to top-level security information by having been allowed into agents' rooms, which could have jeopardized the president's safety.

Collins, Maloney and conservative columnist George Will said this is probably not the first time such an incident has occurred. Collins said it was especially disconcerting that supervisors were involved.

But Collins also came to the defense of the Secret Service as a whole. She said most Secret Service agents "do an extraordinary job, and are very disciplined and professional." She refused to call for the dismissal of the agency's director, Mark Sullivan.

"Let's wait and see what his report says," Collins said. "I'm confident he'll do a no-holds-barred investigation."

Collins and Maloney said the scandal has nothing to do with President Obama's leadership, and people shouldn't use it to score political points.

Collins and others also touched on the other recent political scandal: lavish spending by General Services Administration employees in Las Vegas.

In that instance, Collins also said the president correctly forced the resignation of GSA Director Martha Johnson, because the inspector general alerted Johnson to the misbehavior in May 2011, but she failed to correct the problem.

Collins said an indirect issue with the Secret Service and GSA scandals is that they reinforce negative stereotypes about government workers. "It's unfair to the thousands of federal employees who act appropriately," she said.

"They protect our lives, they protect our food, they protect our air," said Democratic strategist Donna Brazile. "We shouldn't judge everybody" for the mistakes of a few, she said.

But Will said the scandals prove America needs less government.

"Few pleasures are as intense as spending other people's money," he said. "That's why people run for office."

Shortly before the program ended, Collins also endorsed Republican candidate Mitt Romney for president.

"He's exactly the person we need, particularly with the economic issues in our country," she said.

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Secret Service

Do you agree with Sen. Susan Collins that there should be more female Secret Service agents

Yes

No

View Results