A U.S. Secret Service agent was suspended after admitting responsibility for tying what an African American agent reportedly said was a noose hanging in the agency's Beltsville, Md., training facilities.
Eric Zahren, a spokesman for the Secret Service, confirmed Monday that "an employee observed a rope tied in a loop, which was interpreted as a noose, in one of the training buildings," he said.
The alleged noose was first reported by Cox Newspapers, which reported the rope was discovered by an African American agent April 14. The agent is a member of the Secret Service's uniformed division, which protects the White House and its environs, the service reported.
The employee who admitted to tying the rope, Zahren said, had been placed on administrative leave pending an internal investigation. The rope was typically used for dog training, according to Zahren.
"The Secret Service does not and will not tolerate racial, cultural or religious bias of any kind," said Zahren.
The incident comes at an inconvenient moment for the agency, and not only because Americans are contemplating whether to elect their first African American president with Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.
The Secret Service is in the middle of an epic eight-year discrimination suit in which an African American agent charges the agency systematically discriminates against African American agents. Fifty-eight African American agents have given statements in support of the suit filed by agent Reginald G. Moore.
Currently, a federal judge is weighing whether to sanction the service for a fourth time, for failing to turn over evidence during the trial's discovery phase, Cox reported.
The Secret Service has denied Moore's charges.
USSS spokesman Zahren said that the alleged noose incident was being investigated by the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility.