Long-Awaited Report Largely Clears Secret Service of 'Culture' Problem

PHOTO: President Barack Obama, surrounded by Secret Service agents, walks across the tarmac as he arrives at Boeing Field in Seattle, July 24, 2012.
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A long-awaited report on the Secret Service, which was rocked by a prostitution scandal last year, concluded that the agency does not breed a culture of such behavior.

"Although individual employees have engaged in misconduct or inappropriate behavior, we did not find evidence that misconduct is widespread" or that "employees frequently engage in behaviors ... that could cause a security concern," according to the report, obtained by ABC News.

"Furthermore, we did not find any evidence that [Secret Service] leadership has fostered an environment that tolerates inappropriate behavior," it adds.

The report is the culmination of an extensive, 18-month investigation by the inspector general's office of the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Secret Service. The internal watchdog's investigators reviewed records, surveyed more than 2,500 employees and interviewed more than 200 supervisors, managers and senior officials.

Their investigation was launched in the spring of last year, after several Secret Service agents solicited prostitutes in Cartagena, Colombia, while preparing for a presidential visit in April 2012. According to the new report, those agents consumed as many as 13 alcoholic drinks "before engaging in questionable behavior."

Lawmakers, mostly Republicans, have repeatedly warned of what they see as a potentially dangerous culture within the Secret Service.

Just last month, in a Senate hearing titled "Threats to the Homeland," Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said "whistleblower accounts" showed that Cartagena-like incidents "occurred in 17 countries around the world."

"[W]e continued to dig into exactly what happened in Cartagena, hoping it was a one-time occurrence," Johnson said. "It does not appear that it was."

In fact, though, investigators "did not discover evidence that similar misconduct is widespread throughout the Secret Service," the report says.

Investigators did find one incident in 2010 "similar to Cartagena" that raised potential security concerns. In that incident, an agent traveled overseas "in support of a presidential visit" to an unidentified country, drank alcohol with locals, and was then "observed arriving at the airport" the next day with some of the locals, according to the partially redacted report. The incident was never adequately investigated, and proposed sanctions against the one employee were overruled, the report says.

The report also cites a handful of other cases in which a Secret Service employee "engaged in sexual activity in exchange for money," including one earlier this year. The officer involved in that case had his security clearance revoked.

Nevertheless, of the 2,575 employees who responded to the inspector general's electronic survey, 83 percent said they were not aware of Secret Service employees engaging in any of the multiple behaviors displayed in Cartagena.

In addition, 84 percent of those who responded to the electronic survey said they would report colleagues they suspected of violating agency standards, and 61 percent said Secret Service management does not tolerate misconduct.

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