Secret Service Veteran Dismisses 'Blackmail' Concerns in Colombia Scandal
Former Secret Service agent Dan Emmett, a 21-year veteran who served under four presidents, disputes claims by some Republican lawmakers that a security detail's alleged involvement with prostitutes exposed agents to potential blackmail and thereby endangered President Obama.
U.S. officials are actively investigating allegations that a group of 11 members of the Secret Service - agents and uniformed officers - and five members of the military invited prostitutes to their rooms inside a secure area of a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel just hours before Obama was to arrive.
Reps. Peter King, R-N.Y., and Darrell Issa, R-Calif., who chair investigatory congressional committees, have said the behavior opened the men up to being threatened or blackmailed in the future, possibly to access to secure areas or sensitive information.
Emmett called the suggestion an "incredible reach."
"I spent six years in the CIA after I left the Secret Service and am well familiar with sexual blackmail espionage. It is a tactic, but I just don't see that here," he told ABC News.
"The Secret Service is not an intelligence organization, it's law enforcement," he said, noting the men were not part of the agency's presidential protective division, which is closest to the president.
"Moreover, even though the president was going to be staying in the same hotel, the part he would have been in was nowhere close to where these people were or would have been," Emmett said. "With the layers of security surrounding Obama it would not be possible for him or any unauthorized person to get anywhere close. So blackmail is not an issue, I would totally discount that as being someone's overactive imagination.
"The people who are talking about blackmail - that's espionage novel stuff," he said.
Emmett served as part of the elite presidential protective division during the George W. Bush administration. He also helped protect presidents Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton.
The Secret Service, Congress and Defense Department are all investigating the Colombia incident for potential violations of the agency's code of conduct as well as potential risks posed to the president. Those involved could face possible reprimand or firing, if the allegations are true.
"This is not a criminal conduct type of situation, it's strictly personal conduct," Emmett said, noting that prostitution is legal in designated parts of Colombia's capital. "Secret Service agents and officers are law enforcement. These guys are badges and guns and so they're held to a higher standard than the average American would be that's down in Colombia on vacation."
Emmett, who is also a former Marine, said that in his experience on dozens of foreign advance trips to establish security ahead of the president "things do occur on the road."
"But as far as something like this, nothing in my time," he said.