D.C.

Secret Service report: No evidence of widespread misconduct

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WASHINGTON (AP) - There is no evidence of widespread misconduct within the Secret Service, according to a Homeland Security Department inspector general's report.

The 145-page report was issued Friday, more than 18 months after the agency in charge of protecting the president was embroiled in a high-profile South American prostitution scandal.

The inspector general's office made its conclusions based on a survey answered by about 41 percent of the agency's staff and interviews with 200 managers and supervisors.

In April 2012, 13 agents and officers were accused of carousing with female foreign nationals at a Cartagena, Colombia, hotel where they were staying in advance of President Barack Obama's arrival.

Some of the women were prostitutes and the incident became public after one prostitute and an agent fought over payment.

Six of the employees resigned or retired, four had their security clearances revoked and were removed from duty and three others were allowed to go back to their jobs.

Secret Service Director Julia Pierson said in a letter to former Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards that while the agency agreed with the report's 14 recommendations she was concerned about how the survey was conducted and its results.

"For example, the survey asked Secret Service employees to speculate about the personal, sexual and potentially criminal activities of co-workers and to respond with what they believed to be true through rumor and gossip," Pierson wrote. "This posed a serious concern about the survey content and the value of collecting such information."

The Washington Post first reported details of the final report Friday morning.

Edwards stepped down from his post this week after being granted a transfer within Homeland Security. He had been set to testify before a Senate panel investigating allegations of misconduct against him made by whistleblowers. Among other things, he was accused of removing potentially damaging information from a report on the Secret Service scandal.

Edwards has denied wrongdoing. His appearance in the Senate was cancelled after he left his post.

Edwin Donovan, a Secret Service spokesman, said Friday that the "report concludes what we have said for almost two years now: that there is no evidence that misconduct or inappropriate behavior is widespread in the Secret Service and there is no evidence that leadership fosters an environment that tolerates inappropriate behavior."

Following revelations about the incident, then Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan apologized during a Senate hearing, ordered internal reviews of employee behavior and issued new conduct rules. Included in the new rules were bans on drinking within 10 hours of duty and bringing foreign nationals to hotel rooms where agents and officers are staying.

Sullivan retired earlier this year. Pierson was easily confirmed by the Senate and is the first woman to lead the agency.

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