Obama 'angry' if Secret Service sex scandal proven

US President Barack Obama

US president Barack Obama broke his silence over claims that Secret Service agents hired prostitutes and said “of course I’ll be angry” if the accusations were true.

Mr Obama said the agents represented the United States and were supposed to conduct themselves with the highest levels of dignity anywhere in the world.

“Obviously, what’s been reported doesn’t match up to those standards,” he said in a news conference in the port city of Cartagena, Colombia, wrapping his appearance at a Latin America summit.

The president never directly mentioned the specific accusations, confirmed by media outlets, that agents were cavorting with prostitutes before the president arrived in Colombia.

The Secret Service has sent 11 agents home and placed them on leave for misconduct as the agency reviews what happened.

“I expect that investigation to be thorough, and I expect it to be rigorous,” Mr Obama said.

“If it turns out that some of the allegations that have been made in the press are confirmed, then of course I’ll be angry. ... We are representing the people of the United States, and when we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards.”

The unseemly topic dogged Mr Obama to the end in Colombia, where he fought to keep a focus on America’s trade relations with partners throughout the Americas. And it is likely to follow him back to the United States as members of the Republican-led House of Representatives consider whether to hold hearings.

Standing next to Colombian president Juan Manuel Santos, Mr Obama made tried to put the controversy in context by lauding the agents who protect his life.

“These men and women perform extraordinary service on a day-to-day basis protecting me, my family, US officials,” he said. “They do very hard work under stressful circumstances and almost invariably do an outstanding job. So I’m very grateful.”

He said he would reserve judgment until the investigation was done.

Five US military service members were also said to have been involved in the incident.

The Secret Service agents at the centre of the allegations had stayed at Cartagena’s five-star Hotel Caribe. The 11 employees in question were special agents and Uniformed Division Officers. None was assigned to directly protect Mr Obama.

A leading House Republican said the scandal was probably not an isolated incident.

California Rep Darrell Issa, chairman of a House investigative panel, said he was not certain whether Congress would hold hearings on the misconduct. But politicians would be looking “over the shoulder” of the Secret Service, he said, to make sure that the agency’s methods for training and screening agents were not endangering the nation’s VIPs.

“Things like this don’t happen once if they didn’t happen before,” said Mr Issa, who leads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

Appearing on CBS’ Face The Nation, he said: “It’s not about whether the president was in danger this time. It’s whether or not you need to make changes so the American people can have confidence in all of their workforce.”

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