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Secret Service head: Prostitution scandal was 'aberration'

Prostitutes walk on the square of the old city in Cartagena, Colombia.
Prostitutes walk on the square of the old city in Cartagena, Colombia.Reuters file

NBC News has learned that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan plans to tell the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee tomorrow that what happened in Cartagena, Colombia was an “aberration” that does not represent the organization.

Prostitutes walk on the square of the old city in Cartagena, Colombia.
Prostitutes walk on the square of the old city in Cartagena, Colombia.Reuters file

On April 11, in advance of the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, nine Secret Service agents and officers allegedly brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms. Eight of those employees, including two supervisors, have since lost their jobs. One has retired.

NBC News obtained Sullivan’s prepared remarks, which are his first public statements since the scandal unfolded last month.

The misconduct “is not representative of our core values or the high ethical standards we demand,” the statement says. “Although this misconduct was an aberration, the Secret Service is committed to learning from this incident and has taken the necessary corrective measures to ensure that it will never occur again." 

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Sullivan will tell the committee that the Secret Service responded quickly and aggressively, noting that 200 Secret Service personnel were in Cartagena that night. He will also point out that reports of Secret Service misconduct in March 2011 in El Salvador has turned up nothing.

The scandal overshadowed news coming from the summit, and members of Congress questioned whether the agents had risked President Barack Obama’s security by inviting women to their rooms. Sullivan insists that security was never compromised. At the time, media reports said the agents kept copies of the president’s detailed schedule.

"None of the individuals involved in misconduct had received any specific protective information, sensitive security documents, firearms, radios or other security related equipment in their hotel rooms," Sullivan’s statement says.

Secret Service agents, military personnel accused of hiring prostitutes in Colombia

"We reached out to the intelligence community as well to cast as wide a net as possible in determining if there was any type of breach in operational security as a result of the incident,” his prepared remarks say.

The agents’ night out became public when one of the prostitutes quarreled with an agent about how much he owed her. She turned to police, who contacted the State Department. The agents were immediately removed and replaced with backup agents.

Sullivan plans to strongly defend the work of the Secret Service and respond to questions about its culture tomorrow.

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"Through the finite lens of misconduct that occurred on April 11, 2012, I can understand how that question could be asked," he says. But he says his employees are "among the most dedicated, hardest working, self-sacrificing employees within the federal government."

Responding to Sullivan’s prepared remarks, Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the ranking Republican on the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, said in a statement, "The facts so far lead me to conclude that, while not at all representative of the majority of Secret Service personnel, this misconduct was almost certainly not an isolated incident."

Libby Leist is NBC News’ Senate Producer.