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Party over: US Secret Service agents sent home over drunken Netherlands incident

Published time: March 26, 2014 08:51
Edited time: March 27, 2014 10:48
Reuters / Kevin Lamarque

Reuters / Kevin Lamarque

Three agents from the US secret service responsible for protecting President Obama in Amsterdam this week have been sent home after a night of drinking. The incident happened just a day before the president’s arrival.

One of the agents was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway by hotel staff on Sunday morning, according to the people familiar with the incident who spoke on condition of anonymity, reported the Washington Post. The hotel workers immediately alerted the US embassy in the Netherlands, which then informed senior agents on the presidential trip, including its director, Julia Pierson.

The same source added that the other two agents were also involved in the incident who “didn't intervene despite being in a position to assist the drunken agent or tamp down his behavior.”

The agency “did send three employees home for disciplinary reasons,” confirmed Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan, adding that they were put on administrative leave pending an investigation. However, he declined to comment further on the case.

All three men are GS-13-level agents of the elite Secret Service’s Counter Assault Team, known as CAT, which is responsible for ‘the last line of defense’ for the president, according to Washington Post sources.

One of those involved in a drunken incident was a ‘team leader’ on counter­assault, however, he “was not in a supervisory position in the agency,” added the source.

The agents’ duty was to prepare for Obama’s arrival and ensure his safety, including during his attendance at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, the Netherlands.

They would have been called on Sunday for a briefing ahead of the president’s arrival in Monday for a week-long trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia. Their drinking on Saturday evening and Sunday morning violated the rule adopted in 2012 which forbids anyone on an official trip from drinking alcohol in the 10 hours leading up to the assignment.

US President Barack Obama waves as he boards the Air Force One before departing from Schiphol airport in Amsterdam on March 25, 2014 after attending the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague (AFP Photo / Saul Loeb)

These rules were adopted after a sex scandal which tarnished the reputation of the agency in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2012. At least 12 Secret Service officers were accused of misconduct for bringing women, including prostitutes, back to their hotel rooms ahead of a visit by Obama for a Latin American summit.

After the scandal, eight of the employees resigned or retired, while others had their security clearances revoked or were removed from duty.

Mark Sullivan, the Secret Service director at the time, apologized for his employees’ behavior. He retired in February 2013 after 30 years of service.

In order to restore its straitlaced reputation of the agency, Obama administration appointed a new director of USSS in March, 2013. Julia Pierson became the first woman to head the agency.

In December, 2013, the US Department of Homeland Security's inspector general released also a report which said that the “USSS should continue to monitor and address excessive alcohol consumption and personal conduct within its workforce," adding that “the Secret Service takes allegations of misconduct seriously.” The agency also put new procedures in place, including a ban on bringing foreign nationals to hotel rooms where agents and officers are staying.

Those selected for CAT are required to be highly-skilled marksmen and extremely physically fit. They receive the best technical training in the service, said two former employees who spoke on condition of anonymity, reports the Washington Post. Their job is to protect the president if he or his motorcade come under attack and to fight off assailants while the protective detail removes the president from the area.

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