Mis­steps, re­sis­tance hurt Se­cret Ser­vice sex in­ves­ti­ga­tion Iran nu­clear deal faces up­hill bat­tle

In­for­ma­tion leak in mis­con­duct in­quiry Ne­tanyahu sees a ‘his­toric mis­take’; some in U.S. call for stiffer sanc­tions

The Washington Times Daily - - Front Page - BY JEF­FREY AN­DER­SON BY STEPHEN DINAN TOM HOW­ELL JR.

In­ves­ti­ga­tions into the U.S. Se­cret Ser­vice sex­ual mis­con­duct scan­dal have been un­der­cut by re­sis­tance from a key Demo­cratic se­na­tor, mis­steps by her Repub­li­can coun­ter­part and nepo­tism al­le­ga­tions against an em­bat­tled in­spec­tor gen­eral, ac­cord­ing to con­gres­sional and gov­ern­ment sources.

In an ex­clu­sive in­ter­view with The Wash­ing­ton Times last week, Carl­ton Mann, chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer of the Depart­ment of Home­land Se­cu­rity’s in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice, said Sen. Ron John­son of Wis­con­sin, rank­ing Repub­li­can on the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity sub­com­mit­tee on con­tract­ing over­sight, leaked con­fi­den­tial in­for­ma­tion about the ser­vice’s 2012 prostitution scan­dal in Carta­gena, Colombia, and then ac­cused the of­fice of cav­ing to po­lit­i­cal in­flu­ence and al­ter­ing its re­ports.

Deputy In­spec­tor Gen­eral Charles K. Ed­wards, who heads the of­fice but has never been con­firmed, has had to fend off calls for his res­ig­na­tion re­lated, in part, to sep­a­rate al­le­ga­tions that he abused agency re­sources and hired his wife.

New rev­e­la­tions about a Se­cret Ser­vice agent’s sex­ual mis­con­duct sur­faced ear­lier this month, com­pound­ing the ser­vice’s prostitution scan­dal. But Sen. Claire McCaskill,

The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion put on a full-court press Sun­day to de­fend the deal the U.S. and key al­lies struck to try to halt Iran’s bur­geon­ing nu­clear pro­gram — but the White House faces a tough sell with mem­bers of Congress who crit­i­cized the terms and said they’ll still press for even tighter sanc­tions on the Is­lamic repub­lic.

Pres­i­dent Obama spoke to Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu, who called the agree­ment a “his­toric mis­take.” The Amer­i­can leader as­sured Mr. Ne­tanyahu that the deal is just a first step, and that the U.S. re­mains firmly com­mit­ted to Is­rael’s in­ter­ests.

But in Wash­ing­ton, many Repub­li­cans and Democrats shared Mr. Ne­tanyahu’s view, say­ing Iran gets far more than it’s giv­ing and that the deal only sus­pends, rather than ends, Iran’s nu­clear am­bi­tions.

Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry de­fended the agree­ment, reached early Sun­day morn­ing in Geneva af­ter months of se­cret ne­go­ti­a­tions, say­ing it gives Iran a six-month win­dow to prove it is se­ri­ous about freez­ing its weapons pro­gram. He also as­sured Capi­tol Hill that if the Is­lamic repub­lic back­slides, the world can reim­pose stiff sanc­tions — and could re­sort to mil­i­tary ac­tion.

“You can’t get ev­ery­thing in the first step. You have to go down the process here,” Mr. Kerry said on CBS’ “Face the Na­tion.” “The fact is that what we’ve done is lock com­po­nents of their pro­gram in place and ac­tu­ally roll some of them back­wards.”

Capi­tol Hill was less than con­vinced, with both Repub­li­cans and Democrats say­ing they feared the deal was laden with car­rots and lack­ing in sticks.

“You have now given them a per­mis­sion slip to con­tinue en­rich­ment,” Rep. Mike Rogers, Michi­gan Repub­li­can, chair­man of the House in­tel­li­gence com­mit­tee, told CNN’s “State of the Union” pro­gram.

And Sen. Bob Corker, the rank­ing Repub­li­can on the Se­nate For­eign Re­la­tions Com­mit­tee, said Mr. Obama’s track record doesn’t give him con­fi­dence that this ad­min­is­tra­tion will be able to see through the agree­ment.

who heads the Home­land Se­cu­rity sub­com­mit­tee, has in­structed investigators to shut down a probe of the ser­vice and there are re­ports that Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials in­flu­enced Mr. Ed­wards to wa­ter down an au­dit of the ser­vice’s in­ter­nal re­view pro­to­cols, sources fa­mil­iar with the in­ves­ti­ga­tion say.

Ac­cord­ing to sources, Ms. McCaskill is urg­ing investigators, led by a John­son staffer, to fo­cus on the per­sonal al­le­ga­tions against Mr. Ed­wards, whose of­fice is still putting the fi­nal touches on a sep­a­rate “cul­ture re­port” on the Se­cret Ser­vice.

At stake is not just Mr. Ed­wards’ rep­u­ta­tion but the rep­u­ta­tions of his of­fice and the Se­cret Ser­vice, which has been cast as a clois­tered boys club with neb­u­lous stan­dards of con­duct and ac­count­abil­ity in the fall­out from the Carta­gena scan­dal.

Re­cently, the se­na­tors took the un­usual step of call­ing for Mr. Ed­wards to re­sign be­fore they had com­pleted their own work.

Af­ter an agent who led the Se­cret Ser­vice’s Carta­gena re­view was re­moved this month from Pres­i­dent Obama’s se­cu­rity de­tail for “sex­ting” a fe­male sub­or­di­nate, Mr. John­son blasted the Se­cret Ser­vice and sug­gested the in­spec­tor gen­eral of­fice’s “cul­ture re­port” would not be thor­ough.

But af­ter in­ves­ti­gat­ing for months, a con­clu­sive re­port from the Se­nate panel on the Se­cret Ser­vice ap­pears un­likely with­out the ap­proval of Ms. McCaskill.

Mr. John­son and his staff have been ag­gres­sive to the point of los­ing the con­fi­dence of their peers, in­clud­ing Sen. Thomas R. Carper of Delaware, Demo­cratic chair­man of the Se­nate Home­land Se­cu­rity and Gov­ern­men­tal Af­fairs Com­mit­tee, ac­cord­ing to a con­gres­sional source. Mr. Carper’s of­fice de­clined to com­ment for this story and Mr. John­son and Ms. McCaskill did not re­spond to ques­tions sent by email.

De­mands for ac­count­abil­ity

Mr. Ed­wards has not al­ways helped his own cause, sources say, but Mr. Mann main­tains the deputy IG has not been treated fairly.

When the Carta­gena scan­dal broke, a half-dozen con­gres­sional com­mit­tees de­manded an­swers and ac­count­abil­ity, but none of them com­pleted an in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Af­ter hear­ing about scores of in­stances of al­leged sex­ual mis­con­duct, for­mer Sen. Joe Lieber­man, Con­necti­cut in­de­pen­dent and Repub­li­can Sen. Su­san M. Collins of Maine in­structed the in­spec­tor gen­eral to con­duct an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

In a de­par­ture from pro­to­col, Mr. Ed­wards briefed Se­nate staff in late 2012 on a Re­port of In­ves­ti­ga­tion (ROI), a re­port by crim­i­nal investigators that or­di­nar­ily is lim­ited to Cab­i­net-level re­view. Mr. Mann said that Mr. John­son was the only one to leak de­tails of “law en­force­mentsen­si­tive” doc­u­ments, which drew a re­buke from Mr. Lieber­man.

The Se­cret Ser­vice also con­ducted its own in­ter­nal probe, which au­di­tors with the in­spec­tor gen­eral’s of­fice eval­u­ated for pro­ce­dural com­pli­ance. Ac­cord­ing to Mr. Mann, the au­di­tors were nei­ther trained nor ex­pected to in­ves­ti­gate mis­con­duct or reach any in­ves­tiga­tive find­ings. The of­fice re­leased the au­di­tors’ re­port in Jan­uary.

In June, Mr. John­son and Ms. McCaskill wrote to Mr. Ed­wards and cited nu­mer­ous whistle­blower al­le­ga­tions against him, in­clud­ing that he was sus­cep­ti­ble to im­proper in­flu­ence in is­su­ing an au­di­tors’ re­port that “did not con­tain rel­e­vant and dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion” con­tained in the ROI. Sources fa­mil­iar with the Se­nate probe say that the panel also has con­cerns that Home­land Se­cu­rity of­fi­cials per­suaded Mr. Ed­wards to de­lay the au­di­tors’ re­port un­til af­ter last Novem­ber’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Mr. Mann claims that the se­na­tors con­fused the two doc­u­ments. “There seems to be an in­ac­cu­rate por­trayal of our work and pro­ce­dures,” he said.

Equally prob­lem­atic, ac­cord­ing to con­gres­sional sources, is that the se­na­tors’ pub­lic dis­clo­sure of un­proven al­le­ga­tions against an in­spec­tor gen­eral — even a deputy who has not been con­firmed — com­pro­mised their own in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Bat­tle over in­for­ma­tion

Since then, Mr. John­son and Ms. McCaskill have pub­licly ac­cused Mr. Ed­wards’ of­fice of with­hold­ing in­for­ma­tion. The of­fice says it has turned over thou­sands of pages of doc­u­ments and is work­ing to com­ply with re­quests for more.

For­mer vet­eran agents fear that the Se­cret Ser­vice, which fired a dozen agents in­volved in Carta­gena, has been left to re­form it­self. The agents say their col­leagues were aban­doned, and that sex­ual mis­con­duct is rife through­out the chain of com­mand. They de­ri­sively re­fer to their for­mer agency as the “Se­cret Cir­cus.” Some of those same agents, how­ever, fail to see a prob­lem with hav­ing sex­ual en­coun­ters with for­eign na­tion­als while on the road.

“Carta­gena is about a lot of things, but pri­mar­ily it’s about whether the Se­cret Ser­vice con­ducts thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tions and whether penal­ties are handed out equally,” said a vet­eran con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tor. While mis­con­duct has been tol­er­ated in the higher ech­e­lons, “we’ve ru­ined some peo­ple for con­duct they had no idea was pro­hib­ited by the agency. If ev­ery­one doesn’t know the rules and con­se­quences for break­ing them, then up­per man­age­ment needs to be held ac­count­able.”

But the pend­ing “cul­ture re­port,” be­ing pro­duced by the same in­spec­tor gen­eral’s unit that au­dited the Se­cret Ser­vice’s in­ter­nal re­view pro­to­cols, is not de­signed to hold in­di­vid­u­als ac­count­able. Mr. Mann said it con­sists of find­ings based on an anony­mous sur­vey of 2,500 ac­tive Se­cret Ser­vice agents and in­ter­views with a cou­ple hun­dred more.

“The goal of the [au­di­tors’] in­de­pen­dent eval­u­a­tion of the ‘cul­ture’ of the Se­cret Ser­vice is to pro­vide its lead­ers with valu­able in­sights into [its] op­er­a­tions, and to rec­om­mend con­crete mea­sures that can be taken to cor­rect any iden­ti­fied prob­lems.”

Any spe­cific, egre­gious acts uncovered in the process will be for­warded — con­fi­den­tially — to the Jus­tice Depart­ment for fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, he said.

Of in­spec­tor gen­eral re­ports in gen­eral, one vet­eran gov­ern­ment of­fi­cial said. “When it all comes out in the wash, peo­ple usu­ally say, ‘It’s bet­ter than noth­ing.’”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

DEAL MAKER: Sec­re­tary of State John F. Kerry ar­rives at Lon­don’s Stansted Air­port on Sun­day af­ter de­part­ing Geneva where he de­fended an agree­ment reached with Iran on its nu­clear pro­gram. “You can’t get ev­ery­thing in the first step,” he said.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS PHOTOGRAPHS

Se­cret Ser­vice em­ploy­ees were ac­cused of mis­con­duct in con­nec­tion with a prostitution scan­dal at Ho­tel El Caribe in Carta­gena, Colombia, be­fore Pres­i­dent Obama’s ar­rival for the Sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas. Some for­mer vet­eran agents are con­cerned that the Se­cret Ser­vice, which fired a dozen agents in­volved in Carta­gena, has been left to re­form it­self.

Se­cret Ser­vice agents walk around the Con­ven­tion Center in Carta­gena prior to the Sum­mit of the Amer­i­cas in April 2012. “Carta­gena is about a lot of things, but pri­mar­ily it’s about whether the Se­cret Ser­vice con­ducts thor­ough in­ves­ti­ga­tions and whether penal­ties are handed out equally,” said one vet­eran con­gres­sional in­ves­ti­ga­tor.

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