By Jeremy Herb - 04/23/12 08:14 PM EDT
The military has suspended the security clearance of the service members who have been linked to the widening Secret Service prostitution scandal, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday.
Panetta told reporters on his flight to Colombia — where last week’s scandal occurred — that the Pentagon had suspended the security clearances for the members of the military who are part of the investigation, a number that rose to 12 on Monday, according to The Associated Press.
The AP reported that the 12th military service member included in the investigation is assigned to the White House Communications Agency, which provides the president with secure communications.
White House press secretary Jay Carney said the agency is made up of military personnel, not White House staff, and that the White House Counsel’s office had cleared their advance staff of any wrongdoing.
Both the Secret Service and the Pentagon are investigating allegations that Secret Service agents and U.S. military personnel brought prostitutes back to their hotel ahead of President Obama’s visit there last weekend.
Six secret service agents have either resigned or been removed in the week since the allegations went public.
The scandal dominated the Sunday talk shows, where lawmakers who are following the allegations defended Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan but said that fundamental problems in the agency must be addressed.
"Obviously nobody believes that something with 11 or 12 people involved couldn't have happened before," said Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight Committee. "The real point is will we have confidence that it will never happen again, particularly for nationals having access to our men and women in the Secret Service."
Panetta told reporters Monday that “my biggest concern is the issue of security and what could possibly have been jeopardized by virtue of this kind of behavior,” according to the AP.