By Meghashyam Mali - 04/16/12 12:11 PM EDT
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) said Monday that the recent scandal involving Secret Service agents and prostitutes in Colombia was part of a disturbing “pattern of behavior” and that the agency had to regain the "confidence" of lawmakers.
“What we see is that this story is larger than 11 individuals,” said Issa on “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “It’s part of what has been, told to us, as a pattern of behavior that’s built up, so called ‘wheels up’ parties and the like, and clearly you have an elite unite that we count on to have the greatest of security not just for the president but for the Cabinet for other officials and we need to know that they’re living up to on a broad basis.”
Issa said he had heard many reports that Secret Service agents often celebrate once the president has completed a visit with a "wheels up" party, but said this incident was not comparable.
“Okay, fine, that’s when you can sort of let your hair down. The question is in this case you had a pre-wheels down party. You had drinking, you had activities that clearly compromised the ring of security, at least some because you now had people inside the secure areas, people who could have come in with all kinds of microphones, or in fact could have done something or could have later on blackmailed,” said Issa. “All of this went on before the president arrived, so this really goes beyond what we’ve heard in the past. It’s an area of concern.”
But the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said he would hold back on launching hearings of his own.
“We’ll primarily look over the shoulder of the inspector general and other people,” he said. “Our role is primarily not to be the direct investigators but to verify that the investigation that the president is calling ‘rigorous’ is done and that there are corrective actions that are done there just as we need them done at the GSA.”
Issa said that the alleged Secret Service misconduct raised troubling questions about the prospect that agents could have been blackmailed, leading to compromised security.
“What we’re concerned about is the failure today can lead to blackmail, 10, 20 years from now. People who have basically betrayed their country in the past have normally started off thinking rather benignly. If you look at how you get somebody to do something wrong you do it incrementally, something small, something big or something bigger. In this case, these individuals are beginning, maybe they’re not in the elite detail but in fact they are part of that security, and 10 years from now will that behavior change maybe because they’ve moved up in rank?” asked Issa.
“I don’t think they would, but more importantly, the American people want to know they get value for their money at the Secret Service.
“Whether you’re a Secret Service or uniformed service or plain clothes, whether you’re low ranking or high ranking, compromising somebody in a way they can be blackmailed in the future is a serious threat for people who hold the high clearances and ultimately are counted on for the safety and security of our most important,” Issa added.
President Obama commented on the incident Sunday, calling for a "thorough" and "rigorous" review and saying he would be "angry" if the allegations were revealed to be true.
The agents implicated were recalled to Washington, D.C., and placed on administrative leave pending a review.
Issa is also holding a hearing on Monday on the spending practices of the General Services Administration after revelations of lavish spending at a Las Vegas conference led to the resignation of top officials.
Of his investigation into spending practices at the agency, Issa said he again expected to find a pattern of lax oversight.
“What we have is a pattern, a pattern that may have begun under the Bush administration,” he said.
“All along in the GSA, the institution that’s supposed to set the gold standard for savings for the federal workforce, facilities, for our purchasing of goods and services, seems to do just the opposite. If they’re getting it wrong … it’s likely it’s a pattern of behavior that again is costing the American people hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars and setting a bad example for the rest of the federal work force.”