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Congress leaders, top Obama adviser say Secret Service must act firmly to fix scandal
WASHINGTON (AP) ' The chairman of a House committee investigating an alleged Secret Service prostitution scandal predicted more firings as key lawmakers and President Barack Obama's top re-election adviser expressed confidence Sunday that the agency will effectively deal with the incident.
"Every possible lead is being examined," said Rep. Peter King, who heads the House Homeland Security Committee. King, R-N.Y., said he expected that in the "near future, several other" members of the Secret Service will leave.
"What they were thinking is beyond me," King told NBC's "Meet the Press."
So far, six agents have lost their jobs. They were among agents pulled from duty in Cartagena, Colombia, after allegations that the men brought prostitutes back to their hotel. The incident occurred this month shortly before Obama arrived for a meeting of regional presidents.
Obama campaign adviser David Axelrod said the allegations were disturbing, but that the misdeeds of a few individuals should not tarnish the overall work and reputation of the service.
Axelrod told CNN's "State of the Union" that he always felt the agents were willing to do anything to protect the president and the people around him. He called the agents' conduct in Colombia conduct "really disappointing."
"I was surprised by it," he said, adding, "You know, people being what they are, you're never totally surprised. In any organization, things can go wrong." Axelrod worked at the White House before leaving last year to work full time in Obama's re-election campaign office in Chicago.
He later told NBC that "on the whole, the Secret Service does heroic work. This is quite disturbing. We have to get to the bottom of this, and I'm sure we will."
Sen. Joe Lieberman, chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, expressed similar views and said there is "no evidence that information was compromised" in the incident.
But, he told "Fox News Sunday" that "history is full of cases where enemies have compromised people and security or intelligence...with sex."
"They were not acting like Secret Service agents. They were acting like a bunch of college students away on a spring student weekend," said Lieberman, I-Conn.
Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, the senior Republican on the Homeland Security Committee, and Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., both said that more female Secret Service agents might help guard against such incidents from happening again.
"I can't help but wonder if there had been more women as part of that detail if this ever would have happened," Collins said on ABC's "This Week."
Maloney told the same program that only 11 percent of the Secret Service's agents are women.
"I can't help but keeping asking this question: Where are the women? We probably need to diversify the service and have more minorities and more women," Maloney said.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told NBC that the episode was "something the Secret Service can fix. We have confidence that it will be fixed."
"The most important thing is that this never happens again," Issa said.
The scandal includes 12 Secret Service employees and 11 military members.
Most committee leaders interviewed Sunday said they have confidence in Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, as has the president.