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McCain: Pentagon briefing on Secret Service prostitution scandal worthless

The Pentagon sent officials to brief Senate Armed Services Committee leaders on the military’s involvement in the Cartagena  prostitution scandal that is roiling the Secret Service, but the lead Republican on the committee ripped the briefers Wednesday for their unpreparedness. "Chairman [Carl] Levin and I met today with representatives of the Joint Staff with the ...

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The Pentagon sent officials to brief Senate Armed Services Committee leaders on the military’s involvement in the Cartagena  prostitution scandal that is roiling the Secret Service, but the lead Republican on the committee ripped the briefers Wednesday for their unpreparedness.

"Chairman [Carl] Levin and I met today with representatives of the Joint Staff with the expectation of receiving information on the ongoing investigation into possible misconduct involving military personnel during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. We requested this briefing to inform us as to any national security implications resulting from such misconduct," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said in statement.

"Unfortunately, nearly two weeks after the events in Colombia, the briefers sent by the Department of Defense were woefully unprepared to answer even the most basic questions about what happened in Cartagena, and provided appallingly little new information other than the mechanics and timeline of the ongoing investigation."

 The DOD briefers did not even know the date President Barack Obama arrived or the name of the senior military commander on the ground in Cartagena, McCain said. The military has to protect the rights of service members, but Congress needs to be able to do oversight as well, he added.

"We need to know the facts. We need to know the impact of this potential misconduct, which occurred less than a day, or perhaps hours, before the president arrived in Cartagena, on the performance of the military Joint Task Force charged with his security. Yet, we are being denied access to the information we need in order to make informed judgments or take needed actions. This is entirely unacceptable," he said.

McCain pledged to explore other means for the committee to get the information they are seeking from the administration. Reuters reported Tuesday that 12 military members are now associated with the scandal, the latest being attached to the White House communications team. Twelve Secret Service personnel are also implicated, six of whom have already left the agency.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Colombia this week on a previously scheduled visit. He said he had already suspended security clearances for those involved and promised to punish those found to be guilty of infractions.

"We expect our people, wherever they are, whether they are in Colombia or any other country … to behave at the highest standards of conduct," Panetta told reporters at Colombia’s Tolemaida military base. "If these investigators find that there have been violations … those individuals will be held accountable.

 "Frankly, my biggest concern is the issue of security and what could possibly have been jeopardized by virtue of this kind of behavior," Panetta said.

The Pentagon sent officials to brief Senate Armed Services Committee leaders on the military’s involvement in the Cartagena  prostitution scandal that is roiling the Secret Service, but the lead Republican on the committee ripped the briefers Wednesday for their unpreparedness.

"Chairman [Carl] Levin and I met today with representatives of the Joint Staff with the expectation of receiving information on the ongoing investigation into possible misconduct involving military personnel during the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. We requested this briefing to inform us as to any national security implications resulting from such misconduct," Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) said in statement.

"Unfortunately, nearly two weeks after the events in Colombia, the briefers sent by the Department of Defense were woefully unprepared to answer even the most basic questions about what happened in Cartagena, and provided appallingly little new information other than the mechanics and timeline of the ongoing investigation."

 The DOD briefers did not even know the date President Barack Obama arrived or the name of the senior military commander on the ground in Cartagena, McCain said. The military has to protect the rights of service members, but Congress needs to be able to do oversight as well, he added.

"We need to know the facts. We need to know the impact of this potential misconduct, which occurred less than a day, or perhaps hours, before the president arrived in Cartagena, on the performance of the military Joint Task Force charged with his security. Yet, we are being denied access to the information we need in order to make informed judgments or take needed actions. This is entirely unacceptable," he said.

McCain pledged to explore other means for the committee to get the information they are seeking from the administration. Reuters reported Tuesday that 12 military members are now associated with the scandal, the latest being attached to the White House communications team. Twelve Secret Service personnel are also implicated, six of whom have already left the agency.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta was in Colombia this week on a previously scheduled visit. He said he had already suspended security clearances for those involved and promised to punish those found to be guilty of infractions.

"We expect our people, wherever they are, whether they are in Colombia or any other country … to behave at the highest standards of conduct," Panetta told reporters at Colombia’s Tolemaida military base. "If these investigators find that there have been violations … those individuals will be held accountable.

 "Frankly, my biggest concern is the issue of security and what could possibly have been jeopardized by virtue of this kind of behavior," Panetta said.

Josh Rogin covers national security and foreign policy and writes the daily Web column The Cable. His column appears bi-weekly in the print edition of The Washington Post. He can be reached for comments or tips at josh.rogin@foreignpolicy.com.

Previously, Josh covered defense and foreign policy as a staff writer for Congressional Quarterly, writing extensively on Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantánamo Bay, U.S.-Asia relations, defense budgeting and appropriations, and the defense lobbying and contracting industries. Prior to that, he covered military modernization, cyber warfare, space, and missile defense for Federal Computer Week Magazine. He has also served as Pentagon Staff Reporter for the Asahi Shimbun, Japan's leading daily newspaper, in its Washington, D.C., bureau, where he reported on U.S.-Japan relations, Chinese military modernization, the North Korean nuclear crisis, and more.

A graduate of George Washington University's Elliott School of International Affairs, Josh lived in Yokohama, Japan, and studied at Tokyo's Sophia University. He speaks conversational Japanese and has reported from the region. He has also worked at the House International Relations Committee, the Embassy of Japan, and the Brookings Institution.

Josh's reporting has been featured on CNN, MSNBC, C-Span, CBS, ABC, NPR, WTOP, and several other outlets. He was a 2008-2009 National Press Foundation's Paul Miller Washington Reporting Fellow, 2009 military reporting fellow with the Knight Center for Specialized Journalism and the 2011 recipient of the InterAction Award for Excellence in International Reporting. He hails from Philadelphia and lives in Washington, D.C. Twitter: @joshrogin

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