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Secret Service Missteps Revive Questions About Prostitution Scandal

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

A string of recent security breaches has trained a spotlight on the Secret Service. And that is prompting a second look at a two-and-a-half-year-old prostitution scandal. The Washington Post reports the use of prostitutes in Cartagena, Columbia may have stretched beyond the Secret Service and members of the military to include someone from the White House advance team. The allegations were dismissed by the White House when the scandal first broke, even as Secret Service officers and military personnel were fired or disciplined. Critics are now complaining of a double standard or even an election year cover up, as NPR's Scott Horsley reports.

SCOTT HORSLEY, BYLINE: News that Secret Service officers had hired prostitutes in Columbia was an embarrassing black eye for President Obama, overshadowing a 2012 trade mission to Latin America. Obama said government workers should conduct themselves with the same high standards, whether they're in uniform or members of the White House staff.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: We're representing the people of the United States.

HORSLEY: Obama called on the director of the Secret Service to find out exactly what had happened.

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OBAMA: I expect that investigation to be thorough. And I expect it to be rigorous.

HORSLEY: In the course of investigating its own people, the Secret Service found clues that a member of the White House advance team had also brought a prostitute to his hotel room. According to The Washington Post, that advance team member was Jonathan Dach, a White House volunteer and the son of a wealthy Democratic donor. His father contributed nearly $24,000 to the president's 2008 campaign. Dach, through his attorney, denies any wrongdoing. Back in 2012, White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters the allegation had been checked out by then White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler - and dismissed.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

JAY CARNEY: Out of due diligence, this review was conducted. And there is no indication that - of any misconduct.

HORSLEY: Suspicion had fallen on Dach partly because of hotel records showing a woman had spent the night in his room. But Dach denied that, and the White House said it found no corroborating evidence. Hotel workers in Colombia have been shown to be unreliable. One Secret Service officer was also cleared when the records showing a guest in his room turned out to be false. Still, Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz is questioning just how thorough the White House was in reviewing the conduct of its own volunteer. Chaffetz suggested on Fox News today the administration may have been eager to cover up a White House connection to prostitutes in the months leading up to the 2012 election.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "FOX NEWS")

REPRESENTATIVE JASON CHAFFETZ: Remember, there were nearly two dozen Secret Service and military personnel that were either fired or reprimanded. But the concern is that when it came to the White House and the White House taking care of its own personnel, a totally different standard...

HORSLEY: That remains a source of friction today among rank and file Secret Service members. Chaffetz, who's been active in investigating recent security lapses by the Secret Service, sent a letter last week to White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, asking for all documents related to the 2012 review.

CHAFFETZ: They say it's an old story. Well, then give us all the information. And we'll come to the - let the American people see it.

HORSLEY: White House spokesman Eric Schultz said today the administration stands by its 2012 probe. Kathy Ruemmler, the former White House counsel who conducted the investigation, has been mentioned as a possible successor to Eric Holder as attorney general. And Dach, he's left his volunteer post for the White House advance team and now works at the State Department in the Office on Global Women's Issues. Scott Horsley, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.