Lieberman challenges Secret Service chief on agency’s ‘permissive’ culture

Sen. Joe Lieberman and other lawmakers told Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan they don’t believe him when he says there’s no widespread misconduct at the agency.

Sullivan spoke publicly about the drunken romp of Secret Service agents in Cartagena, Colombia, at a Senate Homeland Security hearing held by Lieberman, the panel’s chairman.

A 29-year Secret Service veteran, Sullivan insisted several times he was unaware of a culture of misconduct.

Lieberman, I-Conn., said he thought differently.

“This isn’t ‘Animal House.’ The mission of the Secret Service too important to the nation for its agents to engage in risky behavior,” Lieberman said. “Going forward you have to assume Cartagena was not the only case of serious misconduct.”

Lieberman told Sullivan he had to “put in place rules and procedures that will make sure this great agency won’t be subject again to the suspicions that many people now have, including us, about its culture of permissiveness.”

The senator also said the “reckless behavior”  of the Secret Service could have compromised the security of President Obama, who was scheduled to attend an international conference in Cartagena within days.

The Washington Post reported that four of the agents who lost their jobs after revelations they hired prostitutes in Cartagena after hours of heavy drinking are suing the Secret Service because they say this type of carousing was commonplace and tolerated.