The latest embarrassing incident involving a drunken Secret Service agent comes a year into the term of a new agency director who already has been confronted with a handful of incidents since the Colombia prostitution scandal nearly two years ago. In that episode, 13 agents and officers were accused of partying with female foreign citizens at a hotel in the seaside resort of Cartagena, where they were staying before Obama's arrival.
Agents can consume alcohol only "in moderate amounts while off duty" or on temporary assignment, according to an updated Secret Service professional conduct manual obtained by The Associated Press. They also can't drink within 10 hours of reporting for duty.
A Secret Service spokesman on Wednesday declined to comment on the incident, except to say that three agents were sent home for "disciplinary reasons." White House spokesman Jay Carney, briefing reporters traveling overseas with the president, said Obama believes that everybody representing the U.S. holds themselves to "high standards." He said the president respects the Secret Service director's "approach on these matters."
Obama named Julia Pierson as the agency's first female director last March in a sign he wanted to change the agency's culture and restore public confidence in its operations. Since then, Pierson has had to face some alleged misbehavior on the elite service, which is charged with protecting the president and investigating financial fraud.
In November, two Secret Service agents were removed from Obama's detail after one was allegedly discovered trying to re-enter a woman's hotel room because he left a bullet from his weapon behind. In a subsequent probe, investigators came across sexually suggestive emails that the agent and another supervisor had sent to a female subordinate, The Washington Post reported.
The agency disputes that recent reports of misbehavior is indicative of a widespread trend. And an inspector general's report made public in December concluded there was no evidence of widespread misconduct, in line with the service's longstanding assertion that it has no tolerance for inappropriate behavior.
Pierson said in a letter to former Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards that, while the agency agreed with the report's 14 recommendations, she was concerned about how the survey was conducted and its results.
Associated Press writers Alicia A. Caldwell and Josh Lederman contributed to this report.