By David Jackson and Richard Wolf, USA TODAY
President Obama said Sunday that if Secret Service agents solicited prostitutes in Colombia, "Then of course I'll be angry."
The president's first comments on the incident came as the Secret Service began an investigation and two Republican members of Congress indicated they would lead their own probes.
Obama was asked at a news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos about allegations that 11 Secret Service agents were involved with prostitutes before this weekend's Summit of the Americas. Obama noted that its director was investigating.
"I expect that investigation to be thorough, and I expect it to be rigorous," Obama said. If the reports prove true, "Then of course I'll be angry."
"We're representing the people of the United States, and when we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards, because we're not just representing ourselves, we're here on behalf of our people."
The event overshadowed Obama's participation in the summit, during which other leaders urged the U.S. to alter its monetary policy, legalize drugs and admit Cuba to future summits.
The alleged incident happened two days before the president landed Friday for the summit. Administration officials stressed that Obama's security was unaffected. No members of the president's immediate protective detail were involved.
Five military personnel who were assisting the Secret Service in Colombia are also under investigation.
Paul Morrissey, an assistant director with the Secret Service, said the 11 agents were sent home, and put on administrative leave pending the investigation.
"The Secret Service demands more from its employees," Morrissey said. "This incident is not reflective of the behavior of our personnel as they travel every day throughout the country and the world performing their duties in a dedicated, professional manner."
Rep. Pete King, R-N.Y., told CNN the agents are accused of bringing women back to their five-star hotel in Cartagena, which was within the security zone for Obama's visit. Local police were called when one woman refused to leave, claiming she had not be paid, said King, who chairs the Homeland Security Committee, which oversees the Secret Service.
"They cannot put themselves in compromising positions where they're open to be blackmailed or threatened," King said.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said more people may be involved in the scandal. "We think the number might be higher," he said.
Issa, speaking on CBS' Face The Nation, said he wonders whether similar incidents may have happened in the past. "Things like this don't happen once if they didn't happen before," he said.
Presidential trips often take unexpected twists that overtake the intended goals. President George W. Bush's farewell visit to Iraq in December 2008 was overshadowed when an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush.
"The shoe-throwing incident dominated a lot of the message on that trip," recalled Tony Fratto, Bush's deputy press secretary at the time. "In fact, I'm sure it's the only thing anybody remembers."