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Military: Service members, not bosses, to blame in Colombia prostitution scandal

A woman identifying herself as the escort who had a confrontation with a Secret Service agent who refused to pay her fee spoke publically during a paid interview on a Colombian radio network. NBC's Mark Potter reports.

Individual decisions, not tolerance by their superiors, were behind the misconduct of 12 service members working in Colombia to prepare for President Barack Obama’s visit last April, the U.S. Southern Command reported Friday. The misconduct, it said, ranged from having prostitutes at their hotel rooms to propositioning college-age greeters at their hotel and even allowing bomb-sniffing dogs to sleep in hotel beds and defecate on bed sheets. 

"Military and civilian leaders did not create or foster an atmosphere of tolerance for prostitution or marital infidelity," investigators said in the report, part of which was released to the public.

The misconduct prior to the Summit of the Americas resulted from "individual decisions," and not a single, coordinated party or event condoned by superiors, it added. 

The scandal unfolded when the hotel where the 12 men were staying notified the U.S. Embassy of concerns, the report noted. Those were:

  • Keeping their female companions past the allowable hour of 6 a.m. on April 12.
  • Drinking alcohol at the pool.
  • Allowing bomb-detection dogs to sleep in the beds, soil the linens and go to the bathroom in inappropriate areas around the hotel.
  • Propositioning college-age female greeters at the hotel who were working with the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 

Prostitution is legal in Colombia but it is prohibited under the Uniform Code of Military Conduct.

And, despite the fact that the rules for the U.S. military assigned to the Summit of the Americas included a curfew and restriction on alcohol consumption, they did not prohibit the U.S. military members from visiting specific locations, such as prostitute bars, or from having foreign nationals in their hotel rooms. 

The report concluded that the actions did not compromise national security. "No sensitive items were stored or permitted in the individual military members' hotel rooms," it stated.

Seven Army soldiers and two Marines have received administrative punishments. Three of them have requested courts martial, which would give them a public trial to contest the punishments.

A dozen Secret Service officers, agents and supervisors were also implicated. Eight have been forced out of the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct, and at least two are fighting to get their jobs back. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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