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Posts tagged ‘Colombia’

Report: Sexual Misconduct Not Widespread in Secret Service.

The U.S. Secret Service has no widespread issues with employees engaging in sexual misconduct while on the job, a Department of Homeland Security inspector general’s report says.

The report comes a year-and-a-half after more than a dozen agents and officers were involved in a prostitution scandal while President Barack Obama was visiting Colombia, reports The Washington Post. 

The report backs up Secret Service claims that the agents’ activities were not indicative of widespread problems within the agency, while showing that there have been isolated cases, such as the Colombia incidents.

Investigators recommended 14 new guidelines for the Secret Service to implement to help it identify and address misconduct, and noted the agency has already started 11 of the suggestions.

But while the inspector general’s office did not find evidence that “USSS leadership has fostered an environment that tolerates inappropriate behavior,” it warned the agency to “continue to monitor and address excessive alcohol consumption and personal conduct within its workforce.”

The investigation also revealed another incident in 2010, in which an agent was accused of employing foreign prostitutes while on a trip. Colleagues said the agent came back to work after a long absence smelling of alcohol.

Like the Colombia incident, the 2010 occurance happened “while employees were off duty supporting a Presidential protective visit in a foreign country.”

Thirteen Secret Service employees were accused in the Colombia incident of soliciting prostitutes, CBS News reports. Out of those, three agents returned to duty, six either resigned or retired, and another four had their “clearances revoked and were removed.”

But the report may face scrutiny, reports The Post, because it centers on an anonymous electronic survey of employees. Out of 6,500 agents given the evaluation, 2,575, or less than half, responded. Out of those, about 83 percent said they were not personally aware of incidents of sexual misconduct.

Last month, Secret Service Director Julia Pierson complained in a letter to the Inspector General‘s office that the survey asked employees to “speculate about the personal, sexual, and potential criminal activities of co-workers” and to respond “through rumor and gossip.”

She also said the agency already implemented guidelines to improve standards, even before investigators made their list of recommendations.

The report may also face questions because the investigator’s office itself is under a Senate investigation. Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards quit Monday after he and his top deputies were accused of altering Secret Service reports to take out information that could embarrass the agency and the Obama administration.

Carlton Mann, who has replaced Edwards as acting inspector general, signed off on the Secret Service report.

Related stories:

More Firings Expected in Secret Service Scandal

Kessler to Newsmax: Secret Service Prostitutes May Be Underage Girls

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Sandy Fitzgerald


DHS Inspector General Steps Down Amidst Congressional Probe.

The embattled Homeland Security inspector general under investigation for abusing the powers of his office and altering reports on a Secret Service scandal to keep from embarrassing the Obama administration has stepped down from his job, The Washington Post reported Tuesday.

Acting Inspector General Charles Edwards, who had been in charge of investigating allegations of wrongdoing within the department’s numerous agencies and bureaus, was transferred to the department’s Science and Technology office, according to Fox News. 

Homeland Security said Edwards requested the transfer last week. Details of his new job are unclear.

Whistle blowers charge that Edwards and his staff changed findings in reports, delayed investigations and threatened to retaliate against anyone who questioned his decisions.

In particular, when Congress requested a probe into the culture of the Secret Service after agents were caught drinking and hiring prostitutes during a presidential visit in Colombia in April 2012, Edwards allegedly omitted potentially damaging information.

Whistle blowers also accused Edwards of asking employees to do his homework and write his Ph.D. dissertation, and used office funds to attend classes in Florida, the Post reported.

Edwards has previously called the accusations, “completely without merit.”

The timing of Edwards’ DHS post reassignment comes just three days before he was scheduled to testify at a Senate hearing on whether he had altered and delayed investigations to please the agency heads and the White House, the Post reported.

It’s not clear if that hearing will go forward on Thursday.

Most recently, Edwards headed up a probe of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas over whether he improperly influenced decisions in a foreign investor visa program.

John Roth, a top criminal investigator at the Food and Drug Administration, has been tapped to become the permanent inspector general.

Related Stories:


© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cynthia Fagen

Colombian Rebels Free Former American GI.

BOGOTA, Colombia — Colombia’s main leftist rebel group on Sunday released a former U.S. army private who the guerrillas seized in June after he refused to heed local officials’ warnings and wandered into rebel-held territory.

Kevin Scott Sutay, who is in his late 20s, was quietly turned over to Norwegian and Colombian officials along with the International Committee of the Red Cross in the same southeastern region where he had disappeared four months earlier.

In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry almost immediately thanked Colombia’s government for its “tireless efforts” in securing the Afghanistan war veteran’s release. Kerry also thanked the Rev. Jesse Jackson for advocating it.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, renounced kidnapping as a condition for the launching of peace talks that began 11 months ago to end a half-century internal conflict.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos had resisted efforts by the FARC to make what he deemed a “media show” of Sutay’s release and no images were made public of the early morning jungle handover.

Santos’ firmness on prohibiting a ceremonial release of Sutay included objecting to the FARC-endorsed intercession of Jackson, who met with rebel leaders in Cuba in late September and said then that he would go to Colombia to lobby for on behalf of Sutay’s release.

Sutay was delivered at 11:30 a.m. local time to U.S. government representatives in Bogota, according to a statement issued by the Cuban and Norwegian embassies. The Red Cross said in a statement that one of its doctors examined Sutay and he was in good health to travel and be reunited with his family.

Attempts by The Associated Press to locate relatives of Sutay after his capture were unsuccessful. His service record lists his hometown as Willow Spring, North Carolina.

Sutay was in Colombia as a tourist, the U.S. Embassy has said. The FARC said it captured him on June 20 in the municipality of El Retorno in the southeastern state of Guaviare.

When it announced his capture, the FARC said it suspected him of being an agent of the U.S. government, whose close military assistance in training, logistics, surveillance and intelligence since 2000 has helped Colombia’s government badly weaken the rebels.

“What would you think of a man who is in a war zone, who has a secret camera in his watch, who is carrying [global] positioning equipment . . . who has a military uniform in his suitcase?” FARC negotiator Rodrigo Granda said after the rebels announced his capture.

But local officials in Guaviare and U.S. reporters who ran into Sutay there all said that he appeared to be nothing but a tourist who was determined to walk through miles of thick jungle toward Colombia’s eastern border.

Pentagon records provided to The Associated Press said Sutay was a private born in 1985 who served in the U.S. Army as a combat engineer from November 2009 to March 2013 and who was deployed in Afghanistan for the year ending November 2011.

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Colombia Rejects Jackson’s Help in Release of American Hostage.

BOGOTA, Colombia  — Colombia’s president rejected the involvement of civil rights activist Jesse Jackson in overseeing the release of a former U.S. Marine kidnapped by FARC rebels, saying on Saturday he would not allow the guerrillas a “media spectacle.”

The FARC kidnapped Afghanistan war veteran Kevin Scott Sutay in June as he trekked through jungle in southeastern Colombia despite warnings from the police to abandon the trip through what it said was a “red zone” of guerrilla activity.

The FARC, or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, had requested on Saturday that Jackson assist with the freeing of Sutay. They say they are holding the former Marine as a prisoner of war and accuse him of being a mercenary.

Before reaching Colombia, Sutay is thought to have been backpacking through several Central and South American countries.

Jackson told reporters in Cuba, where he is on a visit to try to improve ties between the communist-run island and the United States, that he agreed to help and would aim to arrive in Colombia within a week.

Hopes of an imminent release dimmed by the evening when President Juan Manuel Santos rejected Jackson’s intervention via Twitter, reiterating he would deny the FARC an ostentatious liberation it has called a “humanitarian” gesture.

“Only the Red Cross will be authorized to facilitate the handover of the North American kidnapped by the FARC,” the tweet read. “We will not allow a media spectacle.”

The FARC appeared ready to release Sutay in July until Santos rejected its initial request that a leftist politician, Piedad Cordoba, oversee the release. It then began accusing Sutay of being a mercenary and made no further offer to free him until its request to Jackson.

Jackson appealed to the FARC to release Sutay when he was in Colombia 10 days ago to attend an international conference of Afro-descendant mayors and government officials, saying it would boost its peace talks with the government.

The two sides have been in negotiations hosted by Cuba since last November that aim to end a five-decade conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people. Jackson met a FARC delegation in Cuba during his visit.

The FARC began as a communist-inspired peasant army fighting to reduce inequality and redistribute land. Its numbers have been halved in the last decade by a U.S.-backed offensive.

The rebels said in February 2012 they would stop taking hostages to raise money for their armed struggle, but reserved the right to continue taking prisoners of war.

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Colombian Narco-Terrorists Ask Jesse Jackson to Assist Hostage Release.

Colombia‘s FARC rebels called on Saturday for U.S. civil rights activist Jesse Jackson to oversee the release of a former U.S. Marine they kidnapped in June while he trekked through jungle in a known guerrilla zone despite warnings of the risks.

On a visit to Colombia 10 days ago, Jackson called on the FARC to release Kevin Scott Sutay, a gesture he said would help peace negotiations with the government.

In a statement on Saturday, the FARC said it wanted Jackson himself to assist with Sutay’s release.

“The FARC-EP have taken the decision to solicit that Reverend Jesse Jackson makes available to this effort his experience and probity to expedite the liberation of Kevin Scott,” the FARC said in a statement.

Sutay, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, had been backpacking through several Central and South American countries. He was captured by the FARC after being warned by police to abandon his plans to hike through what they called a “red zone” for rebel activity.

The FARC looked ready in July to release Sutay to the International Committee of the Red Cross. After initially describing him as a “prisoner of war,” it hardened its stance and accused him of being a mercenary after President Juan Manuel Santos refused its demand that a leftist senator, Piedad Cordoba, oversee the release.

Santos had also said he would deny the rebels the chance of making a “media show” of the hostage’s release. Until its appeal to Jackson, the FARC had made no further mention of plans to release him.

Jackson is on a visit to Cuba to promote better relations between the communist-run island and the United States.

Cuba has been hosting peace talks between the FARC and Colombia’s government since last November that aim to end a five-decade conflict that has killed more than 200,000 people.

The FARC was set up in 1964 as a communist-inspired peasant army fighting to reduce inequality and redistribute land. Its numbers have been roughly halved by a decade-long U.S.-backed government offensive.

The rebels said in February 2012 they would stop taking hostages to raise money for their armed struggle, but reserved the right to continue taking prisoners of war. (Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Peter Cooney)

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Angry Latin America Wants Answers on Allegations of US Spying.

BRASILIA/BOGOTA — Latin American governments urged the United States on Wednesday to be more forthcoming in answering allegations of U.S. spying programs there that have set off a wave of outrage that could damage its standing in the region.

Colombia, Washington’s closest military ally in Latin America, joined the chorus of governments seeking answers following reports the United States used surveillance programs to monitor Internet traffic in most of the region’s countries.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto said it would be “totally unacceptable” if it were revealed that the United States had spied on in its neighbor and largest Latin American business partner.

A leading Brazilian newspaper reported on Tuesday that the National Security Agency (NSA) targeted most Latin American countries with the secret spying programs, citing documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. intelligence contractor.

In Brazil, the United States’ largest trading partner in South America, angry senators questioned a state visit that President Dilma Rousseff plans to make to Washington in October, and the potential billion-dollar purchase of U.S-made fighter jets that Brazil has been considering.

One senator said Brazil should offer Snowden asylum for providing information of vital importance to the country’s national security. Another senator said Snowden should get Brazilian citizenship.

Facing tough questions in a Senate hearing, Brazilian Foreign Minister Antonio Patriota said Rousseff’s visit to Washington was not being reconsidered.

Patriota said U.S. Ambassador Thomas Shannon, who was called to the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday, acknowledged the United States collects metadata on email traffic but does not access the content of email messages or conduct the monitoring on Brazilian territory.

Patriota dismissed any changes in the “broad” relations between Brazil and the United States. But asked whether U.S. explanations had satisfied the Brazilian government, he told reporters, “They haven’t been satisfactory so far.”


The espionage allegations surfaced one week after South American nations fumed about the diversion of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane in Europe because of the suspicion that Snowden was on board.

As anger mounts in the region, the Mercosur bloc of South American plans to issue a tough response at a meeting in Uruguay on Friday.

“We’re going to be very firm . . . the United States has to show some respect to the sovereignty of Latin America and when spying is discovered, it should be punished,” Argentine Foreign Minister Hector Timerman said in an interview with Radio del Plata.

“What is striking is just how massive the U.S. spying is and how unskilled they are at keeping it a secret.”

Latin American nations want the United States to tell them what it was up to in the region, and to apologize, he said.

Colombia said it was concerned about the reports of an “unauthorized data collection program.”

Colombia is considered a top U.S. military and diplomatic ally in the region following a decade of joint operations against Marxist rebels and drug trafficking gangs.

“In rejecting the acts of espionage that violate people’s rights to privacy as well as the international conventions on telecommunication, Colombia requests the corresponding explanations from the United States government through its ambassador to Colombia,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

Other countries across the region have used tougher language in condemning what some have called a violation of their sovereignty and a trampling of individuals’ rights to privacy.

“Chile cannot but firmly and categorically condemn spying practices, whatever their origin, nature and objectives,” the government said in a statement on Wednesday, adding it would seek to verify the allegations. Chile has long maintained close ties with Washington.

Citing documents leaked by Snowden, O Globo newspaper said the NSA programs went beyond military affairs in the region to what it termed “commercial secrets,” including oil and energy resources in Venezuela and Mexico.

Mexico’s Pena Nieto said relations remained cordial with Washington, but he insisted on answers.

“We have asked quite clearly, via the Foreign Ministry … for an explanation from the government … about possible spying,” he told reporters in the border state of Chihuahua.

“And we want to know if this is the case, and if it so, it would obviously be totally unacceptable,” he added.

Brazil’s government said it would seek further explanations from the United States as it investigates the spying allegations. Rousseff’s office said in a statement that any person or company found to be involved would be prosecuted.

Asked if Snowden could be called on to testify in the Brazilian probe, Patriota said that could not be ruled out. Snowden is thought to be negotiating his exit from a transit area in a Moscow airport’s international area. He has been offered asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua. (Additonal reporting by Peter Murphy in Bogota, Alexandra Alper and Dave Graham in Mexico City and Alejandro Lifschitz in Buenos Aires; Editing by Kieran Murray and Peter Cooney)

© 2013 Thomson/Reuters. All rights reserved.

Pope Laments ‘Gay Lobby,’ Corruption in Vatican.


Pope Francis
Pope Francis

Pope Francis has acknowledged the existence of a “gay lobby” and a “stream of corruption” in the Vatican, according to reports in Catholic media not denied by the Vatican.

The pope made the remarks last week in Spanish during a private meeting with representatives of the Latin American and Caribbean Confederation of Religious (CLAR), according to the Chilean Catholic website “Reflection and Liberation.”

On Tuesday it published what it said was a summary of the conversation written by participants after the June 6 meeting in the Vatican. CLAR, which is based in Colombia, confirmed that a summary had been written but regretted that it had been published.

In the conversation, the pope is quoted as talking about various subjects of concern, including the problems of the Curia, the Church’s central administration which was at the center of a corruption scandal last year.

“In the Curia, there are also holy people, really, there are holy people. But there also is a stream of corruption, there is that as well, it is true… The ‘gay lobby’ is mentioned, and it is true, it is there… We need to see what we can do,” the synthesis by CLAR officials said.

In its own statement, the presidency of CLAR said it “deeply regretted the publication of a text which refers to the conversation with the Holy Father.” It did not confirm the precise quotes attributed to the pope but acknowledged the summary reflected the “general feeling” of the meeting.

After the initial report was picked up and translated by a number of other Catholic websites, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said: “It was a private meeting, therefore I have no comment to make on the contents of the conversation.”

Earlier this year, in the period immediately after Pope Benedict announced his resignation, Italian media published unsourced reports of a powerful “gay lobby” in the Vatican that left the Holy See open to blackmail.

Before resigning on February 28, Benedict left Francis a top secret report about the leaks scandal that rocked the Catholic Church last year.

The report concerned the so-called Vatileaks affair in which internal documents alleging corruption, mismanagement and infighting in the Curia were leaked to the media.

The report was prepared for Benedict, who is now “Pope Emeritus,”, by three elderly cardinals who investigated the leaks.

Paolo Gabriele, the pope’s butler, was convicted last year of stealing personal papal documents and leaking them to the media. He was pardoned by Benedict after being briefly jailed.

The documents alleged corruption and rivalry between different factions inside the Curia and was one of the major concerns of cardinals choosing a new pope to run the Church at a time of crisis.

Anger over the dysfunctional state of the Vatican bureaucracy, which includes many Italians, is said to have been one factor in the cardinal electors’ decision to choose a non-European pope for the first time in nearly 1,300 years.



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