Three Secret Service agents responsible for protecting US President Barack Obama in Amsterdam this week were sent home and put on administrative leave after going out for a night of drinking, according to three people familiar with the incident. One of them was found drunk and passed out in a hotel hallway, the people said.
The hotel staff alerted the US Embassy in the Netherlands after finding the unconscious agent on Sunday morning, a day before Obama arrived in the country, according to two of the people. The embassy then alerted Secret Service managers on the presidential trip, which included Secret Service Director Julia Pierson.
Secret Service spokesman Ed Donovan confirmed on Tuesday that the agency "did send three employees home for disciplinary reasons" and that they were put on administrative leave pending an investigation. Donovan declined to comment further.
According to two people familiar with the Amsterdam incident, the three individuals are all members of the Secret Service's "counter assault team", known in the agency as CAT.
The alleged behaviour would violate new Secret Service rules adopted in the wake of a damaging scandal in Cartagena, Colombia, in April 2012, when a dozen Secret Service agents and officers had been drinking heavily and had brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms prior to the president's arrival for an economics summit.
Under the requirements, anyone on an official trip is prohibited from drinking alcohol 10 hours prior to being on duty. As members of the advance team for a presidential trip, the CAT members would have been called to duty sometime on Sunday for a classified briefing a day prior to the president's arrival on Monday. Drinking late into the night Saturday evening and Sunday morning would have violated that rule.
Obama landed in the Netherlands on Monday for the start of a week-long trip to Europe and Saudi Arabia in the midst of a tense standoff with Russia over its incursion in Crimea. The agents involved in the misconduct were among hundreds of US personnel from the Secret Service, military, State Department and other agencies sent to prepare for his arrival and ensure his safety, including during his attendance at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague with dozens of world leaders. Obama travelled from The Hague to Brussels on Tuesday night.
The job of CAT members is to protect the president if he or his motorcade comes under attack and to fight off assailants and draw fire while the protective detail removes the president from the area.
Obama and EU leaders in show of solidarity over trade
President Barack Obama and European Union leaders presented a unified front, promoting transatlantic trade as an antidote to Russia's influence in the region and a way to help Europe become less dependent on Moscow for energy.
Obama said that if Russian leaders thought they could drive a wedge between Europe and the United States, "they clearly miscalculated".
He spoke during a news conference at the Council of the European Union, after a working lunch with European Council President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.
Earlier Obama also made a solemn pilgrimage to a first world war cemetery.
"This visit, this hallowed ground, reminds us that we must never ever take our progress for granted," Obama said at Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial in northwest Belgium. "We must commit perennially to peace, which binds us across oceans." Obama joined Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo and King Phillipe in laying a trio of wreaths at a stone monument.