There is no suggestion as yet of a Mata Hari like spy figure, using her womanly wiles in order to steal secrets, but the very fact that United States agents opened themselves to such a possibility has already led to the resignation of one, early retirement of another and the sacking of a third.

US agents were staying at a beachfront hotel in Cartagena, Columbia, before President Obama went to the Summit of the Americas last week. Exact details of what went on are unclear, but a picture is emerging of a group of Secret Service personnel paying to bring women back to their hotel. One report mentions two prostitutes; other reports talk of up to 20 women being involved. During that time the Secret Service personnel bragged about the protection work they were doing for the arrival of the President. According to the Washington Post a dispute ensued the following morning when one of the women demanded more money.

Eleven men were sent home from Columbia and were placed on administrative leave as soon as the story broke.

“We demand that all of our employees adhere to the highest professional and ethical standards and are committed to a full review of this matter,” said Assistant Director Paul Morrissey.

In addition to the three men who are no longer with the service, up to 12 serving members of the US military are under investigation in connection with the scandal.

Was Obama Bugged?

US Senator Susan Collins has expressed concern that security was so lax in the hotel being used by the US delegation. She questioned whether the women were a security risk: “could they have planted bugs or jeopardised [the] security of the president?”

At present there is no evidence either way, but security sources are mounting a full investigation.