Agency chief: Air marshals in sex scandal should leave

WASHINGTON (AP) — Three federal air marshals accused of hiring prostitutes and recording at least one sexual encounter with a government-issued device are not representative of the Federal Air Marshal Service, the agency's head told lawmakers Thursday.

Director Roderick Allison told members of the House Oversight and Government Affairs Committee that the three men were suspended indefinitely without pay in mid-July, a few weeks after agency officials first learned about the incident. One of the men has since resigned, Allison said.

"Do I think we have a culture problem? No," Allison told lawmakers. "I think we have a handful of people who, again, think no one is looking and they can get away with stuff."

The investigation of the three men from the Chicago field office is ongoing and Allison told lawmakers he couldn't discuss the details of the case, other than to say it was discovered during a separate investigation.

Allison told committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, that he'll make sure the two air marshals who have not left the agency are "shown the door."

"It's time for them to find another job and I am going to help them do that," Allison said.

Chaffetz described the allegations as "air marshals disguising themselves as pornography producers, hiring prostitutes and using their government phones ... to film sexual encounters," behavior that puts in jeopardy the work and reputation of other air marshals. But he praised Allison's decision to quickly suspend the accused officers.

Allison testified that he did not believe the lurid allegations were a symptom of a larger problem within the Air Marshal Service while acknowledging that some employees have embarrassed the agency.

Lawmakers have focused their attention on questionable behavior by federal law enforcement officials since a 2012 prostitution scandal involving the Secret Service. The former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration also came under fire earlier this year amid allegations that drug agents attended sex parties with prostitutes while stationed overseas.

Former Attorney General Eric Holder advised Justice Department staff in April that it was against department policy to hire prostitutes, regardless of whether the practice was legal in a particular jurisdiction.