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May 2012

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Secret Service Respond to Prostitution Scandal — Lackluster at Best

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Written By: Rik Sault


It has been almost a month since Secret Service members allegedly brought prostitutes to their hotel rooms in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas.

So far the ever-widening scandal has implicated a dozen Secret Service employees; eight have left the agency, three were cleared of serious misconduct, and one is being stripped of his security clearance. Moreover, at least eleven military service members are under scrutiny because of the incident, including 6 Army Special Forces soldiers, or Green Berets. Separate investigations by the Secret Service, the Department of Defense, and the House Homeland Security Committee are currently ongoing.

As the scandal began to unfold, many folks – including former Secret Service director Ralph Basham (who ran the outfit for 31 years) and President Obama’s campaign adviser David Axelrod – took the position that although the allegations were quite disturbing, this was an isolated incident in the organization’s history, an aberration

In an interview about a week after the incident, Basham said, “Certainly, this incident is an extremely embarrassing incident, but it is an incident. And I believe if you look back at the history of the Secret Service, you’ve got to recognize that this is not characteristic of the organization.” He maintained that “This is not the character of the men and women who serve every day in the Secret Service.”

When I first heard the story, I rooted for the Secret Service. I wanted to believe that it was indeed an aberration – an isolated incident in an otherwise unblemished history of exemplary service.

But now the Secret Service has confirmed an additional investigation into allegations that some of its members hired prostitutes in El Salvador, before a visit last year by President Obama, which gives more credence to Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe’s remarks blaming the incident on the agency’s lack of ethics.

In response to these embarrassing soirees, the agency has imposed a set of “strict” new rules. One of these new Secret Service rules of conduct informs members that “foreign nationals, excluding hotel staff and official counterparts, are prohibited in your hotel room.” Another reads, “Alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts while off-duty on a TDY (temporary duty) assignment, and alcohol use is prohibited within 10 hours of reporting for duty.” Another rule mandates that agents must obey U.S. laws even while abroad.

May I take a moment to ask the obvious question — How were these rules not in place before?!

Did I mention that the new rules also ban visits to “non-reputable establishments.” I assume this means strip clubs, but that term likely encompasses TGIFridays and Applebee’s as well.