Secret Service, military caught up in prostitute scandal
It should be said at the outset that none of the Secret Service personnel who were sent home following revelations that several agents and guards brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms were part of the elite presidential protection unit.
They were apparently part of the routine advance team that makes all the security arrangements prior to the president's arrival. Both special agents, and members of the Uniformed Division were involved in the scandal that apparently started when one agent refused to pay a prostitute.
In addition to the Secret Service, 5 members of the military were also implicated in the incident.
The Secret Service confirmed Saturday night that 11 of its staffers assigned to the trip have been placed on administrative leave as the investigation proceeds into dealings between prostitutes and U.S. government personnel preparing for President Barack Obama's arrival at the Summit of the Americas in Colombia.
"The nature of the allegations, coupled with a zero tolerance policy on personal misconduct, resulted in the Secret Service taking the decisive action to relieve these individuals of their assignment" and send them home, Secret Service Assistant Director Paul Morrissey said in the agency's most detailed statement to date.
"The personnel involved were brought to Secret Service Headquarters in Washington, D.C., for interviews today. These interviews have been completed," Morrissey added. He called the administrative leave "standard procedure [that] allows us the opportunity to conduct a full, thorough and fair investigation into the allegations."
Morrissey said some of the Secret Service personnel were special agents and some were part of the Service's Uniformed Division, but none came from the Presidential Protective Division - the iconic plainclothes agents who shadow the president at his public events.
Earlier Saturday, the White House maintained its stance of refusing to comment on the scandal, even as word came that military personnel were also involved.
The idea that agents never engaged in this kind of activity strains credulity. Same goes for the military personnel. This makes the "personal misconduct" charges ring a little hollow. No doubt it says something in the personnel manual about stuff like this, but realistically, are we to believe that the agency - and the military for that matter - doesn't give a wink and a nod to behavior like this? This can't be the first time that agents have engaged prostitutes when off duty.
And that's the problem, says AT Editor in Chief Tom Lifson:
You need to understand that in organizations where nods and winks are customary, there is enormous blackmail power. That is another reason to insist on high standards. If you take the position that it's their private lives, you make a big mistake. It leaves SS guys vulnerable to blackmail in planning a presidential visit. Very possible this could be used by foreign intel or worse.
No doubt those agents are being reminded of that as they watch their careers go down the drain.