Secret Service prostitution scandal widens, additional information comes out
As the Secret Service and Department of Defense investigations into inappropriate conduct with prostitutes in Colombia continues, new details are starting to emerge. Might this, just the latest but probably most severe embarrassment for the Secret Service under director Mark Sullivan, cost the director his job?
The U.S. Secret Service has revoked the security clearances of the 11 agents embroiled in a controversy about patronizing prostitutes while in Colombia to setup for President Barack Obama's visit to the country.
Also coming out on Tuesday was word that nine or more U.S. armed forces members, soliders and Marines, perhaps also Air Force service members, are also caught in the controversy. While internal investigations continue and no permanent punishments have been handed out, information continues to leak out about just what happened last Wednesday night.
According to ABC News, the Secret Service agents bragged, "we work for Obama," while hanging out at Cartagena brothel called Pley Club, in one of the Colombian cities seedier neighborhoods.
According to the Washington Post, the scandal may have broken because at least one of the agents got in a dispute with one of the prostitutes, who demanded extra money for the night she spent with him. Local police were called and, eventually, the scandal broke.
If these allegations prove true, the men could be accused of compromising the mission and potentially endangering the life of President Obama and other agents. The involved agents have been suspended, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Monday that the military is also embarrassed.
“We let the boss down because nobody’s talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident,” Dempsey said.
Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post reporter and author of a book on the Secret Service, said this incident is the biggest scandal in the history of the Secret Service.
"It's very serious because the agents could have been blackmailed by these prostitutes into cooperating with terrorists, who would love to assassinate the President, or the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, which would love to plant bugging devices and get other secrets," Kessler said. "But, the idea that agents go around partying all the time is wrong. They're so over-worked and work such over-time hours that they're totally exhausted. They barely have a life at all.
"The problem, however, is that Secret Service management has been cutting orders, has been lax under Mark Sullivan, the current director."
In short, Kessler said, the incident is very serious, but an aberration in the larger world of the Secret Service agents. But, he said, it's another example of problems at the top under Sullivan, who has been director not only for this incident but also when Secret Service uniformed officers let uninvited guests into a White House dinner early in Obama's term.
"Why would they do that," Kessler asked. "Because they feel they would not be backed by management, that management is engaged in this corner-cutting."
As an example of that, Kessler points to an incident under Dick Cheney, documented in Kessler's book, in which Cheney's daughter insisted her protection detail take her friends to restaurants. When they refused, she threw a fit, Kessler said, and got her detail chief removed.
Rep. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine said she has asked Sullivan to report back to her on who the women involved in the scandal were, perhaps as many as 20 or 21 of them, whether these or any other agents have engaged in such misconduct before, and whether this indicates a broader problem within the Secret Service.
“Director Sullivan is rightly appalled by the agents’ actions and is pursuing a vigorous internal investigation,” Collins said in a statement. “He ordered all the agents to return to Washington immediately, and all have been interviewed.”
Kessler, though, said that Sullivan has tolerated the corner-cutting that Kessler said led to this scandal.
He believes that so much has gone wrong under Sullivan's watch that he should be fired.
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