US Secret Service, under fire for prostitution scandal, issues punishing new code of conduct


A member of the US Secret Service Uniformed Division stands his post as President Obama departs the White House on Wednesday in Washington.


Win McNamee

The fun times are over for the US president's elite secret service, with the agency on Friday instituting a strict morality code in response to appalling reports that officers had engaged in prostitution in Columbia, reported Reuters.

Apparently, authorities believe the problem is better addressed by banning drinking within 10 hours of duty, for example, rather than the solution offered recently by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, which CBS said was: "Hire more females."

The scandal has taken Washington by storm, prompting US President Barack Obama to complain it was "distracting." 

More from GlobalPost: Secret Service scandal spreads to El Salvador

In Washington, Peter King (R) of the House Homeland Security Committee vowed a thorough investigation into the matter, telling Reuters, "I'm not into being a morality cop, but what happened in Colombia was clearly wrong because it put security at risk."

What about being wrong because it abused women? Little mention has been made of the reason why the officers were tempted: sexual exploitation of Columbian girls and women is widespread. The country hosts the third-highest number of victims in Latin America, according to the Protection Project

A 2010 human trafficking report from the US State Department describes Colombia as a "major source country for women and girls subjected to trafficking in persons" throughout the region, signaling out cities like Cartagena -- where the Secret Service misbehavior took place -- as a magnet for "foreign child sex tourists." 

The new guidelines aim to put a stop to Cartagena-like incidents by imposing severe limits on drinking and prohibiting visits to "non reputable establishments," according to the Associated Press

The rules include a ban on allowing "foreign nationals" into hotel rooms and require as much as two chaperones on some trips, including one from the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility, said AP

Meanwhile, as to the drinking: "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 or duty," Reuters quoted the new guidelines as saying. 

The Cartagena affair has so far implicated a total of 12 officers, eight of whom have been dismissed, one had his security clearance revoked, and three cleared of misconduct, said Reuters

The agency this week launched a separate investigation into illicit behavior reported ahead of 2011 presidential trip to El Salvador

Reuters said 12 members of the military are also suspected of misconduct in an investigation that is ongoing.