Secret Service agents caught in pay for play

That would be paying for sex play — or not in one case — with Colombian sex workers.

Even worse, they were in Cartagena as members of the presidential protection detail.

From the Associated Press:

The US secret service, the elite suit and earpiece-wearing bodyguard unit responsible for presidential security, is embroiled in scandal after 12 members were reportedly recalled amid accusations of prostitution in Colombia.

The dozen had been among US security officials carrying out intensive preparations ahead of a summit visit by President Barack Obama to Cartagena, a coastal city popular with tourists.

The allegations broke in the Washington Post, which was alerted to the story by Ronald Kessler, a former Post reporter and author of a book on the secret service. Kessler said the secret service agents had been recalled after at least one had become involved with prostitution which is legal in some areas of the city.

“One of the agents did not pay one of the prostitutes, and she complained to the police,” Kessler told cable news channel CNN. “This is clearly the biggest scandal in secret service history,” Kessler added.

A statement issued by a spokesman for the secret service, Edwin Donovan, declined to comment on the specifics of the allegations but confirmed a redeployment of staff.

Read the rest.

The Washington Post’s David Nakamura and Joe Davidson note that some of the agents allegedly consorting with sex professionals were married, adding that the Colombia incident was just the latest in a series of recent troubles involving Secret Service agents:

In November, Christopher W. Deedy, a federal agent with the State Department’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security, was charged with second-degree murder after shooting a man during a dispute outside a McDonald’s in Honolulu. Though Deedy was off-duty at the time, he was on the island to provide advance security arrangements for Obama’s trip to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit.

In August, Daniel L. Valencia, a Secret Service agent, was arrested on suspicion of drunken driving in Decorah, Iowa, where he was helping arrange security for Obama’s bus trip through three Midwestern states. Valencia, who was off-duty at the time of the arrest, was recently sentenced to two days in jail with credit for time served, and a fine of $1,250.

Read the rest.

We would question Kessler’s contention that it’s the biggest scandal in the agency’s history.

Our own nominee for the top slot is the conduct of the presidential detail on the night before the assassination of John F. Kennedy, when agents were out drinking just hours before the President was shot.

Here’s an excerpt of the testimony of then-Secret Service Director James J. Rowley in questioning by Warren Commission’s General Counsel J. Lee Rankin, from page 451  Volume V of the Report of the President’s Commission on the Assassination of President Kennedy:

Mr. Rowley: I learned that there were nine agents involved at the Press Club. And I might say this–the agents on duty throughout that day had no opportunity to eat. When they arrived at Fort Worth, they were informed that there was a buffet to be served at the Fort Worth Club. This is what I ascertained in personal interviews. Upon going over there, they leaned there was no buffet, and some of them stayed for a drink. Three, I think, had one scotch, and others had two or three beers. They were in and out–from the time they arrived, I would say roughly around 12:30, until the place closed at 2 o’clock.

Now, after that some of them went to the Cellar. This is a place that does not serve alcoholic beverages. They went there primarily, I think, out of curiosity, because this was some kind of a beatnik place where someone gets up and recites, or plays the guitar.

Mr. Rankin: Did you learn whether or not there were any violations of the regulations of the Secret Service by these men?

Mr. Rowley: Yes; there was a violation. At that time there was a section in our manual in effect that said that during–

Mr. Rankin: Will you give us first the number?

Mr. Rowley: Section 10.

Mr. Rankin: Is that chapter 1, page 7?

Mr. Rowley: Chapter 1, page 7; yes, sir.

Mr. Rankin: Now, will you tell the Commission about what the regulation was?

Mr. Rowley: “The use of liquor. Employees are strictly enjoined to refrain from the use of intoxicating liquor during the hours they are officially employed at their post of duty or when they may reasonably expect that they may be called upon to perform an official duty.”

The one that applies here– “However, all members of the White House detail and special agents cooperating with them on presidential and similar protective assignments are considered to be subject to call for official duty at any time while in travel status. Therefore, the use of intoxicating liquor of any kind, including beer and wine, by members of the White House detail and special agents cooperating with them or by special agents on similar assignments, while they are in a travel status, is prohibited.”

We’d have to say agents out drinking and staying up until very late the night before their charge is murdered has to constitute the most serious breach ever.

That said, we’ve known a few Secret Service agents over the years, and we’ve found them to be among the most dedicated, honest, hard-working law enforcement officers we’ve ever encountered.

We have to wonder if the service hasn’t been caught up in the same growing sense of arrogance that seems to be afflicting other law enforcement agencies at all levels these days, thanks to the sweeping new powers they’ve been granted thanks to the “war on terror.”

Police are routinely arresting folks who quite legally photograph and videotape their actions, pepper-spraying and tasing hapless citizens, and winning legal fights to keep their actions secret.

It’s a bad omen that the very people entrusted with enforcing the law have come to feel themselves above the law.


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