Well, Colombia sure isn’t like Vegas — at least for Secret Service agents.
It turns out that what happens in Cartagena doesn’t stay in Cartagena.
Last week while setting up security for President Obama’s visit to Colombia, a dispute between a Secret Service agent and a local prostitute over the proper amount of remuneration for, to put it delicately, services rendered got the attention of Cartagena police and, subsequently, the rest of the world. After all, nothing catches the public’s attention quite like a good sex scandal.
On Wednesday, three of the 11 agents implicated in the prostitution scandal were dismissed from the agency, with one supervisor allowed to retire, a second supervisor in the termination process and a non-supervisory agent resigning. Eight others are still on administrative leave. U.S. Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., who was briefed by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan on the investigation, said more dismissals could be coming as early as today.
And the scandal likely won’t be restricted to the agents. Reports are that at least 10 military personnel were also engaged in the extracurricular activities.
While the salaciousness of the incident is enough to give it plenty of life as an election year embarrassment for the president — already at least one Republican lawmaker has questioned Obama’s managerial capabilities and his opponent in November, Mitt Romany, has said he’d “clean house” with the involved agents — the bigger concerns have to be (1) whether the nocturnal activities in any way compromised the president’s safety and (2) whether this is an isolated incident or common practice.
We do know that it involved drinking and carousing and that Sullivan told lawmakers in a letter that the actions of the agents who were dismissed “brought foreign nationals in contact with sensitive security information.”
What that means, exactly, hasn’t been revealed. Did the prostitutes see written itineraries of the president’s trip? Were they in proximity to laptops or smartphones with confidential information that they could have accessed? Did the agents brag about their jobs protecting the president and talk too much about security plans during pillow talk?
Much more than whether a Secret Service agent got into a dispute with a hooker over whether the going rate for a Colombian sleepover was $30 or $750, the question of how secure America’s chief executive is when he’s outside the protection of our borders is the paramount question that has to be answered. And don’t think other nations haven’t taken notice of this chink in the presidential detail’s protective armor and how it can be exploited to acquire important information.
That is, if they didn’t already know it.