The U.S. Secret Service is in the midst of what one reporter calls the “biggest scandal” in its history.
It’s a scandal of alleged misconduct and solicitation of prostitutes, according to The Washington Post. A confirmed 11 Secret Service agents who were sent to Colombia to protect President Obama were sent back to the United States and placed on administrative leave yesterday.
Ronald Kessler — a former WaPo reporter and author of “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect” — told the Post about the investigation. Later, he called it “clearly the biggest scandal in Secret Service history.”
Prostitution is legal in some “tolerance zones” of Colombia. However, this flap began when one of the women involved complained to police that a Secret Service officer did not pay her, Kessler later told CNN.
The Washington Post also points out that soliciting prostitution is “considered inappropriate” in accordance with Secret Service code of conduct. Kessler also said that several of the Secret Service agents involved are married.
Here’s the full statement from Edwin Donovan, the agency’s spokesman:
“There have been allegations of misconduct made against the Secret Service in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the president’s trip. Because of this, those personnel are being relieved of their assignments, returned to their place of duty, and are being replaced by other Secret Service personnel. The Secret Service takes all allegations of misconduct seriously.”
Donovan told the Post that the officers have been replaced and that President Obama’s security on his trip to Colombia has not been compromised.
Right. President Obama’s trip. This mess really threatens to overshadow that trip and the goodwill Obama was looking to gain from it.
At a summit involving 33 countries, Obama is expected to key in on economic and trade relations with Latin America countries like Panama and Colombia. Colombia’s President Juan Manuel Santos told ABC it was a “smart move” for Obama to attend, perhaps winning him more support from Hispanic voters in the election this fall.
“I certainly think this will help him, because the fact that he is here, what he is going to say, what we, with Colombia, are going to decide on the free trade agreement and other issues, this will definitely help him with the Hispanic vote in the U.S. I think it’s a smart move on his part to come at this moment.”