The embarrassing scandal involving U.S. Secret Service agents and Colombian prostitutes should make everyone question the quality, training, and capabilities of the people who hold some of the most important jobs in the federal government.
For those who missed it, 11 Secret Service agents were put on leave pending an investigation of their behavior in Colombia. They were there to help prepare for President Obama’s arrival for the Summit of the Americas. Amazingly, the agents took advantage of Colombia’s laws, which permit legal prostitution in certain areas, and enjoyed trysts with some of the ladies of the night. Their risky behavior blew up when one agent refused to pay his prostitute, a police report was filed, and the assignations were uncovered. Apparently, the hooker hook-ups are now the talk of the summit meeting.
None of the agents was involved in actually guarding the President, and the Secret Service says the President’s security was not compromised. But how can we be sure? If agents who are responsible for planning presidential security don’t even recognize the obvious risks involved in consorting with prostitutes in a foreign country, are they really qualified to be handling that crucially important job? And how do we know that this appalling lapse in judgment — one that apparently included almost a dozen agents — hasn’t happened before?
This incident is shocking and deeply concerning. Regardless of our political inclinations, we can all agree that nothing is more important than providing the best possible security for our President, who is an obvious target in a world filled with enemies. This scandal suggests that we may need to take a very careful look at the culture and personnel of the Secret Service, to make sure that they understand just how crucial their job is — and how the proper performance of that job requires that they keep their pants zipped and resist the temptation of sex workers, booze, drugs, and other vices that might impair their judgment.