Once in a while, a story comes along and I have no real reaction to it but … wow.
This is that kind of story, courtesy of The Washington Post:
Investigators now suspect that as many as 21 foreign prostitutes were brought by U.S. Secret Service and military personnel to the Hotel Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, last week during a night of carousing, a dramatic increase in the number of women previously disclosed by government officials.
Officials said that 11 Secret Service and nine military personnel are suspected of the misconduct that took place in advance of President Obama’s trip to the country for an international economic summit. ….
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) said Tuesday that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan told her that 20 to 21 women were brought to the hotel last Wednesday night…. Two of the Secret Service personnel are senior agents paid at the top levels of the federal government’s pay scale, according to a congressional official with knowledge of the investigation.
And here’s a similar story from the New York Times, based on a different congressional source:
WASHINGTON — The Secret Service has uncovered evidence that all 11 personnel under investigation for alleged misconduct with prostitutes in Colombia before President Obama’s arrival there for a summit meeting last weekend had taken women to their rooms, Representative Peter T. King, the chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security, said on Tuesday….
“The 11 agents are having different recollections about what happened or are not telling the truth,” said Mr. King, who was briefed on the investigation on Tuesday morning by the head of the Secret Service, Mark J. Sullivan.
If you have one or two agents cavorting with prostitutes on an overseas trip, you’ve got a case of one or two agents with very bad judgment. You get rid of the bad apples and move on. But 11 agents and nine members of the U.S. military, with up to 21 women brought back to the hotel?
And two of the Secret Service personnel are senior high-level people?
We don’t know all the facts in the case yet, but misjudgment on that kind of scale, with that many people involved or at least having knowledge of the situation, suggests that something may have gone seriously wrong within the culture of that agency. They apparently weren’t too worried about getting caught, and it doesn’t seem likely that this was the first time such an escapade has occurred.
Most importantly, while there is no evidence that the security of the president of the United States was endangered in this incident, an agency with this kind of internal culture could be easily manipulated by those with reason to do so. At the very least, the scandal has created a significant embarrassment for the U.S. government and put at risk the generally good reputation of the Secret Service.
– Jay Bookman