The news wires have been flooded with information/speculations on a scandal in Cartagena, Columbia, since U.S. Secret Service agents and military personnel were allegedly caught with escorts in their hotel rooms last week. Before President Barack Obama’s arrival in Cartagena for the Summit of the Americas, 11 Secret Service Agents and 10 or more military employees allegedly partied, consumed masses of alcohol and picked up at least 21 women at a local discotheque and brought them back to the Hotel Caribe.
The eleven agents being investigated were sent home on Saturday instead of staying to protect the President. The night before, shortly after Obama arrived, news of the scandal broke. The Associated Press reported earlier this evening that three of the Secret Service agents being investigated were no longer with the federal law enforcement agency: one was allowed to retire, one quit and the other was removed with legal cause, according to the AP.
The exact details of what happened at the Cartagena hotel are unclear. According to the National Post, some of the Secret Service agents told the escorts they provided direct security to the President of the United States. However, in an interview presented by The New York Times today, one of the females involved stated that she had no idea the man she escorted worked for the Secret Service. Senator and member of the Homeland Security Committee Susan Collins expressed concern that the interaction with the escorts could have been a threat to President Obama and national security: “Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons or in any other [way] jeopardized security of the President or our country?” Collins asked, according the National Post.
While prostitution/escort services are legal in Columbia, the scandal has been a source of embarrassment for the Secret Service, the military and the administration. Press Secretary to the President, Mark Carney, shared that Obama feels all Americans should represent their country with integrity when they travel abroad, but he also expressed admiration for the Secret Service. “The Secret Service performs admirably in its No. 1 mission, which is to protect the President of the United States, to protect the family of the President, to protect those who travel with him or her. They put their lives on the line and it’s a very, very difficult job.” said Carney on behalf of the President.
Should those who hold criminal justice careers, whether it be a police officer, lawyer, correctional officer or federal agent, be held to higher moral standards and possess higher levels of integrity compared to the rest of the population? Should law enforcement agents be held accountable for their actions even when they are not working? Those who condemn the actions of the Secret Service agents would argue that the agents should have focused their attention to making safety and security preparations for the President’s arrival.