Uh oh: Secret Service peccadilloes more the rule than the exception?
posted at 7:21 pm on April 25, 2012 by Ed Morrissey
At least that’s what the Secret Service agents under scrutiny for the Colombian hooker scandal are claiming, according to the Washington Post. Three more agents have been discharged, bringing the total to nine, but some may end up fighting to get their jobs back. First, Politico reports on the latest terminations:
Three more Secret Service employees were forced out of their jobs Tuesday, bringing the total number of agency employees to lose their jobs in the Colombia prostitution scandal to nine.
Two of the employees are resigning, while a third is having his security clearance revoked and will leave the agency, Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.), the chairman of the House homeland security committee, told POLITICO. Two more agency employees have been cleared of any wrongdoing. Paul Morrissey [no relation — Ed], the Secret Service’s assistant director, confirmed the personnel changes in a statement.
With the latest departures, all 12 Secret Service employees suspected of misconduct in Cartagena ahead of the president’s trip there for the Summit of the Americas have been dealt with by the agency. Six resigned or were fired last week, while another employee was cleared.
“At this point, all twelve have either been cleared of serious misconduct, resigned, retired, been notified of personnel actions to permanently revoke their security clearances, or have been proposed for permanent removal for cause,” Morrissey said. “The Secret Service is committed to conducting a full, thorough and fair investigation in this matter, and will not hesitate to take appropriate action should any additional information come to light.”
The additional information might come from the employees themselves, and might result in the need for a much wider investigation into Secret Service activities:
Some Secret Service employees accused of misconduct in the Colombian prostitution scandal are privately contending that their conduct didn’t warrant dismissal because senior managers tolerated similar behavior during official trips, according to people familiar with the employees’ thinking.
Several of the men who agreed to resign under pressure last week are also considering reversing their decisions and fighting to keep their jobs, according to the people knowledgeable about the case. …
Those close to the accused employees said that in an effort to fight for their jobs they could opt to divulge details of how colleagues spent some of their downtime on presidential trips — drinking heavily, visiting strip clubs and cavorting with women for hire.
“Of course it has happened before” said one agent not implicated in the matter, remarking on the Secret Service’s history of occasionally licentious partying. “This is not the first time. It really only blew up in this case because the [U.S. Embassy] was alerted.”.
The first hints that this might be true come from the scorecard of the people involved. The debauchery in Cartagena didn’t just involve a couple of low-level rookies; more than one supervisor took part, one of whom offered indiscreet commentary about Sarah Palin on his Facebook page. The scope of the revelry and the inclusion of members of the military makes this look even more routine than aberrant.
And perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised. My good friend Paul Mirengoff has returned to Power Line this month after a lengthy hiatus, and he reminded us last night that people in high-stress jobs are often risk-takers who need to party as hard as they work:
I don’t wish to put up any strong defense of the Secret Service employees in question, or to argue that they should not be sacked. But I don’t believe we should be very surprised by the misconduct of agents who put their life on the line to protect the president and his family against danger from sources that may not reveal themselves until the last second. There may be a more stressful job, but I can’t think of one.
Given the stress inherent in this work, it is normal that more than a few agents blow off steam by drinking, carousing, and in some cases whoring. This doesn’t mean that those who engage in the latter activity shouldn’t be fired; a job like this should be reserved for those who can transcend “normal.” But one might still have sympathy for the agents who failed to do so.
I agree — to a point. One could understand how an individual agent or two might exercise poor judgment and get caught up in the atmosphere of an exotic locale. However, they aren’t supposed to be on vacation; they were there to identify potential threats and focus on providing a secure environment for the President of the United States. Even more to the point, the involvement of supervisors shows that this was likely not an aberration, but simply one instance where it got so out of hand that they were caught in the act.
Congress needs to keep looking into the Secret Service to ensure that the culture of the agency provides focus to the job at hand.