Actually, this appears to have been less a dispute about money than about status.
There was a language gap between the 24-year-old woman, who declined to give her full name, and the American man who sat beside her all night and eventually invited her back to his room. She agreed, stopped on the way to buy condoms but told him he would have to give her a gift. He asked how much. Not knowing he worked for Mr. Obama but figuring he was a well-heeled foreigner, she said she told him $800.
The price alone, she said, indicates that she is an escort, not a prostitute. “You have higher rank,” she said. “An escort is someone who a man can take out to dinner. She can dress nicely, wear nice makeup, speak and act like a lady. That’s me.”
By 6:30 the next morning, after being awoken by a telephone call from the hotel front desk reminding her that, under the hotel’s rules for prostitutes, she had to leave, whatever deal the two had agreed on had broken down. She recalled that the man told her he had been drunk when they discussed the price. He countered with an offer of 50,000 pesos, the equivalent of about $30…
A hotel security officer arrived. Eventually, she lowered her demand to $250, which she said was the amount she has to pay the man who helps find her customers. Eager to resolve the matter fast, the American men eventually gave her a combination of dollars and local currency worth about $225, and she left.
Follow the link and note the lengths to which she goes to explain the difference between an escort and a prostitute in Colombian culture. The former, she says, is more like “a fine rum or a BlackBerry or an iPhone,” i.e. a high-end purchase. The agent may well have been telling the truth about being too drunk to remember the negotiated price and, not knowing the difference between an escort and a prostitute, offered her the going rate for a common streetwalker. Imagine the sense of insult when a “fine rum” was treated as cut-rate booze.
Two other possibilities. One: He knew the negotiated price full well but was trying to beat her on an $800 fare. I can’t understand the logic in that, though. He has way more to lose by starting an argument than she does; remember, prostitution is legal in appropriate “zones” in Colombia so she could — and did — get the police to intervene on her behalf. If this guy knowingly agreed to a much, much bigger fee and then picked a fight over it knowing the unholy scandal that could erupt if he did, he’s the dumbest Secret Service agent who ever lived. (He’s probably the dumbest agent who ever lived regardless.) Two: They agreed on 30 bucks initially and she tried to shake him down afterward by demanding $800. That makes sense if she knew he was Secret Service and presumably couldn’t afford a public argument — but according to her, she didn’t know. Quote: “They never told me they were with Obama. They were very discreet.” Maybe she’s lying about that, but it only stands to reason that they weren’t advertising the fact that they were Secret Service, if only because of the risk to their own careers if they were later found out. (They did, apparently, have copies of Obama’s schedule in their hotel rooms but no one’s claimed — yet — that any “guests” stumbled upon it.) On the other hand, could be that she didn’t know he was Secret Service but tried to shake him down anyway because he was dressed well, seemingly “a well-heeled foreigner” in the NYT’s description. A sudden demand of $800 from a federal agent not used to carrying that kind of money would help answer the momentous question of why these imbeciles simply didn’t pay her whatever she asked before she made a scene and exposed them. Maybe they just didn’t have that kind of cash on them.
Two exit questions for you. First, we’re … not going to find out that cocaine was involved here too, are we? Having the Secret Service bringing unknown people into a secure area is a big enough problem without worrying about them being coked up on duty too. And second, if the agents were as discreet about their jobs as the escort says, where did this ABC story come from claiming that they were boasting about protecting Obama while at the Pley Club? Note that they’ve got two sources for that, a bouncer and a local cop — and they also claim that higher-end prostitutes at the club charge $200, not $800. Maybe the escort who spoke to the NYT is lying about how much she demanded in order to inflate her status? But in that case, why didn’t the agents just pay her on the spot before an argument broke out? Surely they could have scrounged together 200 bucks.
Update: The bad news: They may be another government sex scandal brewing. The good news: No prostitution this time, just old-fashioned adultery and humiliation.
What if a video existed that showed a prominent State Department VIP on the roof of the Republican Palace in Baghdad receiving, um, pleasure of an oral nature from another State Department officer not his wife, or even his journalist mistress of the time? What if that video has been passed around among Marine Security Guards at the Embassy to the point where it is considered “viral” with many copies made? What if the Deputy Chief of Mission, hand in hand with the Diplomatic Security chief (RSO) at the time, decided that the whole thing needed to be swept under the rug and made to go away, at least until some blogger got a hold of it.
Would that count as poor judgement? What if it was published during his oft-delayed Congressional hearings?
Update: Breaking from Norah O’Donnell at CBS: “CBS News has learned 3 USSS supervisors removed. One to retire, a second ‘removed for cause,’ and a third resigned.” Also at CBS, an explanation for why there’s some confusion over whether or not the agents knew the women they picked up were prostitutes. Apparently, they picked them up at “a few different locations, not just one,” and returned to the hotel with them at different points of the night. That is to say, sounds like all of these guys were on the prowl but maybe not quite all of them ended up with paid hookers.