Issa promises Congressional oversight on investigation of Secret Service scandal

The scandal surrounding the Secret Service continues to get notice from the media — and from Congress. Rep. Darrell Issa, chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, told CBS earlier today that he doesn’t plan on opening a separate investigation into the matter, at least not yet. However, Issa pledged to “look over the shoulder” of the Inspector General as the DHS office conducts a probe into how one or more prostitutes penetrated the secure zone that the Secret Service had set up for President Obama’s trip to the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia:

“What we see is that this story is larger than eleven individuals,” said Issa on “CBS This Morning” on Monday. “It’s part of what has been, told to us, as a pattern of behavior that’s built up, so called ‘wheels up’ parties and the like and clearly you have an elite unite that we count on to have the greatest of security not just for the president but for the cabinet for other officials and we need to know that they’re living up to on a broad basis.”

“We clearly have lost confidence and we need to get that confidence back by knowing that the system will be changed,” he warned.

Issa said he had heard many reports that Secret Service agents often celebrate once the president has completed a visit with a ‘wheels up’ party, but said this incident was not comparable.

“Okay, fine, that’s when you can sort of let your hair down. The question is in this case you had a pre-wheels down party. You had drinking, you had activities that clearly compromised the ring of security, at least some because you now had people inside the secure areas, people who could have come in with all kinds of microphones, or in fact could have done something or could have later on blackmailed,” said Issa. “All of this went on before the president arrived, so this really goes beyond what we’ve heard in the past. It’s an area of concern.”

Issa’s point on the incremental nature of penetrating security agencies is well taken. That’s how “honey traps” work, and it’s why those with security clearances are required to report any personal contact with foreign nationals to their superiors or to the relevant clearing agency. That was true in the mid-1980s when I held a lower-level clearance, and I doubt it’s changed much since that time. Once a personal relationship gets established, it can be used to either blackmail someone into divulging cleared material or “turn” them into a longer-term source.

For his part, Obama made his first statement about the scandal at a press conference yesterday at the summit:

Obama was asked at a news conference with Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos about allegations that 11 Secret Service agents were involved with prostitutes before this weekend’s Summit of the Americas. Obama noted that its director was investigating.

“I expect that investigation to be thorough, and I expect it to be rigorous,” Obama said. If the reports prove true, “Then of course I’ll be angry.”

“We’re representing the people of the United States, and when we travel to another country, I expect us to observe the highest standards, because we’re not just representing ourselves, we’re here on behalf of our people.”

Considering just how much a modern President relies on the Secret Service to focus on his personal protection, I wouldn’t blame Obama a bit for getting angry over this incident.  His other point about representing the American people is also spot-on, especially considering the State Department warning about Colombian prostitution and its involvement in human trafficking.

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