The Secret Service and its Not-So-Secret Booty Call

By Jay Holmes

This week, we have been treated to two dire federal government scandals in the news. One of those scandals involves misappropriation of funds for partying and luxury travel by General Services Administration big wigs and their tax payer funded minions. But another, similar, and more troubling scandal occurred in Colombia.

It has come to light that (allegedly) eleven Secret Service agents and perhaps ten Marines were involved with prostitutes at a local bordello. Apparently, they took the twenty plus prostitutes back to rooms that were being used by the Americans at a hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. The prostitutes later claimed under-payment by the Americans. It seems that it was the price haggling that brought the activity to light.

The Secret Service is probably one of the least understood law enforcement agencies in the United States. While this is certainly a major black eye for the agency, I would like to take a closer look at the Secret Service before discussing why the prostitutes matter to anyone other than the Americans’ significant others at home.

The US Secret Service was started in 1865 by President Lincoln to combat the rampant counterfeiting of US currency. The US Treasury estimated at the time that one-third of all US currency in circulation was counterfeit.

Once established, the Secret Service quickly gained a reputation for skill and integrity, and with no FBI on the scene yet, they took on a broad range of crime fighting responsibilities in addition to protecting our currency, including murder and fraud cases. Also, while the Secret Service does not currently involve itself in intelligence gathering or counterintelligence work, it was the first non-military intelligence agency in the United States.

Most people think of the Secret Service in conjunction with protecting the President and visiting heads of state. However, that was not that agency’s responsibility until 1901, after the assassination of US President McKinley. In 1968, Congress tasked the Secret Service with protecting ex-presidents and major presidential candidates, as well.

Although the Secret Service and it’s 6,600 members are best known for presidential protection, the majority of their work remains in protecting the American currency and combating financial crimes. The Secret Service currently operates a major task force against internet crime, and they have been responsible for the capture and successful prosecutions of several major internet crime rings.

If you ask a federal prosecutor in your area what they think of the US Secret Service, there is a good chance they will tell you they are always happy to prosecute a case for the Secret Service. That’s because they can count on well-built files detailing meticulous investigations with proper handling of suspects, witnesses, and evidence. The Secret Service, in its remarkably scandal free 146 year history, has quietly established a reputation for integrity and professionalism.

Then the debacle in Cartagena happened. In an odd twist of fate for an agency that has, on several occasions, had to develop expertise in protecting a couple of presidents from their careless sexual practices, the Secret Service finds itself involved in its own sex scandal.

Apparently, Secret Service Agents and US military personnel were partying at a local sleaze joint named the “Pley Club,” where they decided to get themselves played. Witnesses claim they were drinking heavily, and that some of them were bragging that they were on the President’s protection detail. So thus far, that’s three problems.

The first problem is that they went to a sleaze joint while on a foreign assignment to protect the President. The only reason why US personnel or local assets in their employ would go into a sleaze joint prior to or during a presidential visit would be on an undercover assignment to observe a suspected threat, or to gather intelligence from sleaze joint employees friendly to us.

The second problem is that they drank alcohol. Nobody shoots better when they are drunk or hung over. They all should have known better.

The third infraction is that they called attention to the fact that they were on the President’s protection detail. That set them up as potential targets for any of the myriad drug dealers, terrorists, hostile foreign intelligence agents, and other major scumbags who have operatives in Cartagena at any given time.

Then the major violation of rules occurred. They employed twenty-one prostitutes, each a potential Booty Spy, and took them back to hotel rooms which contained, among other things, communications schedules and the President’s detailed itinerary. All Secret Service agents are trained to be aware of the danger of Booty Spies so it is flabbergasting that they would have committed this infraction.

In another show of bad judgment, they ended the night by creating a public disturbance with the hookers, which was perhaps prearranged by the hookers at the behest of hostile foreign agents. An argument broke out in the lobby of the hotel about payment for whatever sexual services were delivered. That public disturbance was an embarrassment to the White House and to the USA.

While some pundits are pointing out the obvious hypocrisy in Congress’ outrage and their demand for swift justice when they’re facing their own General Services Administration partying scandal, the fact remains that these agents cannot be trusted with the President’s security. Regardless of one’s personal political preferences, most Americans would agree that having a President embarrassed, injured, or killed is never a good thing for the nation.

The US military personnel involved in the scandal may have had less training in Booty Spy operations if they were not trained in intelligence, but instead were simply there as highly trained shooters. Nonetheless, this incident won’t look good on their records because they may have violated a curfew set for them by their commander. Nobody (on our side) wants hung over shooters covering the President.

I agree that the Presidential Protection Team needs a major shake up and some intense retraining. (Call it the “IF You Mother %$@#&%* pull a stunt like those idiots pulled your ass is cooked” training module). I could teach that class in half an hour with a twenty minute coffee break included.

image from ‘Gladiator’ by DreamWorks Pictures

Piper’s note: Actual photo of Holmes teaching that class.

I do not agree that Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan should be fired or taken to task for what occurred. His directives were clear and correct. The team in the field violated them. There is no value or justice in running him off.