The prostitute-procuring Secret Service agents want their jobs back. Four of the eight agents who have left their jobs over a row involving escorts in Cartagena, Colombia now say their behavior wasn’t out of the ordinary and didn’t warrant dismissal.
The agents, who are among the dozen investigated for breach of conduct following the April 11 incident, say they’re being unfairly used as scapegoats to defuse the situation and to help restore the agency’s tarnished image, the Washington Post reports. The former agents claim that romantic encounters while on official business had long been tolerated by a Secret Service whose hard-partying overseas behavior earned it nicknames like the “Secret Circus.” They also disputed initial media reports that claimed the dozen men went out specifically seeking prostitutes – instead, they scattered to different bars and clubs across Cartagena, making their own arrangements for romantic rendezvous.
The Secret Service, for its part, says agents were acutely aware that they shouldn’t bring women back to their rooms while on government trips. Current and former agents interviewed by the Post admit, however, that there was a tacit culture of acceptance of sexual liaisons on the road — “wheels up, rings off”, as the mantra supposedly went.
After the scandal made headlines worldwide, the agency scrambled to revise their standards. The Code of Conduct was updated to include rules stipulating that the agents must be sober within 10 hours of reporting for duty and that they cannot host foreign nationals in their hotel rooms.
In the wake of the scandal that saw the implicated agents removed from Colombia in advance of President Obama’s arrival, the Senate Homeland Security Committee is investigating the agents’ potential wrongdoing. On Wednesday, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan apologized to the Congressional panel. “I am deeply disappointed and I apologize for the misconduct of these employees and the distraction that it has caused,” he said. Sullivan has maintained that at no point during the agents’ carousing was the president’s security compromised and explained in front of the panel that it was “just absurd” to believe that the agents’ activities were acceptable by Secret Service standards. While the scandal has put a dent in the reputation of the government agency directly responsible for the president’s security, Obama has said that he still holds “great faith in the Secret Service.”