Troubling disclosures about the U.S. Secret Service continue to tarnish the reputation of the agency following the scandal involving agents hiring prostitutes in Colombia during a recent presidential visit.
Agents guarding Bill Clinton also partied during a trip to South America, according to an agent, and a Secret Service detail even caroused the night before President John Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas.
“Of course it has happened before,” an agent not implicated in the Colombia scandal told the Washington Post.
“This is not the first time. It really only blew up in this case because the [U.S. Embassy] was alerted.”
The Post reported: “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.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said on Tuesday that the scandal involving Secret Service agents bringing prostitutes back to their hotel before President Obama’s trip to Cartagena, Colombia, “May be the tip of an iceberg.”
He even suggested that the prostitutes hired by the agents in Cartagena could have been Russian spies.
“We’re looking at something that is very, very serious when national security might not be protected properly,” he told Radio Iowa. “Who knows who might be using prostitutes? The Russians are famous for that to get information out of us.”
Of the 12 agents involved in the scandal, six have resigned, two are being fired, three have been cleared of serious wrongdoing, and one has retired, according to CBS News. Eleven military service members have also been implicated in the misconduct.
Agents who were not part of the Colombia detail said the events in Cartagena “are not without precedent,” the Post reported.
“They pointed to a 2009 visit to Buenos Aires by former President Bill Clinton, whose detail included agents and uniformed officers. During that trip, the agents said, members of the detail went out for a late night of partying at strip clubs.”
A columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Bob Ray Sanders, recalled that during President Kennedy’s fateful trip to Dallas in 1963, nine agents in the White House detail went out on the town, starting with beer and mixed drinks at the Fort Worth Press Club and continuing the party at a local bar.
Sanders pointed to revelations by William Manchester, author of “The Death of the President,” who wrote: “Fellow drinkers during those early-morning hours included four agents who were to ride in the president’s follow-up car in Dallas, and whose alertness was vital to his safety.
“At various times they were joined by three agents of the twelve-to-eight shift, who were officially on duty, assigned to guard the president’s bedroom door, and chose to break the boredom of sentry duty in this fashion.”
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan has drawn praise for his swift action and thorough investigation of the Colombian escapade, although other probes are ongoing.
And President Obama on Tuesday praised the agency during a trip to North Carolina. “The Secret Service, these guys are incredible. They protect me, they protect our girls. A couple of knuckleheads shouldn’t detract from what they do. What they were thinking, I don’t know. That’s why they’re not there anymore.”
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