Four of the eight Secret Service agents dismissed for their involvement in the agency’s embarrassing Colombia prostitution scandal are seeking to overturn their dismissals, according to the Washington Post. The agents contend that the Secret Service made them scapegoats for behavior that the agency has long tolerated under an unwritten code. That behavior includes agents having one-night stands and extramarital trysts. One of the four agents adds that his conduct was consistent with “loose guidelines” set forth by a senior security supervisor that one-night stands were fine as long as the relationship ended when the the agency moved on to the next city. In addition, some of the implicated agents claim that the version of the events portrayed in the media differs from reality; they say that separate groups of men went to different bars and clubs in Cartagena, and some brought back women for romps that involved no exchange of money.
The report reveals as much about the circumstances surrounding the scandal itself as it does the culture of the Secret Service. The umbrella that the dismissed agents apparently will contend shields some of their behavior is part of the “Secret Circus,” what the Post calls a “mocking nickname” used to describe what happens when a group of Secret Service agents roll into town. The agency itself stands by their handling of personnel, saying that the agents should not have done anything “unbecoming of a Secret Service employee.”
In total, twelve agents were implicated, but three were cleared of serious misconduct charges. The agency dismissed (or forced the resignation of) eight. The fate of one is still unknown. The Post did not reveal the identities of the four who will not go quietly into the night, with the exception of one: Agency supervisor Greg Stokes, whom the Service recommended for termination. The others fighting their punishments include a man who may lose his pregnant wife and a 29-year-old agent who wasn’t implicated at first, but revealed during the ensuing scandal that he took two women back to his hotel room, not realizing that they were prostitutes.
On Wednesday, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan will have to answer questions before a Senate committee about conduct on the Colombia trip and fallout that’s marred the agency’s reputation. The Drug Enforcement Agency, which has a permanent station in Colombia, unlike the Secret Service, now has a problem of its own to manage as three DEA agents were implicated in similar misconduct involving prostitutes.
In the meantime, the director of the Secret Service’s counterassault team has replaced the unwritten code or “Secret Circus” rules with an explicit directive: “You should always assume you are being watched when on an official assignment,” the director wrote in a in a memo to his staff this week. “Do not put yourself in a situation in your personal or professional life that would cause embarrassment to you, your family, or the Secret Service.”