[Debate] (Fwd) Austerity hits US Secret Service where it counts; Colombians get even with sex-tsotsis
pbond at mail.ngo.za
Sat Apr 21 06:21:21 BST 2012
Hookers Downgrade US Credit Rating
Shortchanging by Secret Service Draws Strong Rebuke
NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) – Days after Secret Service agents
shortchanged a group of prostitutes in Colombia, the international
trade group representing hookers downgraded the United States’ credit
rating from AAA to B.
The strong rebuke from the International Alliance of Professional
Escorts came after a Secret Service agent reportedly paid one of its
members $30 for an $800 service, or only 4% of the stated price.
The statement from the International Alliance of Professional Escorts
said that in downgrading the United States’ credit rating it was
sending a clear message that its “members should be aware that doing
business with the government of the United States carries with it a
“We are urging our members to avoid conducting transactions with the
United States and to focus on more reliable customers, like the
International Monetary Fund,” the statement added.
Just hours after the announcement from the escorts’ group, the U.S.
Congress passed the following resolution blasting the Secret Service
for its actions: “We strongly denounce the Secret Service for
consorting with prostitutes, which has traditionally been Congress's
But it was not all bad news this week for the Secret Service, which
today reported a 5000% jump in enlistment.
The agency said that enlistment offices across the country have been
packed with prospective agents, including House Speaker Newt Gingrich,
who abruptly dropped out of the Presidential race to join.
Secret service scandal in Colombia has agency's culture under a microscope
'Wheels up, rings off' is a common attitude, at least one observer says,
but others rush to defend the protectors of presidents
Karen McVeigh <http://www.guardian.co.uk/profile/karenmcveigh>in
o guardian.co.uk <http://www.guardian.co.uk/>,Friday 20 April 2012
o Article history
The secret service has been dogged by misconduct allegations in the
past, including a 2009 incident in which two would-be reality TV
contestants crashed a state dinner at the White House. Photograph: Jae
What began as a quarrel over payment between an escort and her client in
a Colombian hotel two weeks ago has already claimed the careers of three
members of thesecret service
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/secret-service>. With each new twist,
the escalating scandal over allegations that 11 agents preparing for
President Barack Obama's visit to Cartagena were embroiled in misconduct
with prostitutes brings fresh scrutiny and adds up to an embarrassment
of historic proportions for the elite agency.
Action against those involved has been swift, but the news that two of
the three forced out Wednesday were senior supervisors with 20 years'
experience has done little for questions over whether the debacle
involving an organisation that prides itself on the strictest standards
of ethical and professional behaviour was a one-off – or represents
deeper, systemic problems.
Senator Susan Collins, a Republican on the Senate homeland security
committee who has been briefed on the investigation by Mark Sullivan,
the director of the secret service, she said she found it hard to
believe it hadn't happened before because of the numbers involved. In
comments echoed by others, she said she was concerned the episode
suggested a "culture problem".
Republican Congressman Darrell Issa, who chairs the House oversight and
government reform committee, has raised similar concerns.
The Washington Post, meanwhile, has reported that married agents have
been heard to joke during aircraft take-off about an unofficial motto:
"wheels up, rings off".
Ronald Kessler, a journalist and author who helped break the story, said
he doesn't believe the type of behaviour displayed at Cartagena was
widespread. But he believes it is symptomatic of a culture of "poor
management", laxness and corner-cutting.
Kessler told the Guardian: "The secret service is overwhelmed with more
and more duties and not enough agents. They are all working overtime."
He accuses Sullivan, who has held the post for six years, of
corner-cutting measures that he claims has led to reckless behaviour and
contempt for the rules. He cites examples of neglecting "basic security
precautions" like not passing crowds through magnetometers at
presidential events, but also of cutting back on the size of
counterassault teams, not keeping up with the latest firearms, and not
allowing agents time for physical and firearms training.
Secret service director Mark Sullivan has led the agency for six years.
Photograph: Larry Downing/Reuters
Asked what he believed was behind theColombia
<http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/colombia>scandal, Kessler said: "If
your boss says it's OK to put people into an event without magnetometer
screening, you will say if they are taking security lightly then why
should I take it seriously. That's my personal opinion."
He believes the Colombia incident represented a "deadly serious"
"The prostitutes could blackmail an agent into giving them access to
terrorists. They could later be approached by Russian foreign
intelligence services to plant bugging devices."
Kessler cites the intrusion of two would-be reality TV contestants,
Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who crashed Obama's state dinner at the White
House in 2009, as further evidence of poor standards under Sullivan's watch.
Sullivan was forced to apologise to Congress after the Salahis managed
to get past three secret service checkpoints, despite not being on the
guest list. He acknowledged that the uniformed officers involved had not
A 'pressure-cooker' environment
The secret service has been dogged by misconduct allegations in the
past. An article in the US News & World Report in June 2002 painted a
picture of an agency "rife with problems" ranging from alcohol abuse to
criminal offences, as well as allegations of extramarital relationships
between agents and White House staff.
A follow-up piece in September that year reported a "pressure-cooker"
environment where a "debilitating loss of manpower" coincided with
increased responsibilities. It also reported longstanding management
difficulties with the uniformed workforce and difficulty in retaining
them, leading to concern that pressure to quickly hire and train new
agents would lead to the wrong people being recruited.
Over the past decade, the agency has been involved in fewer salacious
incidents and has moved away from the "good ol' boy" image that dogged
it in the past, according to the New York Times.
Kessler said turnover is still a problem and cites a current rate of
more than 5% overall and 12% in the uniformed division.
The agency did not immediately respond to the Guardian's request for
current figures on the departure of staff within the workforce, which
has 3,200 special agents and 1,300 uniformed personnel. But one former
agent, who was responsible for hiring new staff around 2002, said the
attrition rate had never been a concern.
secret service carsJeffrey Robinson, co-author of a book on the secret
service, said within the service, agents are angry at the men involved
in the Colombia scandal. Photograph: Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
Former agent Dave Wilkinson, who worked for presidents George Bush Sr,
Bill Clinton and George W Bush, disagrees with Kessler's claims that the
scandal indicates a systematic problem of lax standards under Sullivan.
Wilkinson said: "He's obviously got one or two disgruntled people at a
very low level. Every agency goes through budget cuts. They might cut
stuff on counterfeiting. But they always make sure they have the
resources they need to protect the president."
Wilkinson, who retired from the service in 2005 and is now president of
the Atlanta Police Foundation, moved up through the ranks with Sullivan
and served with him as assistant agent in charge of the president's
detail, said that he believed the Colombia episode was an isolated incident.
He said: "I have never seen anything like this in my 22 years in the
service. There is a culture of zero tolerance towards any personal
misconduct, especially among agents assigned to the president. Peer
pressure alone is enough to keep you on the straight and narrow."
Wilkinson said the agents involved "were not part of the advance team
and not part of the presidents detail".
"In no way was the security of the president in jeopardy by these
officers and agents but it doesn't mitigate the seriousness because it
opens the door to a security breach."
He said that the so-called "wheels-up" parties after foreign visits had
been misconstrued and referred typically to the parties held by the
ambassador to thank everyone for months of hard work.
"The comment 'wheels up, rings off' I've never heard it in my 22 years
of service. There is certainly not a culture of that. These guys are
working 18, 20 hours a day. They don't have time for that sort of thing.
Any hint that this is accepted behaviour is not true."
He described the Salahi breach as an "embarrassment" but insisted: "Mark
Sullivan is one of the most dedicated professionals I've ever worked
with. You will not find more professional, more mission-driven people
leading the agency."
The political fallout from the Colombia debacle continues in Washington,
as the number of investigations has spiralled. They include inquiries by
the secret service's office of professional responsibility, which
handles the agency's internal affairs, and the House homeland security
committee, which oversees the Secret Service. The homeland security
department's inspector general also has been notified, and a separate
investigation is also under way into 10 members of the US military
allegedly involved in misconduct in Colombia.
'The agents I know are furious'
Jeffrey Robinson, the co-author Standing Next to History: An Agent's
Life Inside the Secret Service, said that, within the service, agents
are angry at the men involved. But he too insists the security threat
Robinson told the Guardian: "These guys were in support. They were not
part of the president's protection, none of them were PPD (presidential
protective division). The agents in support only know what they have to
"These guys are taking the same risk as any other businessman. Yes, he
can have his gun stolen, have his ID card stolen, sure. These were 11
guys on a mixture of alcohol and testosterone, and they were stupid.
Their careers are over."
"The agents I know are furious. It is a huge embarrassment. They are
upset with the 11 guys for being schmucks. They are angry but at no
point was the president's security breached, and anyone who says it
could have been doesn't know how they operated."
Robinson said that describing it as the worst scandal to hit the agency,
as Kessley has done, was just "playing politics".
"The reason this is a big deal is that the secret service has an esprit
de corp like the marines. They are very proud of what they do, and these
11 guys have tainted the image of the secret service. They made news."
3 more Secret Service employees resign in wake of prostitution scandal
From Dana Bash, CNN Senior Congressional Correspondent
April 21, 2012 -- Updated 0016 GMT (0816 HKT)
Two agents in Colombia scandal named
Three more Secret Service employees have "chosen to resign," the agency says
A 12th Secret Service employee is "implicated," the agency says
The Secret Service chief briefs Obama about the probe, officials say
11 U.S. military service members are also being probed in the
Washington (CNN) -- Three more Secret Service employees have "chosen to
resign" in the wake of a prostitution scandal that emerged last week,
the agency said in a news release Friday.
Six Secret Service members now have left their jobs in the wake of the
incident in Cartagena, Colombia, which came while they were on a
security detail in advance of President Barack Obama's trip there for
the Summit of the Americas.
The agency also announced Friday that a 12th Secret Service "employee
has been implicated," having previously said 11 were under investigation.
One employee "has been cleared of serious misconduct, but will face
administrative action," the Secret Service said.
Five employees are on administrative leave and have had their security
clearances temporarily revoked.
In addition, the U.S. military is investigating 11 of its own troops for
possible heavy drinking and consorting with prostitutes.
Palin to Secret Service: You're fired Secret Service agents' risky
behavior Escort details Secret Service incident Congress wants answers
about sex scandal
A source close to the investigation said Secret Service Director Mark
Sullivan -- who briefed Obama on the investigation Friday, according to
White House officials -- has ordered a "comprehensive" investigation of
everything that happened during the trip.
That includes interviews with every Secret Service member on site, hotel
staff and alleged prostitutes, the source said. In addition, the source
confirmed that Secret Service agents were staying at a second hotel on
the trip -- identified as a Hilton in Cartagena -- which presumably will
be included in the expanded probe.
The controversy has embarrassed the nearly 150-year-old agency that
protects the president and other top officials and investigates criminal
activity. It also raised questions about a possible security breach
immediately preceding Obama's visit, though House Homeland Security
Committee Chairman Rep. Peter King has said that "from everything we
know, nothing was compromised."
Secret Service pushing out three members amid Colombia scandal
Two of the Secret Service employees whose departures were previously
announced -- identified as David Chaney and Greg Stokes, a source
familiar with the investigation told CNN national security contributor
Fran Townsend -- were supervisors.
In a photo posted on his public Facebook page in January 2009, Chaney is
seen standing behind Sarah Palin, wearing dark glasses and what appears
be a wedding ring. Under the photo, Chaney posted a comment that said,
"I was really checking her out, if you know what I mean?"
That remark drew a strong response Thursday night from Palin, who was a
vice presidential candidate when the photo was taken.
"This agent who was kind of ridiculous there in posting pictures and
comments about checking someone out," Palin said on Fox News. "Check
this out, bodyguard. You're fired! And I hope his wife sends him to the
Chaney, a son of a Secret Service agent, has been employed with the
agency since 1987, according to his posting on Reunion.com. The posting
notes that he is married, has an adopted son and his assignments
included a stint protecting former Vice President Dick Cheney.
Questions raised about macho culture, women agents
Stokes supervised the canine training unit at the Secret Service's James
J. Rowley Training Center outside Washington, according to PetLife Radio
and a career development posting on the University of Maryland's website.
Attorney Lawrence Berger -- general counsel for the Federal Law
Enforcement Officers Association, which represents Secret Service agents
and others -- said he is not representing all of the agents involved in
the Colombia story, but he does have several other clients in the group
in addition to Chaney and Stokes.
He would not comment on specifics of the investigation, but complained
about leaks that publicly identified Chaney and Stokes and gave details
of what allegedly happened in Colombia.
"The concern I have is about illegal leaks coming from apparently rogue
elements within the Secret Service of privacy-protected information,"
Berger said. "It is distorting the review of what happened."
All the employees are accused of bringing prostitutes to Cartagena's
Hotel El Caribe ahead of last week's visit by Obama. They'd arrived
earlier that morning as a part of the "jump team" that flies in on
military transport planes with vehicles in the president's motorcade,
According to sources, the alleged prostitutes -- the youngest of whom
were in their early 20s -- signed in at the hotel, where Secret Service
members apparently stayed, flashing their local ID cards.
One of these women allegedly was later involved in a dispute about how
much she was to be paid for the night, which brought the entire incident
to light and sparked controversy in the United States and Colombia.
Former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe told CNN on Thursday that the
incident was due entirely to "a lack of ethics (on the part of) the
Secret Service of the United States."
Members of the U.S. Congress offered similarly biting remarks. House
Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi called the allegations "disgusting," while
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid described the agents' alleged actions
as "either really stupid or a total lack of common sense."
The U.S. military is investigating six members of its elite Army Special
Forces, or Green Berets, officials said.
The Green Berets' failure to make curfew the night of the incident
involving the Secret Service agents led the military to start its
investigation, a U.S. official told CNN.
All the military personnel are being investigated for heavy drinking and
use of prostitutes while in Colombia as part of the support team for
Obama's visit, the official said. They are not likely to redeploy until
the matter is resolved, other military officials said.
The military investigation could end with no action, administrative
action such as a letter of reprimand or a recommendation to proceed with
criminal charges, officials said.
While soliciting prostitution is in most cases legal for adults in
Colombia, military law bars service members from patronizing
prostitutes, engaging in conduct unbecoming an officer or, for enlisted
personnel, conduct "prejudicial to good order and discipline." It is
also considered a breach of the Secret Service's conduct code,
government sources said.
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