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Secret Service scandal: 'Party's over, boys'

The Secret Service scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia has brought new orders about personal behavior – no more carousing. On some trips, agents will even have chaperones.

By Staff writer / April 28, 2012

President Barack Obama walks with US Secret Service agents as he prepares to board Air Force One at Hunter Army Airfield in Georgia before returning to Washington on Friday.

Larry Downing/Reuters


In the wake of an unfolding scandal involving agent misbehavior on assignment overseas, the Secret Service is telling agents they can no longer act like sailors on shore leave.

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No more heavy drinking, and especially no more carousing with prostitutes – even when off-duty, and even in ports of call where prostitution is legal. On some trips, senior-level chaperones will accompany agents to make sure everybody behaves.

As laid out in an internal memo reported by several news sources, “alcohol may only be consumed in moderate amounts” and drinking less than 10 hours before reporting for duty is prohibited. (Previous rules included a six-hour limit between drinking and work.)

Most important in light of the recent scandal, foreign nationals other than hotel staff are not allowed in agents’ rooms, and agents are not allowed to patronize “nonreputable establishments” (strip clubs and brothels).

RECOMMENDED: Secret Service scandal: an embarrassment for Colombian city, too (+video)

In his memo to agency employees, Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan said the rules "cannot address every situation that our employees will face as we execute our dual-missions throughout the world." (Dual-missions refers to criminal investigations as well as protection services for the president and other high-ranking officials.)

"The absence of a specific, published standard of conduct covering an act or behavior does not mean that the act is condoned, is permissible or will not call for – and result in – corrective or disciplinary action,” Mr. Sullivan warned. "All employees have a continuing obligation to confront expected abuses or perceived misconduct.”

The main concern expressed by members of Congress and others regarding recent agent behavior in Cartagena, Colombia, was for the security of President Obama, who was there for the Summit of the Americas.

Although the agents involved were part of an advance team and not assigned to the President’s bodyguard detail, the scandal has focused on whether or not unauthorized persons – in this case, women the agents had brought back to their rooms – might have had access to schedules and other classified information.

The hammer of “corrective or disciplinary action” Sullivan refers to already has fallen on most of the agents quickly hustled back to the United States, their security clearances pulled, once the episode in Cartagena – a dispute with a prostitute over payment that roused local police – had found its way into the news.


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