It’s all a reminder that Secret Service agents are trained to do more than handle weapons, check out potentially threatening venues, guard high officials, and “take a bullet” for the president (as one did when John Hinckley attempted to assassinate former president Ronald Reagan in 1981.)
"You will be exposed to so many new experiences, challenges and, yes, temptations," a top official warned a 2002 graduating class of agents, according to a Reuters report.
"A Secret Service agent can sometimes be perceived as celebrity. We are not,” the new agents were told “Your daily conduct must be better than that which is technically legal – your compass must point to that which is right with a clarity and precision that reflects your commitment to this new responsibility."
Violating that responsibility is at issue in today’s scandal, which stemmed from agents boasting that they were in Colombia to protect President Obama, then bringing some 20 women back to their hotel rooms. (The episode might have gone unnoticed but for the row that occurred when an agent argued over paying one of the women.)
Based on what is known so far, the after-hours carousing by a Secret Service and military advance team in fact appears to have been technically legal. Prostitution is allowed in Cartagena, Colombia (unless it involves under-age girls or boys).
But engaging prostitutes violates the Secret Service code of conduct (as does adultery), which can result in revocation of an agent’s security clearance. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), patronizing prostitutes can lead to a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances, and up to a year in prison, the Marine Corps Times has reported.