As the fallout from the Colombia prostitution scandal — which has so far cost eight Secret Service members their jobs — continues, news of another possibly damning scandal involving the Secret Service, strippers, and prostitutes is emerging. Already being dubbed the "Salvadoran Sexcapade," the latest incident reportedly took place in El Salvador in 2011, and was uncovered by Seattle TV station KIRO-TV. Here's what we know so far:
Seattle-based investigative reporter Chris Halsne interviewed a U.S. government subcontractor who claims to have worked extensively with the Secret Service advance team when the group was in San Salvador, El Salvador, in the days before President Obama and his family traveled to the country to meet with its new president, Mauricio Funes in March 2011. The unnamed witness says he and roughly a dozen Secret Service agents, along with some U.S. military specialists, frequented a San Salvador strip club, where the group allegedly engaged in illicit activity.
What did the Secret Service agents do?
According to Halsne's source, the agents were "heavily intoxicated" after binge drinking at the club. Many of the "wasted" men allegedly paid extra to gain access to a VIP room where strippers provided sexual favors in exchange for cash. The source says he counseled the agents not to bring the strippers back to their hotel rooms, but they bragged that they "did this all the time" and "not to worry about it." At least two, he says, checked women into their hotel rooms. Halsne confirmed the contractor's account with the owner of the strip club, who said his establishment is popular with high-ranking employees of the U.S. embassy as well as visiting FBI and DEA agents — "those who want to be discreet" — because it has a reputation for "security" and "privacy."
What is the government doing?
Though the Secret Service is officially investigating the Columbia scandal, says Ryan J. Reilly at Talking Points Memo, the agency isn't responding specifically to the latest accusations. "The recent investigation in Cartagena [Colombia] has generated several news stories that contain allegations by mostly unnamed sources," Secret Service spokesman Brian Leary said. "Any information that is brought to our attention that can be assessed as credible will be followed up on in an appropriate manner."
How bad is this for the Secret Service?
It's certainly poorly timed, says Alicia A. Caldell of the Associated Press. The news emerged just hours after Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano called the Colombia scandal an isolated incident, and said she'd be surprised if a broader problem existed. Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan could find his head on the line if it emerges that prostitute use was widespread under his watch, says Raf Sanchez at the U.K.'s Telegraph. To me, says David Weigel at Slate, the media reaction seems overblown. Everything the men allegedly did is perfectly legal in El Salvador. The incident raises questions about discretion, but doesn't merit righteous outrage.