The U.S. Secret Service was rocked by the biggest scandal in its history last week after 11 agents assigned to President Obama were placed under investigation for allegedly hiring prostitutes. The men were preparing for Obama’s visit to Cartagena, Colombia, for the Summit of the Americas. Investigators said that the agents and 10 military personnel partied at a bordello before bringing at least 20 women back to their hotel. Local police were summoned the next morning after one woman refused to leave an agent’s hotel room, claiming she was owed money.
The agent paid up, but the incident was reported to the U.S. Embassy. Sen. Susan Collins, who sits on the Senate Homeland Security Committee, said she was pressing the Secret Service to determine whether the president’s security had been “jeopardized.”
How could elite agents be so stupid? asked The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. By acting like “college freshmen on a fraternity road trip,” these men opened themselves to blackmail and risked the president’s safety. It’s unlikely that this was the first such episode. Investigators urgently need to establish how often such behavior has occurred and how much higher-ups knew about it.
Let’s curb the outrage, said Timothy Noah in The New Republic. “Obviously you don’t want people who are supposed to be guarding the president wandering off to pick up prostitutes.” But this cavorting took place two days before Obama’s arrival, in a country where prostitution is legal. “Naughty behavior by 11 guys in dark glasses” isn’t something America should lose sleep over.
Nor should we be shocked, said Dana Milbank in The Washington Post. After all, the U.S. is the home of “Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and Snooki. Debauchery is an American specialty.” At the very least, this scandal should help refute claims that government employees are “out of touch with ordinary Americans. As it turns out, some federal workers reflect our culture all too well.”