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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Secret Service Agents Reportedly Bragged To Prostitutes: ‘We Work For Obama’

People walk past Hotel El Caribe in Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday. The Secret Service sent home some of its agents for misconduct that occurred at the hotel before President Barack Obama's arrival on Friday for the Summit of the Americas. (AP)

“We work for Obama,” is what Secret Service agents told prostitutes they were partying with at a Colombian brothel, according to ABC News.

Eleven agents and at least nine members of the military have been caught up in the scandal, where the men reportedly hired prostitutes at a Cartagena brothel called “Pley Club.”

The agents were in Cartagena as part of an advance team for the President’s trip to the Latin American Summit this past weekend.

Compromising The Mission

ABC also reports that the men got into a dispute over the bill at the brothel, and when police were called, the argument spilled out into the street.

If these allegations turn out to be true, the men could be accused of compromising the mission.

The agents have been suspended, and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said Monday that the military is also embarrassed.

“We let the boss down because nobody’s talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident,” Dempsey said.

Incident Reflects Widespread Discipline Problems

Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post reporter and author of a book on the Secret Service, told Here & Now‘s Robin Young that this incident reflects widespread discipline problems at the agency.

For example, he said when Vice President Joe Biden recently threw out the first pitch at a Baltimore Orioles game, the Secret Service did absolutely no screening with metal detectors.

“That means five terrorists could have come in and taken him out with grenades,” Kessler said.

Varying Opinions On Punishment

Kessler said that the head of the Secret Service, Mark Sullivan, should be held accountable.

But on The Today Show Tuesday, Congressman Peter King (R-NY), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, defended Sullivan.

King said, “It’s wrong to be prejudging Mark Sullivan.”

Kessler said that both Sullivan and President Obama should act to fix problems at the agency.

“I think Obama is impressed by the agents around him, and they are impressive,” he said. Kessler believes that’s part of the reason that the President hasn’t stepped in to address past missteps at the Secret Service.

Obama said on Sunday that if these allegations turn out to be true, he’d be angry.

But Kessler said, that isn’t enough.

“It’s really his life that is at stake, because agents that I’ve interviewed say that they believe it’s a miracle that there hasn’t been an assassination already. I mean think what it means to let people into these events without screening for weapons,” Kessler said.

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Robin and Jeremy

Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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