The dust-up over 11 Secret Service agents who were patronizing Cartagena prostitutes has given some much-needed news value to another pointless multi-nation summit. The scandal broke, according to Rep. Peter King (R-New York), after police were called over some spirited hotel-room haggling about a $47 fee between a local hooker and an agent in town as part of the U.S. security detail.
This was a rare and laudable example of a Department of Homeland Security employee trying to save the taxpayers some money. It was also a demonstration of the truism that you don't pay a hooker to have sex with you; you pay her to go away afterward. (The sex pro apparently refused to leave until she was paid, thus overstaying a 7 a.m. curfew for overnight visitors.)
The story may entail some actual issues with security: The agents in question reportedly spent much of their deployment drinking.
And of course, a dispute that ends with a police report being filed and sent to the U.S. embassy pretty clearly meets the definition of unprofessional behavior that is unbecoming of the department's…that besmirches the good reputation of an agency that…that puts in jeopardy the sterling reputation of… Oh, all right: It's completely in keeping with the history of the DHS, which has in the past few years generated scandals involving contracting scams, bribery, attempted statutory rape and even diploma fraud.
Ronald Kessler, tireless author of books about government agencies, tells CBS This Morning the scandal threatens the very fabric of our nation:
Kessler called this latest incident in Colombia "a very shocking scandal."
He added the situation may be a sign of a trend because it involved supervisors. Kessler called it "just unbelievable" and a "tremendous embarrassment to the U.S."
He said that the Secret Service personnel's liaising with prostitutes could expose them blackmail to acquire access to secure areas. "They could have led to an assassination. And if you have an assassination, you nullify democracy. That's how important the Secret Service is."
Great use of the irritating verb "liaising" there. But that blackmail stuff seems like a stretch. The value-add of prostitution is that it replaces the tiresome negotiations, performance and cajoling of a hookup with a business transaction that is relatively straightforward. At 47 bucks, it's a good bet Agent Tightwad was getting a better deal financially than he would have gotten from a sexual liaison purchased with dinner and movie, drinks, dancing, flowers, feigned interest in small talk, and so on.
In this case, Colombia tolerates prostitution within certain areas, which apparently included the hotel. So where is the opportunity for blackmail? If the idea of Secret Service agents paying hookers is embarrassing, it's because we have chosen to make it so. The scandal here — and the only reason the rest of us have now had to hear all about it — is that the agent didn't want to pay the woman (presuming it was a woman) what she was asking for.