Secret Service Scandal: They Transgressed the Unwritten Law


I still don't quite understand what the Secret Service hooker scandal is about (aside from the folly of post-purchase haggling), and this story in today's New York Times left me even more confused (emphasis added):

One official said that the misconduct in Cartagena, Colombia, ranges from personnel, including at least one veteran supervisor, who knowingly took prostitutes to their hotel rooms to at least two employees who had encounters with women who investigators now believe were not prostitutes. One officer, who is single, met a woman who investigators concluded was not a prostitute in a chance encounter at a bar before taking her to his room, according to the official.

Another, who was cleared of serious misconduct but will face disciplinary action, had taken a woman to his hotel unaware that she was a prostitute until she demanded money, the official said. The man refused to pay and told her to leave, the official said….

The investigation was complicated by the Secret Service's rules of conduct that do not appear to clearly address the issue of whether their employees — most of them are male — can spend the night with a woman in a foreign country.

One of the government officials said the misconduct standards were "kind of vague" for disciplining unmarried Secret Service personnel, as are many of those in question, who pick up a woman in a foreign country while on assignment.

On Tuesday, a spokesman for the agency declined to comment when asked about the regulations. A government official who had been briefed in recent days by Secret Service officials said that agency officials could not answer the question of whether that conduct violated agency rules.

"They said, 'We teach all our agents that if they go to Amsterdam, they cannot smoke marijuana,'" the official said.  "But they couldn't tell us whether there was anything explicit in their rules and regulations that said anything about whether one of their personnel could spend the night with a woman in a foreign country. They said they would have to get back to us on that, and they haven't."…

The Secret Service has found no evidence that the women who spent the night with the personnel were foreign agents or that the women were exposed to classified information, according to government officials.

So far nine employees have been dismissed or pushed to resign or retire, but it's still not clear whether they broke any rules? The marijuana-in-Amsterdam example suggests that having sex with women in foreign countries may be OK, as long as no money changes hands afterward, even in places (like Colombia) where prostitution is legal. (Does the same rule apply in Nevada?) But it sounds like even that much is uncertain.