What very odd priorities we hold.
Washington (CNN) — The White House defended the Secret Service and its director Tuesday amid an embarrassing investigation into whether several agents brought prostitutes back to their hotel in Colombia ahead of a presidential visit.
Eleven Secret Service members have been implicated in the investigation, which began Thursday after one of the women complained that she hadn’t been paid. In addition, as many as 10 U.S. military personnel from all branches of the armed forces are being questioned about potential involvement in any misconduct, two military officials told CNN.
The Americans were in Cartagena to prepare for President Barack Obama’s weekend visit to the Summit of the Americas, and Obama has said he expects a “rigorous” investigation.
The investigation is being led by Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, who has been briefing members of Congress. A leading senator said Tuesday she had been told as many as 21 women had been involved, and questioned whether the incident could have endangered the president.
“Who were these women? Could they have been members of groups hostile to the United States? Could they have planted bugs, disabled weapons, or in any other (ways) jeopardized security of the president or our country?” asked Maine’s Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
At the White House, presidential spokesman Jay Carney said Obama “has confidence” in Sullivan, who he said “acted quickly in response to this incident,” and in the agents around him….
Collins said she believed Sullivan “will fully investigate” the allegations and take “appropriate action” if the allegations bear out. But she questioned whether there was any similar misconduct on previous missions, and whether the issue is a sign of a deeper problem within the agency.
The Secret Service agents and officers involved range in experience from relative newcomers to nearly 20-year veterans, and all have been interviewed at least once, two government officials with knowledge of the investigation told CNN on Monday. Their security clearances have been pulled while the investigation is under way and could be reinstated if they are cleared, the officials said.
The agents were offered an opportunity to take a polygraph test, according to a U.S. official.
Some of the agents and military personnel maintain they didn’t know the women were prostitutes, the official told CNN.
“Even if they weren’t (prostitutes), it was totally wrong to take a foreign national back to a hotel when the president is about to arrive,” Rep. Peter King, R-New York and the chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, told CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight.”
House Oversight Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-California, said he thinks the agents should take the polygraph tests, if they haven’t already done so…
The Homeland Security Committee’s chairman, Connecticut independent Joe Lieberman, said his staff is looking into the accusations and he may call hearings on the matter…
California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein, who leads the chamber’s intelligence committee, said she was “profoundly disappointed” by the allegations…
U.S. government sources have said there was a dispute between at least one Secret Service member and a woman demanding payment. At least one of the women brought to the hotel talked with police, and complaints were filed with the U.S. Embassy, the sources said.
While soliciting prostitution is legal in certain areas of Colombia, it is considered a breach of the agency’s conduct code, the government sources said. Military law also bars service members from patronizing prostitutes, displaying conduct unbecoming an officer or, for enlisted personnel, conduct “prejudicial to good order and discipline.”
The military personnel involved were sent to Colombia to support the Secret Service. A military official who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the ongoing investigation told CNN that two of those being questioned are Marines who handle military working dogs. Air Force and Navy personnel, some of whom are believed to be explosive disposal experts, also are being questioned, the official said.
The alleged misconduct occurred before Obama arrived in Cartagena, and the Secret Service said the personnel involved were relieved of duty and sent home before the president landed. But the news broke while he was there — and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at the Pentagon on Monday that the incident distracted attention “from what was a very important regional engagement for our president.”
“So we let the boss down, because nobody’s talking about what went on in Colombia other than this incident,” Dempsey said.
Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin, D-Michigan, said he would consider holding hearings on the conduct of the members of the military involved in the scandal, but wants to learn more first. The committee’s top Republican, Arizona Sen. John McCain, said he is sure “the guilty will be punished,” but lamented that a few members of the military and Secret Service “have tarnished the reputations of many.”
Got all the big dogs out for this hunt. The White House, the Senate Homeland Security Committee, the House Oversight Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee and its Armed Services Committee, the Secret Service, the Joint Chiefs of Staff – who is not looking into this? It is the biggest, worstest thing we’ve had to investigate since that baseball player allegedly took drugs. It calls for polygraphs! Naturally, Susan Collins, the ranking Republican on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, suspects that these pros might have been terrorists and not just call-girls out to make a buck. They are Colombian, after all, which is not only a foreign country, but a foreign country full of rather tan people. But it hardly matters – nobody in Congress passes up an opportunity to throw around the t-word. We have elected many politicians to office based solely on the number of times they were able to scare the crap out of us by using the t-word and claiming they would be tough on t(errorism). We love that shit.
I particularly enjoy the fact that this all came out because one of “our” guys felt he didn’t need to pay the chick after using her services. How American. (What is the thinking here? If I don’t pay her, it’s not prostitution. Or: I don’t have to abide by the contract; I’m an American and entitled to certain freebies.) And of course, we are horrified by this and will launch Congressional hearings. And the idea that at least two (count ’em) Marines may have been involved, well, this won’t do. I see an opportunity for an example being made here.
But when our military or State Dept. people rape fellow (female) soldiers, rape and/or kill foreign civilians for fun, torture prisoners under their care, clandestinely interfere with another country’s politics, or simply shoot someone dead for the hell of it (see Christopher Deedy, Ray Davis), well, not so much swooning going on.
I have to ask; what is it that so bothers everyone about this? That the jerks were – gasp – having sex with women who were making some cash off the deal? That they were having their jollies outside their marital beds? That the pros were Latina? That our boys were expected to pay for it instead of just doing the American thing and raping some locals?
How can our media and our Congress be so concerned over this when over-the-top crimes of hate and unbridled, inhuman evil are perpetrated every day by our military, our CIA, and in our jails? Paying to have sex with a woman who makes her living that way is more horrendous and worthy of multiple agencies holding investigations than cops tasering an old bed-ridden woman to death or spraying Agent Orange directly into the faces of peaceful protesters kneeling in silence? This requires the complete attention of Congress but Abu Ghra’ib was just a few bad apples and that’s-the-end-of-that-story? No-one has been charged with the Apache helicopter massacre, while Bradley Manning, who allegedly brought this crime to light, is into his second year in jail awaiting his “speedy trial”. What really bugs the guys in charge is prostitution, or perhaps the idea of sex itself, or – who knows with these strange people – the idea of women altogether; but murder, torture, the most massive financial fraud in history, wholesale poisoning of the water and air, illegal wars,….pffft.
Bread and circuses, my friend. Enjoy the ride down – it gets faster the further you fall.