Secret Service scandal widens with misconduct allegations in El Salvador, Argentina, Russia

Here and Now

The U.S. Secret Service scandal is expanding. Agents may also have caroused with prostitutes or strippers in El Salvador in 2011, Argentina in 2009 and possibly Moscow in the early 2000s.

That’s according to a series of media reports in recent days that seem to cast doubt on what had been the prevailing message: the Colombia incident was isolated and not indicative at all of a college of boys gone wild.

The Secret Service investigation continues into the Colombia incident and recently Congressional leaders said they were also examining the El Salvador incident. A Secret Service spokesman said the Argentina and Russia incidents, which were during trips by President Bill Clinton at the end of his term and after he left office, were just rumors.

The Pentagon is investigating its service members conduct, recently added a 12th soldier to its investigation. So are the Senate’s Judiciary and Armed Services committees. The Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is expected to hold hearings next month.

Ronald Kessler, chief Washington correspondent for and author of “In the President’s Secret Service” broke the Colombia prostitution story. He still believes this scandal isn’t far-reaching.

“I think some of these more recent reports mix up going to parties and going to bars with actual hiring of prostitutes, where agents could be compromised,” Kessler said. “I know, from my book … agents really do not engage in this kind of behavior.”

The question is, according to Kessler, how was this allowed to happen in the first place? 

Kessler views this as a symptom of larger managerial problems, where corner-cutting is acceptable. So, if anything good comes out of this, it’s that the Secret Service’s practices are being put under the microscope, he said.

Sen. Harry Reid, the Democratic leader of the Senate, said there was a simple way the Secret Service could help solve its culture problem: hire more women. The Secret Service is dominated by men, and many have said the boy’s club atmosphere led to some of these embarrassing incidents.

Kessler said the Secret Service is overloaded today, and often doesn’t have enough personnel on hand for the security it needs to provide. That’s based on conversations he’s had with Secret Service agents.

As an example, he cites canceled firearms and physical fitness tests, as well as events where White House or campaign staffs have demanded the Secret Service let crowds into an event, even without the appropriate screening by metal detectors.

“That’s the real scandal,” he said. “Somehow, Mark Sullivan, the director, has been able to survive all that.”

Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.