Another Secret Service Scandal in Which Agents Did Something Perfectly Legal

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
April 26 2012 10:33 AM

Another Secret Service Scandal in Which Agents Did Something Perfectly Legal

Please do not interpret my headline as a knock on Chris Halsn's sleuthing. He finds an eyewitness who, in 2011:

David Weigel David Weigel

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

joined about a dozen Secret Service agents and a few U.S. military specialists at a strip club in San Salvador a few days before President Obama and his family arrived in El Salvador.
Advertisement

My emphasis. The president was not in the country yet. They didn't abandon their posts, which seems relevant here.

The scoop continues:

This source witnessed the majority of the men drink heavily ("wasted," "heavily intoxicated") at the strip club. He says most of the Secret Service "advance-team" members also paid extra for access to the VIP section of the club where they were provided a number of sexual favors in return for their cash.

What are the offenses here? The men drank alcohol, which is legal in El Salvador. They patronized a strip club: Also legal in El Salvador. They paid for sex. This, too, is legal in El Salvador, as it is in Colombia.

My former colleague Tim Noah, taking the occasional respite from his inequality-blogging, has been drilling down into the coverage of this scandals. There are real questions about discretion and whether agents can be compromised with stupid behavior. This is being outmatched by some high dudgeon of the Captain Renault variety -- why, aren't the agents who protect the president and his family (and, for a few days more, Newt Gingrich) supposed to be taciturn Clint Eastwood types who can resist any temptation?

In pop culture, the Secret Service agent is either beyond reproach, or he dies. In The West Wing, for example, an agent played by Mark Harmon protects White House spox C.J. Cregg and foils the plot against her. Alas! He falls in love with her, they go on a date, and when he ducks into a convenience store for a second, he's shot. The Secret Service agent is portrayed as a cross between Samson and a court eunuch, whose power depends on self-denial. So for scandal-furthering purposes, it doesn't matter that the partyin' agents on Mission: El Salvador managed to do their jobs.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter.