Sun, Apr 29, 2012 - Page 7 News List

Secret Service conduct rules tightened

NOT SO SECRET:A top republican politician said that if a pattern of behavior became evident, then the position of the Secret Service director could quickly become untenable

AP, Washington

Seeking to shake the disgrace of a prostitution scandal, the US Secret Service late on Friday tightened rules of conduct for its agents to prohibit them from drinking excessively and visiting disreputable establishments while traveling, or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms.

The new policies apply to Secret Service agents even when they are off duty while traveling, barring them from drinking alcohol within 10 hours of working, according to a memorandum describing the changes obtained by The Associated Press.

In some cases under the new rules, chaperones will accompany agents on trips. Embattled US Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan, urged agents and other employees to “consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks.”

The Secret Service said it would hold a training session on ethics next week.

The agency-wide changes are intended to staunch the embarrassing disclosures since April 13, when a prostitution scandal erupted in Colombia involving 12 Secret Service agents, officers and supervisors, and 12 enlisted military personnel who were there ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to a South American summit.

However, the new policies announced on Friday raised questions about claims that the behavior discovered in Cartagena was an isolated incident: Why would the Secret Service formally issue new regulations covering thousands of employees if such activities were a one-time occurrence?

“It’s too bad common sense policy has to be dictated in this manner,” said US Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

“New conduct rules are necessary to preventing more shenanigans from happening in the future, and whether these are the best, and most cost effective, rules to stop future misconduct remains to be seen,” he added.

The new rules did not mention prostitutes or strip clubs, but they prohibit employees from allowing foreigners — except hotel staff or foreign law enforcement colleagues — into their hotel rooms. They also ban visits to “non-reputable” establishments, which were not defined.

The US Department of State was expected to brief Secret Service employees on trips about areas and businesses considered off-limits to them.

During trips in which the presidential limousine and other bulletproof vehicles are transported by plane, senior-level chaperones will accompany agents and enforce conduct rules, including one from the service’s Office of Professional Responsibility.

Meanwhile, the operator of the “Lips” strip club in San Salvador, Dan Ertel, organized a news conference late on Friday, at which he said he did not know whether any Secret Service employees were among his customers.

Ertel said the club was the only one in the country where prostitutes did not work, but a dancer who identified herself by her stage name, Yajaira, said she would have sex with customers for money after her shift ended.

“You can pay for dances, touch a little, but there’s no sex,” she said. “But if somebody wants, if they pay me enough, we can do it after I leave at 3am,” she said.

The Republican chairman of the US House of Representatives Homeland Security Committee Representative Peter King, praised the new rules as “very positive steps by the Secret Service to make clear what is expected of every agent and also makes clear what will not be tolerated.”

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