WASHINGTON, Apr 28 – Embarrassed over a Colombia sex scandal, the US Secret Service has released new conduct guidelines that forbid agents from visiting “non-reputable establishments” or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms.
The “enhanced standards of conduct,” which are effective immediately, also forbid agents in the presidential protection force from consuming alcohol within 10 hours of reporting for duty, and require trips to be staffed by a supervisor from the agency’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
The rules were disseminated two weeks after more than two dozen Secret Service agents and military personnel were sent home from Cartagena, Colombia, where they had been preparing security for a visit by President Barack Obama.
They were accused of drinking heavily, visiting a strip club and consorting with prostitutes, including bringing sex workers to their hotel rooms.
Eight agents have since been dismissed, the security clearance of one other has been permanently revoked, and three others have been cleared of major misconduct, according to the agency.
Investigations into the actions by the agents and some 12 military personnel are ongoing.
The new guidelines lay out “off-limit zones and off-limit establishments for USSS personnel,” and require agents to attend standard-of-conduct briefings upon entry to a country, where the US ambassador may impose “country-specific rules,” Secret Service special agent Edwin Donovan said in a statement.
Agents will also be required to adhere to US law while abroad, and undergo ethics training in order to be eligible for foreign travel.
However Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, the ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, signalled that new rules were not enough.
He said, in a statement, that “a sheet of paper with new rules doesn’t negate the previous actions, and why it remains necessary to hold the agency and the agents accountable, following a complete and independent investigation.”
The Secret Service has been scrambling to contain a broadening scandal that originated in Colombia when an agent allegedly had a dispute over pay with an escort.
The agency acknowledged to US lawmakers on Thursday it was now investigating fresh allegations of misconduct last year in El Salvador, where agents are accused of paying for sex in the VIP section of a strip club and taking escorts to their hotel rooms ahead of an Obama visit.
“If these allegations are true, the behaviour is absolutely unacceptable,” said congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee late Thursday after a briefing by Secret Service director Mark Sullivan.
She said that in addition to the new restrictions on behaviour, Sullivan had begun putting together a “working group that’s going to deal with this issue of culture” within the agency.