Timothy Noah’s article in the New Republic today called into question the level of outrage over allegations that Secret Service agents solicited prostitutes on their recent visit to Colombia ahead of the Summit of the Americas. While certainly embarrassing, he argues that congressional hearings and the media frenzy are unwarranted, and I agree.
The natural assumption when one hears “Secret Service agents hiring prostitutes” is that the President’s personal body men left his side to troll the streets of Washington, D.C., creating an illegal and unsafe situation. But that isn’t what happened here. There are a few facts that are crucial to this case:
- The agents were in Cartagena, Colombia, where prostitution is legal.
- The events occurred before President Obama had even arrived in Colombia; the activity took place off-hours.
- The agents have been charged by the Pentagon with violating curfew, which is ostensibly unrelated to what the agents were doing in violating such a curfew.
As Noah points out:
The cops were called not because there was evidence of prostitution, but because one of the prostitutes violated a hotel rule (seemingly designed with hanky-panky in mind) that required visitors of registered guests to leave by 7 a.m. There was also a dispute about how much one of the prostitutes ought to be paid. Had such a dispute occurred over a restaurant bill, we wouldn’t be hearing about it.
Moreover, the congressional hearings set to take place have been justified by Rep. Peter King (R-NY) as necessary because “one of those prostitutes could be paid by terror to infiltrate and hear what’s going on.” But, with regards to infiltrating a hotel room, how do the prostitutes differ from any other hotel staff? Noah goes on to ask:
If the concern is that a foreign national might have accessed such information, what about the hotel maids? What about any other hotel employee who had access to the room? Does the Secret Service manual forbid room service? Are unmarried Secret Service agents required by law to date only U.S. citizens?
The families of these agents have every right to be irate over the prostitutes. But these Secret Service agents did not put the President in harm’s way, and their only transgression, if any, was staying up too late. The American media has a dirty mind. If we get caught up in the outrage over this story, we’ll fall into the gutter, too.