Will Infamous Secret Service Agents Now Have Clearance Issues?
Just because it’s legal, doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
The news has been flooded with coverage of the secret service agents and military personnel who allegedly engaged prostitutes and indulged in drunken debauchery as a part of an advance team sent to prepare for President Obama’s trip to Colombia for the Summit of the Americas.
Secret service agents are required to obtain top secret security clearances as a part of their work. As a law enforcement body with a vital connection to national security and the safety of the president, they’re also held to personal conduct standards.
Prostitution is legal in Colombia, but violated the standards of the secret service as well as opening up the agents for possible blackmail. While this incident is spread all over the news, the question security clearance investigators and supervisors will be asking is whether or not this has happened before. (And the agents might as well start preparing for their polygraph examinations now…)
Foreign intelligence agents use every tool in their arsenal – including sex – as a means to coerce, and possibly blackmail targets for information and access. One need look no further than the Russian spy ring’s ‘red hot’ Anna Chapman as a demonstration of how sex, or sex appeal, is used to tease out information. Engaging in prostitution – even in countries where it is legal – also raises “lack of discretion” and “poor judgment” concerns.
It’s likely that if the charges against the agents are verified they will lose their jobs, most definitely. Whether or not they would be able to maintain a security clearance would likely depend on how egregious the behavior was and whether or not it was an isolated incident or a pattern of untrustworthy and potentially harmful behavior. News reports are saying that the accused agents have already had their clearances revoked pending the investigation. This should come as no surprise, and is a standard response in an investigation where issues of blackmail and access to sensitive information are concerned.
For the average security cleared professional, without such close access to the White House and with little risk to blackmail, it’s unlikely that visiting a prostitute in a country where it was legal would result in clearance issues. But you’d have to be so sure you wouldn’t succumb to blackmail or foreign influence and that you’d be okay with the story being told across the evening news.