Friday, April 20, 2012

Case Against Secret Service Agents Falling Apart

Well, contrary to reports, no one has been fired yet concerning the incident in Columbia.  But it does appear the agents and officers are getting the Zimmerman treatment.



Yahoo News/Reuters April 19, 2012

Secret Service Agents Lawyer: "Trial By Mob" Wrong

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The attorney for some of the Secret Service agents under investigation in a scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia ahead of President Barack Obama's trip, said on Thursday a "trial by mob" was wrong. 
Lawrence Berger's comments to Reuters in a telephone interview came after the Washington Post identified the two supervisors involved as David Randall Chaney, 48, in the international programs division, who was allowed to retire, and Greg Stokes, assistant special agent in charge of the K9 division, who has been notified that he will be fired.
Berger, general counsel for the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, represents Chaney and Stokes, and took issue with news reports describing the three of the 11 agents who are leaving as being forced out.

"Nobody has been involuntarily separated from the agency as we speak today, nobody," Berger told Reuters.

"Mr. Stokes is vigorously defending himself from any of these accusations and will take full advantage of the administrative process that is available to him to do so," Berger said.

 
This is not surprising as the NYT article on the self-confessed escort hints that she demanded money the morning after as, although she was hot, no one would agree to pay $800 a night for her in a city where the going rate is much lower.  She also stated that she did not know they were Secret Service and said nothing about Obama.  She just thought they were rich Americans.

NYT April 18, 2012

The disagreement over her price — he offered $30 for services she thought they had agreed were worth more than 25 times that — set off a tense early morning quarrel in the hallway of the luxury hotel involving the woman, another prostitute, Colombian police officers arguing on the women’s behalf and American federal agents who tried but failed to keep the matter from escalating...

Sitting in her living room wearing a short jean skirt, high-heeled espadrilles and a spandex top with a plunging neckline, the prostitute described how she and another woman were approached by a group of American men at a discotheque. In an account consistent with the official version of events coming out of Washington, but could not be independently confirmed, she said the men bought a bottle of Absolut vodka for the table and when that was finished bought a second one.

They never told me they were with Obama,” she said, addressing published reports that some agents may have openly boasted to prostitutes that they were there protecting the president. “They were very discreet.”
It appears she agreed to go back to the hotel room, then according to her, sprung a "gift" issue:

There was a language gap between the woman, 24, who declined to give her full name, and the American man who sat beside her at the bar and eventually invited her to his room. She agreed, stopped on the way to buy condoms but told him he would have to give her a gift. He asked how much. Not knowing he worked for Mr. Obama but figuring he was a well-heeled foreigner, she said, she told him $800.
Of course, that might be Vegas or NYC prices, so I hear, but not appropriate or believable for Columbia.  But the key is that they met in a night club.  That, at best is false advertising, at worst a demand after the fact. 

It probably went like this, in the morning she demands an extrobinent amount, he is shocked, but to end the embarrassment, offers something more appropriate to get rid of her.  She is not so much insulted as concerned about her kickback to the hotel and her pimp, which she admits is $250.  Still awful high for Columbia, not that I have any first hand experience;  just what I read on the internet.

They knocked on the door but got no response. She threatened to call the police, but the man’s friend, who appeared on the scene, begged her not to, saying they did not want trouble. Finally, she said, she left to go home but came across a police officer stationed in the hallway, who called in an English-speaking colleague.

He accompanied her back to the room and the dispute escalated. Two other Americans from the club emerged from their rooms and stood guard in front of their friend’s locked door. The two Colombian officers tried to argue the woman’s case.

A hotel security officer arrived. Eventually, she lowered her demand to $250, which she said was the amount she has to pay the man who helps find her customers. Eager to resolve the matter fast, the American men eventually gave her a combination of dollars and pesos worth about $225, and she left.

This is supported by the fact that she had a curious web of backing from certain hotel staffers, notoriously corrupt police officers, and a taxi driver of all people. Perhaps her pimp?

Which brings us to the reported terminations.  Well, no one gets fired that fast in the Federal government.  There is an appeals process.  And, frankly, since there was no security leak, there is no case for termination.  Prostitution is apparently legal in Cartagena, and, as the story says, supported by the hotels.  No crime for the agents and officers to violate.  Not smart, but not a termination offense.

Unless, of course, they lied.  But since the Secret Service has not interviewed the girls involved, and have no direct evidence that she let herself be known at the outset as a prostitute in the first case, they have no case other than one that embarrassment was caused to the agency.  If they lied, then they have a bigger problem, but lying in internal affairs investigations is generally not punished by termination.  In fact it is a crime routinely ignored by U.S. Attorney's Offices and tolerated by many Federal agencies, like U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

So, much ado about nothing.  I predict that the Merit Services Protection Board (MSPB), or other reviewing organization, will not uphold any termination in this case abscent serious false statements by employees with previous serious disiplinary records, because, usually, the MSPB will not uphold a termination in a false statement case without the subject employee having a very checkered disiplinary history.

And, as to the Secret Service, they also have a reputation for not terminating those who make false statements.  The USSS has  a reputation for an agency of hard partiers and a Code Blue attittude to minor misconduct.  They just don't care.  It's a brotherhood born in the adversity of long, relentless hours on the job.  Unless the misconduct is serious, and the officer or agent in question does not have a "rabbi," there is not much disipline, especially if it concerns partying.

Now, if there was a really security breech, yeah, they would take action, but this appears to be an inconcieved reaction to bad PR.  Sort of like Zimmerman, but with a little more there there than with Zimmerman, who was at least completely innocent of anything.

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