Scandal for Engaging in Legal Activity

The Secret Service prostitution scandal in Columbia is interesting.  My understanding is that prostitution is legal in the particular area where this occurred.  So in effect we have a scandal here about engaging in a legal activity.  Things that would convert this to an actual scandal in my mind:

  • The officers were on duty, or were on call in some way that there are rules about what they can be doing which they violated (in which case I would be more worried about the drinking)
  • The call girls were hired with taxpayer money  (it is only legal to give taxpayer money to corporate whores like Solyndra, not Columbian whores).  Bobby Patrino might have survived the adultery scandal if he hadn't paid her with his employer's money.

The most likely issue is one  of representation.  "You can do whatever you want on your own time, but not when you are representing us."    As in most scandals, the biggest crime will turn out to be bringing negative attention to one's employer.  With which I can sympathize.  If these bozos brought negative attention to me when they were travelling on business representing me, I'd fire them in a second.

Which gets me thinking that I could easily get sued for doing so.  I am pretty sure I don't have a rule in the employee manual that says you can be fired after getting in the papers for haggling with prostitutes.    Even though common sense says that by embarrassing the company they are putting their jobs at risk, common sense does not rule the legal world of employer law.   In my experience, the whole legal process is tilted against the employer, with the presumption being that the employer is a rapacious asshole firing people for no reason unless proven otherwise  (you are saying your employees are "at will?"  I laugh at your naivete).   The employee would just say that there was no rule against getting negative publicity for hiring prostitutes on a business trip and that their activity was entirely legal where it occurred.

Since it is entirely unlikely I will add a morality clause to our employee manual, I think I will add something about actions that bring harm or disrepute to the company.

  • NL_

    I can only conclude that either you didn't have a lawyer review the manual or you overruled any lawyer you did consult. The habit of lawyers it write contracts, manuals, and documents in a way that reserves to the person covering their billable hours every right to do everything or nothing everywhere or nowhere at any time or no time for any reason or no reason.

    It's really ridiculous because lawyers are so trained to be combative and over-protective that they carry this habit into writing independent contractor agreements. And by claiming so much power and so many rights, they make it very difficult for courts to uphold independent contractor status when the workers comp board or unemployment board or tax man comes calling.

  • AWM

    I think the major reason to jump on this sort of thing given the security role of the persons concerned, is the fact that they may have passed on confidential information and/or can be subject to blackmail, both of which would be a real issue for security. History shows this situation has led to this outcome many times. The scandal thing is also an issue but not the important one, nor the driver for the reaction of the Secret Service or military as far as I can see.

  • Rob

    According to the office of the US ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas:
    The US would continue to be a "strong and dedicated partner of the Filipino people in combating the global scourges of human trafficking and sexual tourism".

    Thomas also told the conference on human trafficking in the Philippines last month that the sex tourists included Americans and that it was "something I'm not proud of". He urged Philippine authorities to prosecute all foreign sex tourists, including Americans.

  • ScottE

    It was legal until they refused to pay for services rendered.

  • Ted Rado

    It is a sad commentary that we worry about USG employees visiting prostitutes while we are going $15 trillion in the hole. I would much rather that the entire congress went to the whorehouse and quit pissing away my money. Much ado about nothing.

  • Mark

    "It is a sad commentary that we worry about USG employees visiting prostitutes'

    You all are total morons if you do not understand why this is an issue. These are not just some ordinary GS-11 pencil pushing administrators. These are individuals responsible for the security and LIFE of the President of the United States and other representatives of the government. Compromising such individuals is an extreme risk to their safety and such activity cannot and will not be tolerated.

    Again, if you do not understand this, YOU ARE DUMB.

  • Dan

    Simple. Federal employees are flat-out banned from employing prostitutes anywhere in the world, regardless of local legality or duty status. The issue is human trafficking and its extreme prevalence in the international sex trade. Every Fed is supposed to be trained on this. If these law enforcement officers weren't trained, fire them, fire their bosses, and fire their bosses' bosses.

  • DoctorT

    "you are saying your employees are “at will?”"

    Only if they are in a managerial or supervisory position in a non-government workplace. Those employees can be fired at will. Firing other employees depends on union contracts (if applicable) and state laws.

    What is the logic that makes it acceptable for an employee to quit at any time for any reason (and possibly leave the company in a bind) but unacceptable for an employer to fire an employee even with good reason?

  • DoctorT

    Dan: "Simple. Federal employees are flat-out banned from employing prostitutes anywhere in the world, regardless of local legality or duty status..."

    I believe Dan made up that regulation. I was an employee of the federal government (Veterans Health Administration) from 2003 to 2008. I never heard of any such requlation and never received any training about prostitution or human sex trafficking. Searches of the U. S. Office of Personnel Management and the U. S. Office of Government Ethics web sites found no mention of prostitution, prostitutes, sex traffic, or sex trafficking in regards to employee behavior. In contrast, there were many hits for "illegal drug" on the OPM site.

  • Agammamon

    Its a couple of things that are at the root of the problem here.

    1. It may be legal there, but its not legal or socially acceptable here. Both of those open up the agents to be compromised, especially if the agent is married as I'm sure the wife isn't going to care that it was legal. And American law has a disturbing tendency to make the assumption that it has jurisdiction over all Americans no matter where they are.

    2. Our government has long conflated sex work with white slavery. The assumption is that since some woment are forced into it then all are. Right now there are standing orders throughout all the military services that forbids servicemembers from seeing prostitutes, even in places where it is legal. I imagine that that order has been given in the security services also.

    HTe fight over $47 doens't surprise me though. Guys can be dicks about that sort of thing, especially out of the country. They start to feel that they're above the law. On one of my deployments we stopped in Ecuador and a couple of our airdet guys accidently killed a security guard simply because he wouldn't let them bring a pro back to their room right then and there.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> The call girls were hired with taxpayer money (it is only legal to give taxpayer money to corporate whores like Solyndra, not Columbian whores).

    Clearly, all we need to resolve this is for the whores in Columbia to incorporate and apply for a subsidy from Team 0.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >> Only if they are in a managerial or supervisory position in a non-government workplace.

    This is largely controlled at the state level -- Florida is an at-will state, for example. And most any job in FL is an at-will fire, I believe. As long as it's not in violation of certain specific unacceptable guidelines -- race, for example.

  • Dan

    Didn't make it up. Just overestimated. It's in the UCMJ, and applies only to military and DoD civilians overseas.

  • http://space4commerce.blogspot.com/ Brian Dunbar

    My understanding is that prostitution is legal in the particular area where this occurred. So in effect we have a scandal here about engaging in a legal activity.

    Our employee manual and code of conduct has words that (paraphrase) require us to conduct ourselves abroad as if we were at home.

    The examples from training covered 'bribes', not whores. But I imagine buying such services would be cause for termination.

  • IGotBupkis, Legally Defined Cyberbully in All 57 States

    >>> The employee would just say that there was no rule against getting negative publicity for hiring prostitutes on a business trip and that their activity was entirely legal where it occurred.

    I can pretty much say that, if you were in FL, you would not have this problem. FL is about as "right to work/fire" as you can get. I had a good job and, in quantifiable terms, can demonstrate that I was doing better work than my co-workers, yet I was terminated, and at least two different attorneys indicated I had no standing to sue at all, they could fire me because "they didn't like the cut of my jib". It was not managerial -- it was salaried and professional but I had no authority over others. The employer was quite concerned with any kind of hostility in the workplace, as long as it wasn't directed against males -- we were required to sign at least two documents expressing this policy. Against males, though, well, THAT was A-OK.

  • Bill

    I think the issue is that you can't have any foreign nationals who haven't been thoroughly vetted socializing with a security detail, and especially not socializing intimately. If the "bad guys" find out that the secret service is hiring prostitutes, they can use a prostitute to learn the names and information of the security agents, as well as how many agents there are, when the president is coming, where he is going, and what route they will be taking.

    When a security detail does an advance scout, they arguably don't have any down time. It is not like traveling for a business conference. They are supposed to do their job the whole time, which includes remaining a mystery to all foreign nationals who don't have clearance to know what they are doing.

  • Mark2

    @Mark

    If something happens, there is always Biden and then Boehner, and then ...

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_presidential_line_of_succession

    Janet is at number 18. Help us all if we get to Janet.

  • Dan

    Are we really addressing the real problem? Our president is off to Cartagena to 'party'. (His words) He then went farther and said he was scoping the place out for he and Michelle's next vacation.

    Since the Secret Service was doing his security investigation at the time alleged, isn't the natural conclusion that they were pre-checking the president's entertainment?

  • JoshK

    I agree with the above comments re:security. These secret services guys have to conduct themselves with extreme caution all the time. This is one of the few jobs where the employer can rightly peek into the private life of an employee.

  • Rich Ridenour

    Dan is correct, the UCMJ now bars all military and overseas DoD employees from engaging in prostitution, locally legal or not. Considering the basis for this (US Gov pledge to combat Human Traficking) I would be surprised if the Treasury Department and other agencies did not have a similiar rule in effect. Okay, maybe I wouldn't actually be surprised...

  • JKB

    These guys had contact with foreign nationals and brought them into an area being secured for the POTUS. I'm sure there are detailed rules about their interaction with foreign nationals on official travel or not. They have on them classified and export restricted technology that the ladies could have gained access to post-coitus. Many were married and therefore subject to being compromised by foreign agents.

    Morality rule or not, there is every reason to pull their security clearances based on lack of judgement. Such decisions are not reviewable by any court although I guess they could appeal to the higher clearance granting authority, the POTUS. No security clearance, no job. Worse, no moving over to another agency.

  • http://space4commerce.blogspot.com/ Brian Dunbar

    Didn’t make it up. Just overestimated. It’s in the UCMJ, and applies only to military and DoD civilians overseas.

    UCMJ applies to civilians? How do they enforce it? How does one take a DoD civilian to the Colonel for office hours?

    What bit under UCMJ are they enforcing this?

  • Ted Rado

    I guess us "dumb" guys still think there are bigger fish to fry than a bunch of USG employees going to the whorehouse. I am sure foreign agents can come up with something else to penetrate presidential security. Maybe I should quit worrying about the national debt, etc., and concern myself with hookers.

  • Ted Rado

    People get fired all the time for doing things that embarass their employer. There does not need to be a written policy. If you wrote up every little thing that the employer could find fault with, it would fill a book. Let's use some common sense. Don't do stupid things which could cost you your job.

  • happyjuggler0

    Warren,

    It is routine for US military personnel while on leave overseas to have sex with prostitutes. Not everyone does it, and it is frowned upon, but the military looks the other way. I fail to see why anything changes with regards to "representing the US" when the men at issue happen to work for a different branch of the US government.

  • Mark

    "Maybe I should quit worrying about the national debt, etc., and concern myself with hookers.
    "

    I guess since it is obvious that it is either worrying about hookers OR worrying about the national debt. And, those problems certainly need YOU to be worrying about them.

  • Ted Rado

    Mark:

    The problem is that it is not ME that needs to be worrying about the nations problems. EVERYONE needs to be worrying. We are headimg for a train wreck and are diverting attention to young men going to the whorehouse. That does not seem like a logical priority to me.

    We have had a governor going to Argentina for sex, a president getting oral sex in the oval office, a presidential candidate using campaign funds for his pregnant mistress, etc.etc. This latest episode is small potatoes compared to all that in terms of national embarrasment.

  • Mark

    "This latest episode is small potatoes compared to all that in terms of national embarrassment."

    THen it is clear you have very little aptitude for thinking about this. This is a major problem. It isn't political, but it does sound like there needs to be housecleaning in the Secret Service. Apparently, if you were in charge you would wait until the budget is balanced because you can only work on one thing. Of course, your mind might change if they were actually protecting you.

    Regardless, believe it or not, even the government can work on more than one issue at a time.

  • ErisGuy

    "So in effect we have a scandal here about engaging in a legal activity."

    Good thing the agents weren't in a country where what our laws regard as pedophilia is legal. That would be an even worse non-scandal. I hear slavery is legal in some countries. Do our agents own slaves? Would that be another non-scandal?

  • RealityCheck

    Their quarters are considered secure. Each of the guys has the President's secret schedule and the girls had access to this information.

  • GregS

    The issue, as a few other people have said, is security. The Secret Service is responsible for protecting the president's life. So Secret Service agents must not do anything that would open themselves up to being blackmailed, even if that activity is legal. Imagine that one of these agents, after visiting a prostitute, is then approached by someone with photos of his activities with her and is told: "tell us the details of the president's security arrangements, or we will send these photos to your wife." There's plenty of people who would cave in to blackmail like that.

  • Kevin

    I suspect the Secret Service, like most law enforcement agencies, has a catch-all clause in their manual covering conduct unbecoming and conduct detrimental to the reputation of the agency. Legal but questionable conduct would likely be covered under these codes of conduct.

  • Ted Rado

    Mark:

    You keep distorting my comments. The president's secutity is certainly important. I am sure the secret service will deal with the problem without all the flap in the media. Those that want to fixate on this episode are welcomre to do so. I think the fuss is way beyond reason and should (and will) be dealt with properly. If you want to put its import right up there with more critical issues, go ahead. It is your right to do so.

  • http://space4commerce.blogspot.com/ Brian Dunbar

    HappyJuggler0
    It is routine for US military personnel while on leave overseas to have sex with prostitutes. Not everyone does it, and it is frowned upon, but the military looks the other way.

    I never did, but I could have engaged the services of a girl in Kinville. No problem.

    If I brought her back the com center, where we stashed all the crypto gear and other TS material ... big problem.

    The lack of OPSEC awareness on the part of these guys is startling, and more than a little disturbing.

  • Mark2

    Turns out that it wasn't just visiting prostitutes, there was a US crime involved. These guys had Top Secret clearance with numerous special riders (Sometimes called Yankee White - meaning they can get their hands on just any secure document available)

    Part of having a clearance, is that you are suppose to safeguard classified data, and properly dispose of it, and most importantly NOT SHOW IT TO PEOPLE WHO SHOULD NOT SEE IT.

    Well apparently these guys had the exact itinerary of the President - Top Secret info, out in the open on a table, in a non-secure environment - while these hookers were in the room.

    That is not only fire-able, it is jail-able, and can even be life threatening, if the breach was classified as espionage.

    So let them have their hookers, but the book needs to be thrown at these guys.

  • http://space4commerce.blogspot.com/ Brian Dunbar

    (Sometimes called Yankee White – meaning they can get their hands on just any secure document available)

    No. YW refers only to the clearance for personnel assigned work with the President and Vice-President.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yankee_White

    Example - I held what wiki calls YW Category 2. But the idea that I could just read any secure document I wanted to is laughable.