The News Courier in Athens, Alabama

May 2, 2012

What happens in Cartagena stays in Cartagena (4-18-12)

By Adam Smith
adam@athensnews-courier.com

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Up until a few days ago, I was under the impression that being a Secret Service agent must be a terribly boring and dull job.

They’re always dressed in the same black suits, wearing mirrored Ray-Bans and have to keep those earpieces tucked firmly in their aural canals. They also never smile, ever. How would you like to have a job that required you to never crack a smile under any circumstances?

Most of their job consists of scanning quadrants of a crowd and looking for suspicious movements or people whose hands are stuck firmly inside their jackets.

They wait, day in and day out, for a sign of trouble; for a threat against the Commander-in-Chief. Of course, if a shot does ring out, it IS their job to throw their bodies in front of a speeding bullet.

Their track record is up for debate, of course. Granted, there’s no way of knowing how many credible threats against the president of the United States have been investigated and attempts thwarted.

President Kennedy, however, was brutally murdered in front of thousands of shocked onlookers as Secret Service agents walked slowly behind the motorcade. There’s also the near-assassination of President Reagan outside a New York hotel, though the Gipper survived the shooting with only a collapsed lung.

The Secret Service did, however, prevent the assassination of President Gerald Ford by Manson follower Lynette Alice “Squeaky” Fromme. She apparently didn’t really mean to kill Ford, as she had no bullet in the chamber of her semi-automatic pistol.

The recent reports out of Colombia, however, have led me to believe that being a Secret Service agent is more than just standing around and waiting. There are perks to the job, so it seems, like renting Colombian prostitutes.

A report issued Tuesday claims that as many as 20 to 21 prostitutes were brought to a hotel in Colombia by Secret Service agents and military personnel, and as many as 11 agents could have been involved. Perhaps it was a two-for-one special.

Government officials say involvement by the agents and the Marines, who were also tasked with guarding the president during last week’s trip, pose a significant security risk. They believe the Colombians prostitutes may have had access to secret details regarding the president’s whereabouts and his security detail.

“This violates the most basic rule of being a Secret Service agent: You don’t allow a potential enemy into your security zone,” said Republican Representative Peter King on NBC’s “Today” show.

There are other reports that have surfaced of agents partying it up at a club in Cartagena, some of which reportedly boasted they were in town protecting President Obama. With such a seemingly boring job, I guess they felt a need to impress the locals.

After all, what happens in Cartagena stays in Cartagena.

Another report claimed the whole scandal was exposed because one of the prostitutes wasn’t paid a fair wage. I’m not sure what a fair wage for a prostitute in Colombia is, but our agents should really consider doing what they can to stimulate the local economy while visiting foreign countries. We are in a global economy, after all.

Obama said if the details of this scandal prove true, he would be very “angry” about it. I’ve seen the president speak on television several times, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen him genuinely angry. He’s a stark contrast to Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, who just sounded angry all the time.

I’ve developed a few theories on what might have really happened. Maybe these ladies of the night weren’t really ladies of the night after all. Perhaps they are a tight-knit group of scantily-clad women who were conducting research on one of the world’s top-tier security details.

I’m not sure how many of these purported prostitutes spoke English. Perhaps there was a communication breakdown somewhere along the way. Maybe the agents requested to see “wild boars” but ended up with something else entirely.

Perhaps they were just longing for company from someone not dressed in a black suit and sunglasses. Hanging out with a group of 10 or more guys all dressed the same would make me think I was looking in a mirror at all times.

The best thing the government can do at this point is to investigate the allegations thoroughly (using taxpayer dollars) and fire any and all parties who committed wrongdoing. In this sluggish economy, I’m sure there are plenty of willing and able-bodied men who would be willing to protect El Presidente.

The job description would be fairly straightforward: Must look good in a black suit and sunglasses and have the ability to never smile, cough or sneeze. Must also have cat-like reflexes and a keen sense of impending danger. Weapons training a plus, but not a requirement. Will train over a three-month probation period. Temp-to-hire. Serious inquires only, please. No phone calls!

The cynic in me believes these agents are probably guilty, but I can’t fault them for wanting to pay (or shortchange a Colombian prostitute) for a temporary smile. After all, when you’re smiling, the whole world smiles with you.