Eleven of Obama’s Secret Service personnel were put on administratively leave on Saturday after each bringing a prostituted woman back with them to their hotel rooms while on “duty” in Cartenga, Columbia for the President’s Summit of the Americas. The hotel policy requires that all guests of guests leave by 7am the following day. One woman was still in the room as of 7am. Hotel staff went to the room to ask her to leave. The Secret Service personnel would not open the door. The hotel called the police. According to the news story, the woman was not leaving because the Secret Service personnel would not pay her. He finally paid her and she left.
“It was resolved quickly, the woman said she wanted to get paid, the agent said he didn’t have to pay her but he paid. There was no crime, no one was arrested.” – U.S. Rep Peter King, R-NY said after being briefed on the investigation.
Because the Secret Service has a zero tolerance policy on personal misconduct and because “it compromised the agents themselves, it compromised America’s national security and it can put the President at risk” (King), the agents were put on administrative leave until a full investigation could be carried out.
For starters, I am happy to see that the 11 agents were put on administrative leave and that an investigation is happening. But I will not be genuinely happy until I see if they are held accountable for their actions. Prostitution is legal in Columbia so long as it remains in “tolerance zones.” Therefore, they were not arrested because they were in the jurisdiction of Cartenga, Columbia. But the news stories are saying nothing about the 11 women that were prostituted by these agents. They are just reporting that “sex tourism” is prominent in cities such as Cartenga.
President Obama declared the entire month of January to be Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The U.S. produces the Trafficking in Persons report every year, which is described to be
…the U.S. Government’s principal diplomatic tool to engage foreign governments on human trafficking. It is also the world’s most comprehensive resource of governmental anti-human trafficking efforts and reflects the U.S. Government’s commitment to global leadership on this key human rights and law enforcement issue. It represents an updated, global look at the nature and scope of trafficking in persons and the broad range of government actions to confront and eliminate it.
The 2011 TIP Report stated the following about Columbia, a Tier 1 country.
Colombia is a major source country for women and girls subjected to sex trafficking in Latin America, the Caribbean, Western Europe, Asia, and North America, including the United States
The chances that a percentage, if not all, of these women that were purchased by the Secret Service agents are victims of human trafficking are extremely high. Yet no U.S. news story is mentioning this. Nor is the investigation that is being carried out claiming to be looking into the safety and well-being of these women. The United States MUST carry out their own standards whether they are on our soil or not. I hope to see this investigation unfold properly and I hope that these men are held accountable. If this does not strike a dialogue within the U.S. Government about human trafficking, mark it as yet another disappointment and failure of our country to uphold the standards and values about which we boast. Perhaps this blog piece should serve as an example of facts that journalists should pay attention to and report on.