Traverse City Record-Eagle

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May 12, 2012

Breaches of public trust

There are a couple of pieces of good news regarding the Secret Service sex scandal.

The first is that an investigation has determined the women hired as prostitutes by Secret Service agents in Columbia apparently were just that.

Concerns had been raised that they might be spies for terror groups or drug cartels seeking access for an attack on President Obama during his visit to that country.

Second, Washington has refrained from trying to make this a political issue. At least there is recognition that the safety of the president and other top government officials is a bipartisan concern.

But beyond that, the reckless behavior reported in Columbia is deeply disturbing. And it has gotten the government's attention. Heads have rolled and others may lose their jobs before it is all over ...

It's not unusual that individuals engaged in high-stress responsibilities would want to blow off some steam when they are not on duty. But the activities in Columbia — with indications (that) similar circumstances have occurred elsewhere on foreign trips — involves more than a little steam ...

Common sense, common ethics and a concern for institutional reputation should have stopped Secret Service agents from doing what they did in Columbia ...

The easy answer to all of this is better oversight. Improved mechanisms are needed to monitor spending and demand accountability.

However, rules are effective only so long as the people they apply to follow them. In the end, firing people becomes the last resort for ending a flawed sense of entitlement.

New Castle News, New Castle, Pa.

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