The Secret Service Sex Scandal: Boys Being Boys?

The Hotel Caribe in Colombia, where Secret Service agents allegedly partied with prostitutes while doing advance …The Secret Service prostitution scandal reached new lows on Thursday, as three of the accused agents lost their jobs and eight more had their top security clearances suspended and were put on administrative leave. Ten members of the U.S. Military are also under investigation for misconduct in conjunction with the incident, which took place in Cartagena, Colombia, when the agents and military servicemen were doing work in advance of President Barack Obama's arrival for the Summit of the Americas last week.

After letting loose at a local strip club, about 20 women were allegedly brought back to the Hotel Caribe for a pre-planned party with Secret Service agents and members of the U.S. Marines, most of whom were married, ABC News reported. Local police were called to the hotel after one woman complained that a Secret Service agent refused to pay her the $800 they had agreed upon at the club.



That's right: This whole situation came to light because a member of America's elite protection services woke up drunk and tried to rip off a prostitute.

Is the "party hearty" mindset part and parcel of being in the Secret Service? When does a guy's ego and his disrespect for women, his job, and the office of the President overrule his instinct to avoid scandal?

No one is worried about whether the agents and Marines broke the law (they didn't, by the way, since prostitution is legal in Colombia). The concern is about a potential security breach, a lapse of judgement among those who are tasked with keeping the President safe, and a lack of awareness about what their actions say about the United States. As former head of the Secret Service W. Ralph Basham told the Los Angeles Times, "From the day you walk in the door, it [is] stressed upon you that you are representing the White House and the president himself."

Former agents, however, seem to think the only problem was that their brothers-in-arms got caught.

One recently retired Secret Service agent told the LA Times "I don't see the problem" as long as the agents were in a place where prostitution was legal (interestingly, he spoke on condition of anonymity "because he is married," the newspaper reported). "Agents are people, too," a female former agent told the LA Times, dismissing the idea of a security problem. "What if they had picked up these people in a bar? What's the big deal?"

On NPR's "Talk of the Nation" Wednesday night, Jeffrey Robinson, co-author of "Standing Next to History: An Agent's Life Inside the Secret Service," chillingly chalked the incident up to normal guys doing what normal guys do.

"When you get 11 guys together with a lot of testosterone, things happen," he told host Neal Conan. "It happens in the Secret Service, it happens with the New York Yankees, it happens in fraternities. I suspect it would happen in the House of Representatives."

"I don't honestly think that they, at any time, exposed the president to any sort of real danger," he continued. "I think it was simply boys being boys, and I'm afraid boys will be boys. I know, because I was one. I still am, I guess."

Never mind the misogyny, the exploitation of women, the lack of respect for the office of the President, and the possibility that sensitive information could have been stolen. Instead, Robinson fixated on the fact that the 11 Secret Service agents who got caught are now suffering a massive blow to their… pride.

"These men are going to have to face those men who were insulted by this incident," he said. "They have a very rough road to go, because with the pride that they have… and the damage they've done, I don't think they stand much of a chance of keeping their jobs."

The issue isn't what these guys choose to do in their personal lives or whether or not they should have been partying on the job. Members of the most elite forces in the country are supposed to be much better than the basest among us. And to chalk their behavior up to "boys being boys" is an insult to men everywhere.

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