Prostitution Scandal: US Secret Service Tries Image Repair

Washington, Apr 28 (IANS): The US Secret Service, disgraced by a prostitution scandal, Friday promulgated a set of new conduct guidelines for its agents, as it emerged that agents had in 2000 visited a Moscow nightclub known for raucous parties.

The Wall Street Journal reported that US Secret Service agents had visited a downtown Moscow nightclub known for raucous parties in 2000, ahead of a state visit to Russia by then president Bill Clinton.

The latest revelation follows reports of US Secret Service members visiting prostitutes in Colombia during current President Barack Obama's visit for an Americas summit earlier this month, reported RIA Novosti.

Secret Service staff and White House advance staff preparing for Clinton's state visit to Russia attended events at the Hungry Duck nightclub, the daily said citing informed source. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment on the matter.

The Hungry Duck, which opened in the mid-1990s in Moscow, featured performances by strippers and patrons, it reported.

It was set up by a Canadian, Doug Steele, together with several partners from Georgia. They sold their interest in 1998 following a dispute with a number of influential Russian officials. The nightclub closed down for good in 2009.

As many as 920 women supposedly once took part in a mass striptease at the Hungry Duck.

In the latest case related to President Obama's visit to Colombia for the Americas summit, as many as 12 Secret Service agents as well as 12 military members of the delegation were suspended from their duties and sent home for "inappropriate behaviour".

The agents allegedly visited a strip club there and some brought prostitutes back to their hotel rooms, the newspaper said.

Following the Colombia scandal, there are now new guidelines.

These will apply to agents even when they are off duty, prohibit them from drinking alcohol within 10 hours of working and visiting "non-reputable establishments", Secret Service spokesman Edwin Donovan said in a statement.

The Secret Service agents, tasked with protecting the president, are also required to attend standard-of-conduct briefings upon entering a country, where the US ambassador may impose "country-specific rules", it added.

The agents should abide by the US laws even when they are travelling abroad, and receive ethics training before they are allowed to make foreign trips, reported Xinhua on the new guidelines.

Mark Sullivan, director of the Secret Service, also urged his employees to reflect on their own conduct through the scandal that occurred in Cartagena, Colombia, ahead of Obama's visit.

"All employees have a continuing obligation to confront expected abuses or perceived misconduct," Sullivan said.

The promulgation of the new behaviour guidelines is regarded as an attempt by the Secret Service to remedy the damages to its image after the prostitution scandal in Cartagena, which has aroused widespread criticism and scrutiny from the US Congress.

The sex scandal was exposed April 12 when Cartagena police intervened in a dispute over payment between a prostitute and a Secret Service agent at a local hotel. The agent was one of the US advance team to prepare for Obama's visit to the city.

So far, eight Secret Service officers have been forced out, and three others are facing administrative discipline. Another dozen military personnel have also been disciplined by the defense department for similar misconduct.


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Title: Prostitution Scandal: US Secret Service Tries Image Repair

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