Analysis: Evidence takes back seat to appearance for Secret Service

U.S. secret service agents walk around the Convention Center in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the opening ceremony of the 6th Summit of the Americas at the Convention Center in Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday, April 14, 2012. Last Thursday, a dozen secret service agents sent to provide security for U.S. President Barack Obama, were relieved from duty and replaced with other agency personnel after an incident of alleged misconduct. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

WASHINGTON – The security implications of the alleged Secret Service prostitution scandal may still be unclear, but public perception and speculation are already creating significant blowback for one of history’s most disciplined bodyguard cadre and the political arena in which they serve.

Allegations against a 12-member team of Secret Service employees working in Cartagena in advance of President Obama’s recent trip took a more visceral turn Friday morning when a picture surfaced from Facebook showing one of the three agents who have subsequently left the service discussing “checking out” Sarah Palin while he was guarding her.

The former vice presidential candidate and talking-head regular channeled “The Donald” in her response in a Fox News interview: “Well, check this out, buddy — you’re fired!”

Now, many in the White House and on Capitol Hill try to get ahead of the public backlash.

“There’s the imagery of the Secret Service as these All-American, heroic types,” say Candy Crowley, CNN chief political correspondent and host of “State of the Union with Candy Crowley,” while speaking to WTOP.

“There’s no sign the president was at any point threatened by this, but it’s just ‘icky,'” she says.

This “stunning” and “stupid” imagery is disseminated to other countries, Crowley says. At home, chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King, R-N.Y., has stated this does not reflect poorly upon Obama, but all sides of the political spectrum would like to move beyond the scandal.

“For practical, professional and political reasons, I think most people would like to get this behind them,” she says.

Others believe the impropriety of the Secret Service employees was a true breach of their security “bubble,” and is a threat even if the president wasn’t immediately at risk.

Allowing outsiders into the agent’s rooms provides them an opportunity to collect sensitive information, like Secret Service protocol or the president’s schedule, says Bob Schieffer, CBS News chief Washington correspondent and “Face the Nation” host.”

“Of course that put the president in danger,” says Schieffer. “We have no idea yet that something like that did happen, but it certainly could have happened.”

“The government is right to really get into this thing,” he says.

Unlike the recent alleged GSA scandal involving alleged gross mismanagement of taxpayer dollars, which Schieffer says simply involved “a bunch of idiots” on a wide scale, this appears to be “just some bad apples,” he says.

“No one could be more dismayed by this than those who serve,” says Schieffer.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)


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