The United States Secret Service, which protects the US president and other leaders, has issued new policies regarding alcohol and social media use, five months after more than a dozen agents were accused of getting drunk and partying with prostitutes in Colombia.
The Washington Post obtained the written policies released to agency employees this week. They clarify what Secret Service leaders say were always part of its unwritten code of conduct, the newspaper reported.
In a phone interview on Friday, a Secret Service agent, who asked to remain anonymous said, “This is a reinforcement and enhancement of existing policies.”
According to the new policy, agents can’t consume alcoholic beverages ten hours before coming to work.
While on official trips, agents are also not allowed to drink alcohol in the hotel where the president or any other person they may be protecting is staying.
Secret Service Director Mark Sullivan and members of Congress wanted the rules in writing to stop situations like the one in Colombia from happening again, according to the Washington Post.
A dozen Secret Service agents, who were responsible for Obama’s security and members of the military, were implicated in the incident involving substantial amounts of drinking and payments to prostitutes last April.
After the scandal broke, 12 government employees were later flown back to the US a few hours before the president was scheduled to arrive for an international economic summit.
Some agents were ousted and a few are challenging their dismissals, arguing they didn’t violate any existing rules since they were off-duty and didn’t have to report to work until the following morning. They also claim carousing on overseas trips had been tolerated in the past by Secret Service managers, the Washington Post reported.
The new policy seeks to make similar behavior a fireable offense. Agents now have to sign a nondisclosure agreement saying they won’t reveal or share sensitive information or details about the people they are protecting, and if they do disclose it, they could be terminated.
The policy regarding social media is focused on agents not releasing information about their “protectees” and advising employees to be careful about work or personal details posted to Facebook and other social media sites, the newspaper reported.
The impetus for this portion of the policy could have been former Secret Service supervisor David Chaney, who was pressured to resign following the Columbia prostitute scandal, after he joked on Facebook that he was “checking out” Sarah Palin while on assignment in 2008, according to the Post.