In the wake of the recent scandal involving prostitutes in Colombia, the Secret Service has rolled out new rules for how employees should act in foreign countries, and it’s getting help from the State Department. From now on, foreign affairs officers will brief Secret Service employees on areas considered off limits.
“The State Department operates in about 165 countries with over 275 posts around the world,” Undersecretary for Management Patrick Kennedy said. “So, we are on the front lines of American national security abroad.”
Kennedy told The Federal Drive with Tom Temin and Emily Kopp that the State Department has a history of dealing with personal conduct overseas.
“State Department employees represent the United States abroad 24 hours a day,” Kennedy said. “We advocate and represent for U.S. ideals and values, so we’re very clear no one should be involved in what we term as ‘notoriously disgraceful conduct.'” The agency follows the Foreign Affairs Manual, a set of policy documents which, Kennedy said, is “based on the Code of Federal Regulations, the State Department Basics Act, the Foreign Service Act and wide range of other statutes.”
“Sex trafficking is just something that’s abhorrent to American values, and so our personnel, employees and chief of mission personnel, irrespective of their agency, are banned from this type of activity,” Kennedy said.
According to Kennedy, State Department employees can be penalized for a variety of personal conduct missteps, including adultery.
“Our employees, because they have high level security clearances, we are very, very concerned about people potentially being blackmailed,” Kennedy said. “We don’t believe that anyone should put themselves in any kind of compromising position in regards to their conduct abroad. Certainly, engaging in adultery is something that could potentially compromise you subject to blackmail and then potentially endanger the national security.”
He said that cases involving personal conduct problems have occured at the State Department. “When they do arise — and they do not arise often — we do take rigorous and appropriate action,” Kennedy said.
Even though an activity, such as prostitution, may be legal in a foreign country, the State Department edicts — and U.S. mores — take precedent.
The U.S. government represents a society of laws and rules, Kennedy said. That’s why it’s important that the boundaries of conduct are spelled out clearly so that there is no confusion about what constitutes acceptable behavior.
“It is not appropriate in my mind to hold people responsible for activities when you have not laid them out clearly,” Kennedy said. “Obviously, there are certain things that are common sense … but because we’re a nation of laws and rules, we write down the needs and bounds of conduct. By doing that, I think it very much easier for us to be able to enforce those rules of conduct should someone violate them.”
According to Kennedy, the Secret Service and Director Mark Sullivan have taken positive steps to prevent future missteps of personal behavior.
“Since our regional security officers and our political officers are present in every embassy around the world where the Secret Service might be going as part of their mission, we’re making ourselves available to conduct briefings on individual situations in the country that they’re traveling to,” he said.
Tom Temin is the host of The Federal Drive, which airs from 6-10 a.m. on 1500 AM in the Washington, D.C. region and online everywhere. Tom has 30 years experience in journalism, mostly in technology markets. Before coming to Federal News Radio, he was a long-serving editor-in-chief of Government Computer News and Washington Technology magazines.