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Editorial: Disturbing scandals

Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini, right, and Inspector General Brian Miller, answer questions on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Acting GSA Administrator Dan Tangherlini, right, and Inspector General Brian Miller, answer questions on Capitol Hill Wednesday.
Associated Press

As more details emerge in the case of Secret Service agents behaving badly in South America, the matter becomes more disturbing and more demanding of a vigorous, transparent and timely investigation.

What allegedly occurred in a hotel in Colombia on the eve of a presidential visit amounts to more than a political or diplomatic embarrassment. Incidents like this raise legitimate questions not only about the conduct of individual public servants, but about an environment that might permit such behavior in the first place.

Taken in tandem with revelations of lavish spending by the General Services Administration for a conference in Las Vegas, one begins to wonder whether a culture of profligacy and promiscuity has managed to infiltrate quarters of our federal government.

If so, it must be rooted out and vanquished, post haste.

In the case of the men assigned to guard the president, it defies imagination that ranking agents would think for a moment that the conduct they are accused of is in any way acceptable or even explainable.

The Secret Service has cultivated an image of a dedicated and buttoned-down battalion of highly trained sentinels. As such, the visage of a globe-trotting fraternity party does great dishonor to its proud legacy of service and duty.

The General Services Administration is charged with the oversight of Uncle Sam's real estate holdings. Americans rely on the agency to be frugal and efficient in its work. The notion that sober managers would approve the expenditure of nearly a million dollars for a conference in Las Vegas stretches the bounds of credulity.

Congress has begun hearings on the GSA's behavior, and there will no doubt be similar inquiries into what happened in the hotel in Cartagena, Colombia. In both cases, accountability must be pressed.

The facts must be fully aired and the scope of the problem clearly assessed. Then, it is critical appropriate actions are taken to insure against any recurrence of behavior that so severely tests our faith in a well-managed government.