The United States service members who were part of the security detail in Colombia and now are under investigation reportedly include five Army Green Berets, two Navy Explosive Ordinance Disposal technicians, two Marine dog handlers, and an Air Force airman. Most of the 11 Secret Service agents and supervisors flown back to the United States (placed on administrative leave, their security clearances suspended) reportedly are married – which puts them in a precarious position regarding their employment with the agency…not to mention their families.
You see, adultery, like engaging a prostitute, is a no-no under military law. Further, wives do not like it very much either.
Given the shock-wave emanating through the governmental agencies this past week, it is difficult to imagine that throughout the history of war and the posting of armies far from home prostitution has been a common feature. But it has been. However, it has only quite recently, along with the issue of adultery, been specifically addressed in military law and regulation.
Proving again that “timing is everything”, the United States service members in the spotlight of scandal now not only face embarrassment and loss of livelihood, but also potential criminal prosecution for violating military law.
Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (“UCMJ”), hiring a prostitute wasn’t specifically banned until 2006 – as part of the Bush administration’s effort to combat human trafficking, which frequently, it is argued, is connected to prostitution (including the involvement of underage girls).
Whether it is or not, and what to do with it, again, is another story for another blog.
Now, because of the change in the Manual for Courts-Martial, troops who patronize prostitutes can actually receive a dishonorable discharge, forfeiture of all pay and allowances and up to a year in jail. The specific definitions of “prostitution” and “pandering” are spelled out in Article 134 of the UCMJ, as are the circumstances under which such activities are considered “to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces or … of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces.”
While prostitution is legal in parts of Colombia, it does not affect whether those accused of these dastardly deeds get prosecuted. Further, while adultery is not a crime anymore in most of the U.S,A, those in the military are not allowed to commit it. They remain subject to military law wherever they go.
“By allegedly hiring prostitutes, married Secret Service agents in Colombia violated their top-secret security clearances,” writes Ronald Kessler on the web site Newsmax. Mr. Kessler is the author of “In the President’s Secret Service: Behind the Scenes With Agents in the Line of Fire and the Presidents They Protect.”
“Every agent has such a security clearance,” Kessler wrote this past week. “An extra-marital affair if proven can be grounds for revoking a clearance. Without that, no one can be an agent…. Aside from jeopardizing security clearances, engaging prostitutes violates the basic Secret Service code of conduct.”
As a result, three of the Secret Service members have been forced out of the agency. More heads are expected to figuratively roll.
Now that it has been shown, by the way, that the alleged prostitutes involved were all adults (the youngest being 20 years old), the crusaders against the horrors of prostitution have endeavored to link the event to human trafficking. As contributing columnist Kirsten Powers wrote in USA Today, “Representatives of the US government should be setting the standard for the world, not feeding the problem of sex trafficking…The chances that the women or girls the Secret Service agents procured for their pleasure were there by free will is very low.”
Hey, it must be great to make guesses like that.
In the meantime, you might want to check out the Huffington Post article on how this scandal initially broke. Namely by one of the poor hapless victims calling the police because she was unhappy with the amount she was being paid. The article also features pictures of said victim.. . probably taken at gunpoint.
Attorney Sam’s Take On Military Law And Sex Scandals
I think I have made it reasonably clear in my postings of the Boston Criminal Lawyer Blog that I believe that keeping prostitution illegal in the Commonwealth is, to use a legal term, “stupid“.
There are many reasons for this, most of which I have pontificated about many times in these various postings.
However, is that truly what the recent scandal concerning United States law enforcement and national security operatives is about?
Well, I suppose to some extent it is. After all, one has to ask oneself whether there would have been all this attention if said operatives had been found committing other types of misdemeanors such as trespassing or disorderly conduct. Further, many are the stories we have heard (some of which the government even admits) in which government agents engage in conspiracies and assassinations abroad in our name. Sometimes even in this country. A recent book, entitled Mary’s Mosaic, by author Peter Janney discusses and, indeed, exposes, some of them. To learn about this book, see the below NOTE TO READERS and check out this website.
“Hey Sam, if prostitution is indeed legal in that country, how can there be criminal prosecution?”
Well, no prosecutions are taking place in Colombia. Nor are there any civilian criminal prosecutions taking place in the U.S. What is taking place are actions within the military’s justice system. Therefore, the issue of whether or not it is legal is actually secondary. You see, the officers are governed by military law. This law is independent of civilian law, although there are relationships between the two. The law to which members of the military must adhere differ in large part from regular civilian law which the rest of us must obey.
“So members of the military do not have to follow civilian law?”
No, they basically have to follow regular civilian law, but they have to follow military law as well. Paramount in their military law is that they must follow orders. According to accounts, these members of the military, also presumably the Secret Service, have been warned about dangers of prostitutes and other people seemingly freer with their bodies in foreign countries. Such folks are considered untrustworthy. Further, as mentioned above, any sexual act out of wedlock for married members is also out of bounds.
The limitations of freedom go far beyond these types of activities. While the rest of us still enjoy, to some extent, a First Amendment freedom of speech, such is not the case with the military. To speak against a superior officer, or the president (who is, after all, commander in chief), is also tantamount to a crime.
So…the bottom line…is it all about the sex workers in this story?
No, not really. We can debate the pros and cons for the military code, and the limitations it puts on those in the service of this country. However, as things stand…the actions were “illegal” and any arguments about legalizing prostitution are actually irrelevant.
NOTE TO READERS
For those of you who have the common sense to be concewrned about more violent and illegal actions on the part of the government which leads our federal Justice system, you may be interested in my next blog. It actually contains an EXCLUSIVE which none of the other news or blog outlets covering the release of Mary’s Mosaic have released!
To view the article upon which this blog is based, please go to http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/2012/0419/Secret-Service-and-US-military-Why-prostitution-can-end-careers