WASHINGTON - Embarrassed by a prostitution scandal, the Secret Service will assign chaperones on some trips to enforce new rules of conduct that make clear that excessive drinking, entertaining foreigners in hotel rooms, and cavorting in disreputable establishments are no longer tolerated.
The stricter measures, issued by the Secret Service on Friday for agents and employees, apply even when traveling personnel are off duty.
The policies, outlined in a memorandum obtained by the Associated Press, are the agency's latest attempt to respond to the scandal that surfaced as President Obama was headed to a Latin American summit in Cartagena, Colombia, earlier this month.
The embattled Secret Service director, Mark Sullivan, urged agents and other employees to "consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks."
Sullivan said the rules "cannot address every situation that our employees will face as we execute our dual missions throughout the world." He added: "The absence of a specific, published standard of conduct covering an act or behavior does not mean that the act is condoned, is permissible, or will not call for - and result in - corrective or disciplinary action."
"All employees have a continuing obligation to confront expected abuses or perceived misconduct," Sullivan said.
Ethics classes will be conducted for agency employees this week.
The changes were intended to stanch the embarrassing disclosures since April 13, when a prostitution scandal erupted in Cartagena involving 12 Secret Service agents, officers, and supervisors and 12 more enlisted military personnel who were there ahead of Obama's visit to the Summit of the Americas.
But the new policies raised questions about claims that the behavior discovered in Cartagena was an isolated incident: Why would the Secret Service formally issue new regulations covering thousands of employees if such activities were a one-time occurrence?
"It's too bad commonsense policy has to be dictated in this manner," said Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R., Iowa), a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee. "New conduct rules are necessary to preventing more shenanigans from happening in the future, and whether these are the best, and most cost-effective, rules to stop future misconduct remains to be seen."
The rules did not mention prostitutes or strip clubs. But they prohibit employees from allowing foreigners, except hotel staff or foreign law enforcement colleagues, into their hotel rooms. They also ban visits to "nonreputable" establishments, which were not defined. The State Department was expected to brief Secret Service employees on trips about areas and businesses considered off-limits to them.
During trips in which the presidential limousine and other bulletproof vehicles are transported by plane, senior-level chaperones will accompany agents and enforce conduct rules, including one from the agency's Office of Professional Responsibility.
The chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, Rep. Peter King (R., N.Y.), praised the new rules as "very positive steps by the Secret Service to make clear what is expected of every agent and also makes clear what will not be tolerated."
The Secret Service has forced eight employees from their jobs and was seeking to revoke the security clearance of another employee, which would effectively force him to resign. Three others have been cleared of serious wrongdoing.