Metropolitan News-Enterprise


Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Page 7



Brouhaha in Colombia




 (The writer is a retired trial lawyer, an American Board of Trial Advocates member since 1978 and a former professor of torts at five California law schools. He counts 4,000 of his former students among California’s lawyers and judges. He was presiding referee of the Disciplinary Board, later called the State Bar Court. He is a former member of the State Bar Board of Governors—1980 to 1983—and the Judicial Council of California.)

To television watchers, the fall from glamour of the United States Secret Service is akin to the transformation of Neiman Marcus into a Goodwill store. Why did this heretofore national symbol of strength get the Lehman Brothers treatment? Simple. Twelve Secret Service agents who were to accompany the President of the United States in Colombia got into a local brouhaha with prostitutes. 

It cost them and several other implicated agents their jobs, and the reputation and glamour of the United States Secret Service took an unheard of nosedive.

Go back to 1963. A newly installed President of the United States, Lyndon B. Johnson, decided to establish a commission of distinguished citizens, headed by a then greatly admired Chief Justice, Earl Warren, to find the full facts of the assassination of President Kennedy and to report them to the American people together with specific recommendations. Quite appropriately, it was called the Warren Commission. To assist the Chief Justice, the President appointed two members of the Senate (Richard B. Russell and John Sherman Cooper), two from the House of Representatives including a future United States President (Hale Boggs and Gerald Ford), a former Solicitor General (J. Lee Rankin) and a staff of hundreds.

In creating this commission, President Johnson no doubt paid at least lip service to General Eisenhower who, two decades earlier had ordered a complete investigation and documentation of the newly liberated Nazi death camps so as to dissuade future challenges of the existence of these concentration camps. President Johnson was only partially successful. Rumors have surfaced since 1963 concerning a successful conspiracy. None were proven or valid. 

In any event, the Warren Commission was established to dissuade future conspiracy rumors and to centralize what had been a hodgepodge of investigations by the CIA, FBI and the Congress. The results were partially successful. Partially, because the findings included only one, albeit a complete misstatement. The findings reported that only misconduct by the Secret Service exposed in 1963, was a drinking party participated in by Secret Service agents the night before the assassination. It was reported that this took place but was not the cause in fact of the assassination. That was true, but the statement that there was no misconduct by the Secret Service was a complete misstatement. That is the reason why the present exposure of the Secret Service is so sensational and newsworthy. 

In fact, there had been other errors cited in the investigation of the Kennedy assassination, although none were factually the cause of the assassination. These were the failure to investigate prior threats and the failure to inspect high rise buildings or the proposed route in Dallas.

Then what created the stir in 2012? Prostitution is legal in Colombia. No statutes had been violated. There was no violence involved. No one was injured or threatened with physical harm. The dispute was strictly and solely of a civil nature which, had it reached the litigation state, was simply a problem in the law of contracts, i.e., failure of consideration, offer and acceptance or related issues. 

It was an embarrassing issue involving a venerable entity, thus newsworthy and sensational, but of no lasting value. Yet, it caused the downfall of a long-nurtured reputation of the tradition of the Secret Service.


Copyright 2012, Metropolitan News Company