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Agents face post-scandal crackdown

The US Secret Service has tightened conduct rules for its agents in a bid to shake off the disgrace of a prostitution scandal.

The tougher rules ban them from drinking excessively, visiting disreputable establishments while travelling, or bringing foreigners to their hotel rooms.

The new behaviour policies apply to Secret Service agents even when they are off duty while travelling, barring them from drinking alcohol within 10 hours of working, according to a memo describing the changes.

In some cases, chaperones will accompany agents on trips. The embattled Secret Service director, Mark Sullivan, urged agents and other employees to "consider your conduct through the lens of the past several weeks".

The Secret Service said it would conduct a training session on ethics next week.

The agency-wide changes were intended to staunch the embarrassing disclosures since April 13, when a prostitution scandal erupted in Colombia involving 12 Secret Service agents, officers and supervisors and 12 more enlisted military staff who were there ahead of President Barack Obama's visit to a South American summit.

But the new policies raised questions about claims that the behaviour discovered in Cartagena was an isolated incident.

"It's too bad common sense policy has to be dictated in this manner," said Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican 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 new 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 "non-reputable" establishments, which were not defined.

The State Department was expected to brief Secret Service employees on trips about areas and businesses considered off-limits.

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