U.S. secret service agents walk around the Convention Center in Cartagena, Colombia, prior to the opening ceremony of the 6th Summit of the Americas at the Convention Center in Cartagena, Colombia, Saturday, April 14, 2012. Last Thursday, a dozen secret service agents sent to provide security for U.S. President Barack Obama, were relieved from duty and replaced with other agency personnel after an incident of alleged misconduct. (Fernando Llano/AP)

The idea of American law enforcement officials paying for sex with prostitutes is hardly new. Just ask former New York governor Elliot Spitzer, who resigned from office in 2008 when he was caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a highly paid prostitute. (Spitzer was recently awarded with an anchor slot on Current TV. Hey, we’re a forgiving country...)

But with Spitzer – self-righteous as he was when he was fighting prostitution rings as State Attorney General – we always knew that he was a person underneath – fiery and passionate, if not a tad hypocritical. With the Secret Service, in contrast, these men are trained – indeed, required – to be almost invisible. There’s something almost asexual about the tight-lipped, black-suited guardians who pledge to give their life, if need be, to protect the president.

At the risk of sounding shallow, I remember how shocked I was when Press Secretary C.J. Cregg fell for a Secret Service agent in one episode of “The West Wing.” To get an inside glimpse – even a fictional one – of the thoughts, feelings and desires of an agent felt almost wrong. Kind of like discovering that Santa Claus has sex with Mrs. Claus.

Well, so much for that. I don’t think any of us will ever look at the Secret Service quite the same way after last week’s shenanigans. According to Ronald Kessler, a former Washington Post reporter who has written a book about the Secret Service, the incident is unprecedented and “clearly the biggest scandal in Secret Service history.”

The scandal came to light came to light when officials at the Hotel Caribe discovered one woman in the room of an agent after she violated the 7 a.m. curfew for outside visitors. When the agent wouldn’t initially open the door for the hotel officials, they called local police. The woman then refused to leave the room until she was paid, presumably for her services. And although the agent in question did pay her once the police arrived, the incident was reported to the American Embassy, at which point it quickly mushroomed into a scandal.

According to House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA), there’s good reason to believe that there might be more Secret Service agents involved in the controversy, perhaps as many as 20. President Obama has called for a thorough inquiry  into the matter, and as of Monday morning, there were four separate investigations underway, two by congressional committees, one by the Pentagon and one by the Secret Service itself.

As sex scandals are wont to do, the whole thing has also proved a huge distraction from the main theme of the Summit of the Americas, which – among other things – was going to address whether or not Cuba should be allowed into the regional organization (something America opposes but Latin American governments favor). As someone who believes the Cuba embargo is not only antiquated but counter-productive, I would have loved that to have seen that  in the headlines this week, instead of the Secret Service imbroglio.

But I can think of two men who may be indulging in a bit of schadenfreude right about now:  former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former IMF Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Berlusconi  is on trial for paying an underage girl to have sex with him, while Strauss-Kahn, who lost his job last year because of a sexual encounter with a hotel maid in New York, has recently been placed under investigation for his role in a French prostitution ring.

Delia Lloyd, a former correspondent for Politics Daily, is an American journalist based in London. She blogs about adulthood at www.realdelia.com and you can follow her on Twitter @realdelia .