LONDON — They were embarrassing, silly, and raunchy. But were they a security breach?
A day after nude photographs of Prince Harry ricocheted across the Internet, security experts were wondering whether the Scotland Yard officers assigned to keep the 27-year-old royal safe from harm could have done a better job of keeping him out of trouble.
"The Yard is going to get some flak over this, and rightly so," said Ken Wharfe, a former bodyguard to Princess Diana and her sons, William and Harry.
Security costs for the royal family aren't made public, but security experts estimate that British taxpayers spend the equivalent of $48 million to $159 million a year keeping the royals safe.
Dai Davies, a former head of the force's royal protection branch, said that at that price, the public had a right to expect Harry's bodyguards to keep a close eye on the prince — and for the prince himself not to take any unnecessary risks.
"He's a single man (but) there has to be a degree of responsibility and caution," Davies said.
What precisely Harry did in Las Vegas last Friday still isn't clear. Celebrity gossip site TMZ, which published the nude pictures Tuesday, said Harry was playing strip billiards at the end of a wild Las Vegas visit, which also reportedly involved a raucous swimming race with U.S. Olympian Ryan Lochte.
The blurry, low-resolution photos show Harry cavorting with an unidentified young woman and with his back turned or facing away from the camera, suggesting that the photos might have been taken surreptitiously, perhaps with a smartphone.
Davies acknowledged that Harry may have put his protection officers in a difficult position by inviting guests to his hotel room, but said everyone needed to be on the lookout for a threat.
"The role of protection officer is to protect the principal," he said. "Protect the principal from himself, on occasion."