The United States Secret Service is a United States federal government law enforcement agency that is part of the United States Department of Homeland Security (prior to the founding of that department in 2003, it was under the United States Department of the Treasury).
The Secret Service has primary jurisdiction over the prevention of counterfeiting of U.S. currency and U.S. treasury bonds and notes, and protection of the President, Vice President, their immediate families, other high ranking government officials, past presidents and their spouses, certain candidates for the offices of President and Vice President, and visiting foreign heads of state and government (all called "protectees"). It also investigates a wide variety of financial fraud crimes and identity theft and provides forensics assistance for some local crimes. The name is believed to have come from the fact that they are not allowed to reveal who they are when asked.
Plainclothes agents of the Secret Service wear attire that is appropriate for the surroundings. In most circumstances, this means a conservative business suit. Photographs often show them wearing sunglasses and a communication earpiece. The attire for members of the Uniformed Division includes police dress uniforms for White House police officers, police work uniforms for investigative officers, and work clothes and identification vests for members of the countersniper team.
The Secret Service was commissioned on July 5th, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency, which is why it was established under the United States Department of the Treasury. At the time, the only other federal law enforcement agencies were the U.S. Post Office Department - Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations, now known as the United States Postal Inspection Service, and the United States Marshals Service. The Marshals did not have the man power to investigate all large crime in the country, so the Secret Service was used to investigate everything from murder to bank robbery to illegal gambling. After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress informally requested Secret Service presidential protection. A year later, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for protection of the President. In 1902, William Craig was the first Secret Service agent killed while riding in the presidential motorcade.
The only member of the Secret Service to die while actually defending the president from an assassination attempt is Private Leslie Coffelt of the White House Police Force (now called the Secret Service Uniformed Division). In 1950, President Truman was residing in the Blair House, across the street from the White House, while the executive mansion was undergoing renovations. Two men approached the Blair House with the intent to assassinate President Truman. Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, who were Puerto Rican nationalists, opened fire on Private Coffelt and other White House Police officers. Though mortally wounded by three shots from a 9 mm Luger to his chest and abdomen, Private Coffelt returned fire, killing Torresola with a single shot to his head. Collazo was also shot, but survived his injuries and served 29 years in prison before returning to Puerto Rico in 1979.
The Secret Service Presidential Protection Detail safeguards the President of the United States and his immediate family. They are heavily armed and work with local police and the military to safeguard the President when he travels, in Air Force One, Marine One, and by limousine in motorcades.
Although today this is the Secret Service's most visible role, personal protection is an anomaly in the responsibilities of an agency focused on fraud and counterfeiting. The reason for this combination of duties is that when the need for presidential protection became apparent in the late 19th century, there were a limited quantity of federal services with the necessary abilities and resources. The FBI, CIA, ATF, and DEA did not yet exist. The United States Marshals Service was the only other logical choice, and in fact the U.S. Marshals did provide protection for the president on a number of occasions. In the end, however, the job went to the Secret Service.
The Secret Service has over 5,000 employees: 2,100 special agents, 1,200 Uniformed Division employees, and 1,700 technical and administrative employees. Special agents either serve as bodyguards for public officials or investigate financial fraud.
Per Public Law 91-217, passed in 1970, Secret Service Uniformed Division police officers protect:
* the White House Complex, the Main Treasury Building and Annex, and other presidential offices
* the President and members of his immediate family
* the temporary official residence of the Vice President in the District of Columbia
* the Vice President and members of his immediate family
* foreign diplomatic missions in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area and throughout the United States and its territories and possessions, as prescribed by statute.
* the Democratic and Republican presidential candidates as well as their spouses during election years.
The United States Secret Service Uniformed Division is similar to the Capitol Police and is in charge of protecting the physical White House grounds and foreign diplomatic missions in the Washington, D.C. area. The Uniformed Division was originally a separate organization known as the White House Police Force, but was incorporated into the US Secret Service in 1971 as the Executive Protective Service and was renamed the Secret Service Uniformed Division in 1977.
In 1968, as a result of presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, Congress authorized protection of major presidential and vice presidential candidates and nominees (Public Law 90-331). Congress also authorized protection of the widows of presidents until death or remarriage, and their children until age 16.
Congress passed legislation in 1994 stating that presidents elected to office after January 1, 1997, will receive Secret Service protection for 10 years after leaving office. Individuals elected to office prior to January 1, 1997, will continue to receive lifetime protection (Treasury Department Appropriations Act, 1995: Public Law 103-329).
The Service also investigates forgery of government checks, forgery of currency equivalents (such as travelers' checks), and certain instances of wire fraud (such as the so called Nigerian scam) and credit card fraud.
The Secret Service also has concurrent jurisdiction for violation of federal computer crime laws. They have created a network of 15 Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTF's) across the United States. The Secret Service will soon be establishing 9 more Electronic Crimes Task Forces. These task forces create partnerships between the Service, federal/state and local law enforcement, the private sector and academia aimed at combating technology based crimes.
In 1998, President Bill Clinton signed Presidential Decision Directive 62, which established National Special Security Events (NSSE). In that directive, it made the Secret Service the federal agency responsible for security at events given such a designation.
Effective March 1, 2003, the Secret Service was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the newly established Department of Homeland Security.
Attacks on presidents
Physical attacks on the President of the United States quickly remind everyone of the role the Secret Service plays in providing personal protection for the president and his family. In recent years, Presidents John Kennedy, Gerald Ford and Ronald Reagan have been attacked while appearing in public. President Ford was not injured. President Reagan was seriously injured but survived, and President Kennedy died from the attack. The Kennedy assassination spotlighted the bravery of one Secret Service agent who was guarding Mrs. Kennedy. Her bodyguard was Clint Hill, who was riding in the car directly behind the Presidential Limousine when the attack began. While the shooting was taking place, Hill leaped out of the car he was in and sprinted up to the car carrying the President and the First Lady. He jumped on to the back of the moving car and guided Mrs. Kennedy off of the trunk where she had climbed and back into the rear seat of the car. He then shielded the president and the first lady with his body until the car arrived at the hospital.
Protective Operations & Protective-Function Training & Weaponry
Due to the importance of the Secret Service's protective function, the personnel of the agency receive the latest weapons and training. The agents of the Protective Operations Division receive the latest military weaponry (See: the Presidential Protection Assistance Act of 1976, codified in the notes of Title 18, Section 3056 of the U.S. Code Annotated). Due to specific legislation and directives, the United States military must fully comply with requests for assistance with providing protection for the president and all other protectees, providing weapons, equipment, and even military personnel at no cost to the Secret Service.
Radio Frequency/Electromagnetic Radiation-based Weaponry
The U.S. Secret Service, in order to move its protective services into the 21st century, has been putting an enormous amount of time, money, and effort into developing and testing directed energy weapons ("DEWs"), communication systems, and wall-penetrating surveillance and sniper/weapon detection systems, mostly by obtaining the basic technologies from the U.S. military and having the agency's Protective Research Division adapt the technologies to the specialized uses the Secret Service has for them (See: Microwave Auditory Effect, Microwave Hearing Effect, 'Active Denial Technology,' 'Active Denial System,' acoustic weapons, thermal imaging cameras, millimeter-wave cameras, sniper/weapon detection systems, laser & microwave microphones, etc.). Due to the Secret Service Protective Operations and Research Divisions' personnel all having top-secret government clearances, they have access to the very latest military weaponry and military technologies. This class of weapons is excellent for long-range use (over 1000 meters from their targets) and because there is no easy way to detect the devices being used (some only use passive detection methods, which are totally undetectable) and all of them can penetrate thick walls and other building materials, they are difficult if not impossible to detect or to do anything about.
Secret Service involvement in rescue attempts during 9/11
The Secret Service New York City Field office was located at 7 World Trade Center, which collapsed with towers 1 and 2 following the terrorist attacks. Immediately after the attacks, Special Agents and other Secret Service employees stationed at the New York Field office were the first to respond with first aid trauma kits. The 67 Special Agents stationed at the New York Field Office assisted local fire and Police rescue teams by helping to set up triage areas and evacuate people from the towers. One Secret Service employee, Master Special officer Craig Miller, died during the rescue efforts.
On August 20, 2002, Director Brian L. Stafford recognised the bravery and heroism of the 67 Special Agents and other employees stationed in the New York Field Office, by awarding the Director's Valor award to all the employees who assisted in the rescue attempts in the World Trade Center on 9/11.