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The United States Secret Service is a United States federal law enforcement agency that falls under the United States Department of Homeland Securitymarker. The sworn members are divided among the Special Agents and the Uniformed Division. Until March 1, 2003, the Service was part of the United States Department of Treasurymarker.

The U.S. Secret Service has two distinct areas of responsibility:
  • Treasury roles, covering missions such as prevention and investigation of counterfeiting of U.S. currency and U.S. treasury bonds notes and investigation of major fraud.
  • Protective roles, ensuring the safety of national VIPs such as the President, past presidents, vice presidents, presidential candidates, their families, foreign embassies (per an agreement with the U.S. State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) Office of Foreign Missions (OFM)), etc.

The Secret Service began as an agency for the investigation of crimes related to the Treasury, and then evolved into the United States' first domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Many of the previous missions of the Secret Service were later taken over by subsequent agencies such as the FBImarker, ATF, and IRS and Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS)


Secret Service Special Agents (foreground) protecting the President of the United States in 2007.
The Secret Service has primary jurisdiction over the prevention and investigation of counterfeiting of U.S. currency and U.S. treasury bonds notes. However, this agency is best known for their work protecting the President.

Today, the Secret Service is authorized by law to protect:

  • The president, the vice president, secretary of state (or other individuals next in order of succession to the Office of the President), the president-elect and vice president-elect.
  • The immediate families of the above individuals.
  • Former presidents and their spouses for their lifetimes, except when the spouse remarries. In 1997, Congressional legislation became effective limiting Secret Service protection to former presidents for a period of not more than 10 years from the date the former president leaves office.
  • Children of former presidents until age 16.
  • Former Vice Presidents six months after their term ends (the Secretary of Homeland Security can extend the protection time).
  • Families of former Vice Presidents six months after term ends.
  • Visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States, and official representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad.
  • Major presidential and vice presidential candidates, and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election.
  • Other individuals as designated per Executive Order of the President.
  • National Special Security Events, when designated as such by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.

The Secret Service also investigates a wide variety of financial fraud crimes and identity theft and provides forensics assistance for some local crimes. The United States Secret Service Uniformed Division (UD) assists in the protection of foreign embassies, the United States Naval Observatorymarker and the White House within Washington, D.C.marker Due to the discretion of this organization, many details about the Secret Service are currently classified.


Special Agents of the Secret Service wear attire that is appropriate for the surroundings. In many circumstances, the attire is a conservative business suit, but attire can range from a dinner jacket to blue jeans. Photographs often show them wearing sunglasses and a communication earpiece. They also wear lapel pins of a color and shape that, for security purposes, varies regularly, but each design prominently features the service's star emblem in the center. These lapel pins are usually changed hourly when agents travel with the President. The attire for Uniformed Division Officers includes standard police uniforms, or utility uniforms and ballistic/identification vests for members of the countersniper team, Emergency Response Team (ERT), and canine officers.

The shoulder patch of the USSS Uniformed Division consists of the presidential seal on white or black depending on the garment to which it is attached. While there is no official patch indicating "Secret Service", Special Agents have occasionally designed and purchased unofficial patches to trade in their extensive collaborations with uniformed law enforcement officers.


Secret Service Uniformed Division vehicle in Washington D.C.
With a reported one third of the currency in circulation being counterfeit, the Secret Service was commissioned on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C.marker as the "Secret Service Division" of the Department of the Treasury and was originally tasked with the suppression of counterfeiting. Ironically, the legislation creating the agency was on Abraham Lincoln's desk the night he was assassinated. At the time, the only other federal law enforcement agencies were the United States Park Police, 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 manpower to investigate all crime under federal jurisdiction, so the Secret Service was used to investigate everything from murder to bank robbery to illegal gambling. After the assassinationmarker of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress informally requested that the Secret Service begin to provide presidential protection. A year later, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for protection of the President. In 1902, William Craig became the first Secret Service agent to be killed while riding in the presidential carriage, in a road accident.

Secret Service was the first U.S. domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency, hence its name, "Secret Service". Domestic intelligence collection and counterintelligence responsibilities were vested in the Federal Bureau of Investigationmarker after the FBI's creation in 1908. The U.S. Secret Service is not part of the U.S. Intelligence Community.

In 1950, President Harry S. Truman was residing in the Blair Housemarker, across the street from the White House, while the executive mansion was undergoing renovations. Two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, approached the Blair House with the intent to assassinate President Truman. Collazo and Torresola opened fire on Private Leslie 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. To this day, Coffelt is the only member of the Secret Service to be killed while protecting a U.S. President against an assassination attempt. Collazo was also shot, but survived his injuries and served 29 years in prison before returning to Puerto Rico in 1979. Special Agent Tim McCarthy stepped in front of President Ronald Reagan during the assassination attemptmarker of March 30, 1981 and took a bullet to the abdomen, but made a full recovery.

The Secret Service Presidential Protective Detail safeguards the President of the United States and his immediate family. They are heavily armed and work with other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies and the military to safeguard the President when he travels, in Air Force One, Marine One, and by limousine in motorcades.

Although the most visible role of the Secret Service today, 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 early 20th century, there were a limited quantity of federal services with the necessary abilities and resources. The FBI, IRS, ATF, ICE, 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.

Secret Service Uniformed Division cruiser in Washington D.C. at the White House

The Secret Service has over 6,500 employees: 3,200 Special Agents, 1,300 Uniformed Division Officers, and 2,000 technical and administrative employees. Special agents serve on protective details, special teams or sometimes investigate certain financial and homeland security-related crimes.

The United States Secret Service Uniformed Division is similar to the United States Capitol Police and is in charge of protecting the physical White Housemarker 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 placed under the command of the Chief of the Secret Service in 1930. In 1970, the role of the force, then called the Executive Protective Service (EPS), was expanded. The name United States Secret Service Uniformed Division was adopted 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 ( ). In 1965 and 1968, Congress also authorized lifetime protection of the spouses of deceased presidents unless they remarry and of the children of former presidents until age 16.

Congress passed legislation in 1994 stating that presidents who enter office after January 1, 1997 will receive Secret Service protection for 10 years after leaving office. Presidents who entered office prior to January 1, 1997 will continue to receive lifetime protection (Treasury Department Appropriations Act, 1995: ).

While primarily responsible for presidential protection, the Secret Service may also investigate forgery of government checks, forgery of currency equivalents (such as travelers' or cashiers' 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 with the FBImarker over certain violations of federal computer crime laws. They have created a network of 24 Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs) across the United States. 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 Securitymarker.

Attacks on Presidents

Since the 1960s, Presidents John F. Kennedy, Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan, and George W. Bush have been attacked while appearing in public. President Ford was not injured, despite being attacked twice. President Reagan was seriously injured but survived, and President Kennedy died from the attack. President Bush was also not injured, when a hand grenade thrown towards the podium where he was speaking failed to detonate and managed to dodge a shoe deliberately thrown at him while in Iraq. Others who have been on scene though not injured during attacks on Presidents include Clint Hill, James Rowley, William Greer, and Roy Kellerman. One of the more distinguished Secret Service agents was Robert DeProspero, the Special Agent In Charge (SAIC) of Reagan's Presidential Protective Division (PPD) from January 1982 to April 1985. DeProspero was the deputy to Jerry S. Parr, the SAIC of PPD during the Reagan assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.

The Kennedy assassinationmarker spotlighted the bravery of two Secret Service agents. First, an agent protecting Mrs. Kennedy, Clint Hill, was riding in the car directly behind the Presidential Limousine when the attack began. While the shooting was taking place, Hill leapt from the running board of the car he was riding on 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 the trunk she had climbed on 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.

The other agent whose bravery was spotlighted during the assassination was Rufus Youngblood, who was riding in the vice presidential car. When the shots were fired, he vaulted over the back of the front seat, threw his body over Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, who would become president, and sprawled over him to minimize chances he might be injured. Youngblood would later recall some of this in his memoir, Twenty Years in the Secret Service. That evening, Johnson called Secret Service Chief James J. Rowley and cited Youngblood's bravery.

The period following the Kennedy assassination was probably the most difficult in the modern history of the agency. Press reports indicated that morale among the agents was "low" for months following the assassination. Nevertheless, the agency overhauled its procedures in the wake of the Kennedy killing. Training, which until that time had been confined largely to "on-the-job" efforts, was systematized and regularized.

The Reagan assassination attemptmarker also highlighted the bravery of several Secret Service agents, particularly agent Tim McCarthy, who spread his stance to protect Reagan as six bullets were being fired by the would-be assassin, John Hinckley, Jr. McCarthy took one .22-caliber round in the abdomen, which was successfully removed by surgeons at George Washington University Hospital (also where Reagan was taken and recovered). For his bravery, McCarthy received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982. After the near-successful assassination of Ronald Reagan, it was very clear that the Secret Service needed to increase its efficiency to protect the President.

Protection of former Presidents and First Ladies

In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection. In 1997, Congress enacted legislation that limits Secret Service protection for former presidents to ten years after leaving office. Under this new law, individuals who were in office before January 1, 1997 will continue to receive Secret Service protection for their lifetime. Individuals entering office after that time will receive protection for ten years after leaving office. Therefore, former President Bill Clinton will be the last president to receive lifetime protection, and former President George W. Bush is the first to receive protection for only ten years (until 2019).

Barbara Bush, Rosalynn Carter, Betty Ford, Hillary Clinton, and Nancy Reagan will continue to receive full-time protection for life, as former First Ladies. Laura Bush will be the first to receive protection for only ten years (until 2019). The Secret Service uses code names for U.S. Presidents, First Ladies, Vice Presidents, their spouses, children, and other prominent persons and locations.

Protective operations, protective-function training and 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 technology (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 people under protection, providing equipment, and even military personnel at no cost to the Secret Service.

The Uniformed Division has three branches: the White House Branch, Foreign Missions, and the Naval Observatory Branch. Together they provide protection for the following: The President and Vice President of the United States and their immediate families, presidential candidates, the White House Complex, the Vice President’s Residence, the Main Treasury Department building and its annex facility, and foreign diplomatic missions in the Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.

Special Agents and Uniformed Division Officers carry either the SIG Sauer P229 pistol chambered for the .357 SIG cartridge or the FN Five-seven pistol chambered for the 5.7x28mm cartridge. In addition to their sidearms, they are also trained on several close-combat weapons such as the Remington Model 870 shotgun, the M4 carbine, the IMI Uzi, FN P90, and the HK MP5 (including the MP5KA4) submachine guns among others. They are also issued radios and surveillance kits in order to maintain communication with a central command post and other personnel.

Rescue attempts during September 11, 2001 attacks

The Secret Service New York City Field office was located at 7 World Trade Centermarker. Immediately after the attacks, Special Agents and other Secret Service employees stationed at the New York Field office were among the first to respond with first aid trauma kits. Sixty-seven Special Agents in New York City, at and near the New York Field Office, assisted local fire and Police rescue teams by helping to set up triage areas and evacuating 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 recognized the bravery and heroism of 67 Secret Service employees in the New York Field Office, by awarding the Director's Valor Award to employees who assisted in the rescue attempts in the World Trade Center during the September 11, 2001, attacks.


  • 1. William P. Wood (1865 – 1869)
  • 2. Herman C. Whitley (1869 – 1874)
  • 3. Elmer Washburn (1874 – 1876)
  • 4. James Brooks (1876 – 1888)
  • 5. John S. Bell (1888 – 1890)
  • 6. A.L. Drummond (1891 – 1894)
  • 7. William P. Hazen (1894 – 1898)
  • 8. John E. Wilkie (1898 – 1911)
  • 9. William J. Flynn (1912 – 1917)
  • 10. William H. Moran (1917 – 1936)
  • 11. Frank J. Wilson (1937 – 1946)

Field offices

The Secret Service has agents assigned to 136 field offices and the headquarters in Washington, D.C. while the field offices are located in cities throughout the United States and in Brazil (Brasilia), Bulgaria (Sofia), Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver), Colombia (Bogota [de Francisco]), China (Hong Kong), France (Paris), INTERPOL, Germany (Frankfurt), Italy (Rome), Mexico (Mexico City), EUROPOL (Netherlands/The Hague), Romania (Bucharest), Russia (Moscow), South Africa (Pretoria), Spain (Madrid), Thailand (Bangkok), and the United Kingdom (London).

Similar organizations

See also


  1. [1]
  2. The American Presidency
  5. Secret Service told grenade landed near Bush
  6. WVU Alumni | Robert L. DeProspero
  7. "The Transfer of Power", Time magazine, November 29, 1963.
  8. Twenty Years in the Secret Service by Rufus Youngblood, pages 147–149. Vince Palamara interviews with former agent Rufus Youngblood on 10/22/92 and 2/8/94—please see: Survivor's Guilt: The Secret Service and the Failure to Protect the President.
  9. He Took A Bullet For Reagan "'In the Secret Service,' [McCarthy] continued, 'we're trained to cover and evacuate the president. And to cover the president, you have to get as large as you can, rather than hitting the deck.'"
  10. Secret Service Frequently Asked Questions.
  11. United States Secret Service
  12. Eyeballing the US Secret Service Technical Security Division
  13. Master Special Officer Craig J. Miller, United States Department of the Treasury - Secret Service Special Services Division

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