The United States Secret Service (USSS) is a federal law enforcement agency under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Until 2003, the Service was part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury because the organization's first mission was to fight counterfeiting of U.S. currency.
The U.S. Secret Service has two distinct areas of responsibility:
The Secret Service's initial responsibility was to investigate counterfeiting of U.S. currency, which was rampant following the U.S. Civil War. The agency then evolved into the United States' first domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Many of the agency's missions were later taken over by subsequent agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), and IRS Criminal Investigation Division (IRS).
The Secret Service has two primary missions: investigation of financial crimes and physical protection of designated protectees.
Today the agency's primary investigative mission is to safeguard the payment and financial systems of the United States from such crimes as financial institution fraud, computer and telecommunications fraud, false identification documents, access device fraud, advance fee fraud, electronic funds transfers and money laundering as it relates to the agency's core violations.
After the 1901 assassination of President William McKinley, Congress also directed the Secret Service to protect the President of the United States. Protection remains the other key mission of the United States Secret Service.
Today, the Secret Service is authorized by law to protect:
Any of these individuals may decline Secret Service protection, except the President, the Vice President (or other officer next in the order of succession to the Office of President), the President-elect, and the Vice President–elect.
When Hillary Clinton became Secretary of State in 2009, the Secret Service continued to protect her at home; however the Diplomatic Security Service protected her while she was performing her duties as the Secretary of State, including foreign travel.
The Secret Service investigates thousands of incidents a year of individuals threatening the President of the United States.
In the face of budget pressure, hiring challenges and some high-profile lapses in its unique protective service role in 2014, the Brookings Institution and some members of Congress are asking whether the agency's focus should shift more to the protective mission, leaving more of its original mission to other agencies.
The Director of Secret Service is appointed by the President of the United States.
With a reported one third of the currency in circulation being counterfeit at the time, the Secret Service was created on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency. Chief William P. Wood was sworn in by Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch. It was commissioned in Washington, D.C. as the "Secret Service Division" of the Department of the Treasury with the mission of suppressing counterfeiting. 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, the U.S. Post Office Department's Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations (now known as the United States Postal Inspection Service), and the U.S. Marshals Service. The Marshals did not have the manpower to investigate all crime under federal jurisdiction, so the Secret Service began to investigate everything from murder to bank robbery to illegal gambling. After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress informally requested that the Secret Service provide presidential protection. A year later, the Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for presidential protection. In 1902, William Craig became the first Secret Service agent to die while serving, in a road accident while riding in the presidential carriage.
The Secret Service was the first U.S. domestic intelligence and counterintelligence agency. Domestic intelligence collection and counterintelligence responsibilities were vested in the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) upon the FBI's creation in 1908.
The Secret Service assisted in arresting Japanese American leaders and in the Japanese American internment during World War II. The U.S. Secret Service is not a part of the U.S. Intelligence Community.
In 1909, President William H. Taft agreed to meet with Mexican President Porfirio Díaz in El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, the first meeting between a U.S. and a Mexican president and also the first time an American president visited Mexico. But the historic summit resulted in serious assassination threats and other security concerns for the then small Secret Service, so the Texas Rangers, 4,000 U.S. and Mexican troops, FBI agents, U.S. marshals, and an additional 250 private security detail led by Frederick Russell Burnham, the celebrated scout, were all called in by Chief John Wilkie to provide added security. On October 16, the day of the summit, Burnham discovered a man holding a concealed palm pistol standing at the El Paso Chamber of Commerce building along the procession route. Burnham signaled a Texas Ranger, Private C.R. Moore, and the two men captured and disarmed the assassin within only a few feet of Díaz and Taft preventing the shooting of both Presidents.
In 1950, President Harry S. Truman was residing in Blair House while the White House, across the street, was undergoing renovations. On November 1, 1950, two Puerto Rican nationalists, Oscar Collazo and Griselio Torresola, approached 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 German Luger to his chest and abdomen, Private Coffelt returned fire, killing Torresola with a single shot to his head. As of 2017[update], Coffelt is the only member of the Secret Service killed while protecting a US president against an assassination attempt (Special Agent Tim McCarthy stepped in front of President Ronald Reagan during the assassination attempt of March 30, 1981, and took a bullet to the abdomen but made a full recovery). Collazo was also shot, but survived his injuries and served 29 years in prison before returning to Puerto Rico in late 1979.
In 1968, as a result of 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.
The Secret Service Presidential Protective Division safeguards the President of the United States and his immediate family. They 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.
In 1984, the US Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act, which extended the Secret Service's jurisdiction over credit card fraud and computer fraud.
In 1990, the Secret Service initiated Operation Sundevil, which they originally intended as a sting against malicious hackers, allegedly responsible for disrupting telephone services across the entire United States. The operation, which was later described by Bruce Sterling in his book The Hacker Crackdown, affected a great number of people unrelated to hacking, and led to no convictions. The Secret Service, however, was sued and required to pay damages.
In 1994 and 1995, it ran an undercover sting called Operation Cybersnare. The Secret Service has concurrent jurisdiction with the FBI over certain violations of federal computer crime laws. They have created 24 Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs) across the United States. These task forces are 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). That directive made the Secret Service responsible for security at designated events. In 1999, the United States Secret Service Memorial Building was dedicated in DC, granting the agency its first headquarters. Prior to this, the agency's different departments were based in office space around the DC area.
The New York City Field office was located at 7 World Trade Center. Immediately after the World Trade Center was attacked as part of the September 11 attacks, Special Agents and other New York Field office employees were among the first to respond with first aid. Sixty-seven Special Agents in New York City, at and near the New York Field Office, helped to set up triage areas and evacuate the towers. One Secret Service employee, Master Special Officer Craig Miller, died during the rescue efforts. On August 20, 2002, Director Brian L. Stafford awarded the Director's Valor Award to employees who assisted in the rescue attempts.
Effective March 1, 2003, the Secret Service transferred from the Treasury to the newly established Department of Homeland Security.
The USA Patriot Act, signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001, mandated the U.S. Secret Service to establish a nationwide network of Electronic Crimes Task Forces (ECTFs) to investigate and prevent attacks on financial and critical infrastructures in the United States. As such, this mandate expanded on the agency's first ECTF—the New York Electronic Crimes Task Force, formed in 1995—which brought together federal, state and local law enforcement, prosecutors, private-industry companies, and academia.
The network prioritizes investigations that meet the following criteria:
The network includes ECTFs in the following 28 U.S. cities:
On July 6, 2009, the U.S. Secret Service expanded its fight on cyber-crime by creating the first European Electronic Crime Task Force, based on the successful U.S. domestic model, through a memorandum of understanding with Italian police and postal officials. Over a year later, on August 9, 2010, the agency expanded its European involvement by creating its second overseas ECTF in the United Kingdom.
Both task forces are said to concentrate on a wide range of "computer-based criminal activity," including:
The overseas network includes ECTFs in the following European cities:
As of 2010, the Service had 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.
In September 2014, the United States Secret Service came under criticism following two high-profile incidents involving intruders at the White House. One such intruder entered the East Room of the White House through an unlocked door.
Another incident involved a violation of procedure in which an armed security guard for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention rode in the same elevator as President Barack Obama during a visit to that agency's headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, to discuss U.S. response to the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa. The guard used his phone to record a video of Obama and refused to comply with a request to stop. The guard had been arrested multiple times in the past, but had never been convicted of a crime.
Since the 1960s, Presidents John F. Kennedy (killed), Gerald Ford (twice attacked, but uninjured) and Ronald Reagan (seriously wounded) have been attacked while appearing in public. Agents on scene though not injured during attacks on Presidents include William Greer and Roy Kellerman. One of the 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 deputy to Jerry Parr, the SAIC of PPD during the Reagan assassination attempt on March 30, 1981.
The Kennedy assassination 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 continued, Hill leapt from the running board of the car he was riding on and jumped onto the back of the President's moving car and guided Mrs. Kennedy from the trunk 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.
Rufus Youngblood was riding in the vice-presidential car. When the shots were fired, he vaulted over the front seat and threw his body over Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. That evening, Johnson called Secret Service Chief James J. Rowley and cited Youngblood's bravery. Youngblood would later recall some of this in his memoir, Twenty Years in the Secret Service.
The period following the Kennedy assassination was 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. 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 attempt 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 survived a .22-caliber round in the abdomen. For his bravery, McCarthy received the NCAA Award of Valor in 1982. Jerry Parr, the agent who pushed President Reagan into the limousine, and made the critical decision to divert the presidential motorcade to George Washington University Hospital instead of returning to the White House, was also honored with U.S. Congress commendations for his actions that day. After the near-successful assassination attempt on Ronald Reagan, it was clear that the Secret Service needed to increase its efficiency to protect the President.
Arrest and indictment of Max Ray Butler, co-founder of the Carders Market carding website. Butler was indicted by a federal grand jury in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, after his September 5, 2007 arrest, on wire fraud and identity theft charges. According to the indictment, Butler hacked over the Internet into computers at financial institutions and credit card processing centers and sold the tens of thousands of credit card numbers that he acquired in the process.
Operation Firewall: In October 2004, 28 suspects—located across eight U.S. states and six countries—were arrested on charges of identity theft, computer fraud, credit-card fraud, and conspiracy. Nearly 30 national and foreign field offices of the U.S. Secret Service, including the newly established national ECTFs, and countless local enforcement agencies from around the globe, were involved in this operation. Collectively, the arrested suspects trafficked in at least 1.7 million stolen credit card numbers, which amounted to $4.3 million of losses to financial institutions. However, authorities estimated that prevented loss to the industry was in the hundreds of millions of dollars. The operation, which started in July 2003 and lasted for more than a year, led investigators to identify three cyber-criminal groups: Shadowcrew, Carderplanet, and Darkprofits.
Arrest and indictment of Albert "Segvec" Gonzalez and 11 individuals; three U.S. citizens, one from Estonia, three from Ukraine, two from the People's Republic of China, one from Belarus, and one known only by an online alias. They were arrested on August 5, 2008, for the theft and sale of more than 40 million credit and debit card numbers from major U.S. retailers, including TJX Companies, BJ's Wholesale Club, OfficeMax, Boston Market, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, Forever 21, and DSW. Gonzalez, the main organizer of the scheme, was charged with computer fraud, wire fraud, access device fraud, aggravated identity theft, and conspiracy for his leading role in the crime.
The USSS Uniformed Division is a security police similar to the U.S. Capitol Police or DHS Federal Protective Service and is in charge of protecting the physical White House grounds and foreign diplomatic missions in the Washington, D.C. area. Established in 1922 as the White House Police, this organization was fully integrated into the Secret Service in 1930. In 1970, the protection of foreign diplomatic missions was added to the force's responsibilities, and its name was changed to the Executive Protective Service. The name United States Secret Service Uniformed Division was adopted in 1977.
At a minimum, a prospective agent must be a U.S. citizen, possess a current valid driver's license, possess visual acuity no worse than 20/60 uncorrected, correctable to 20/20 in each eye, and be between the ages of 21 and 37 at the time of appointment. However, preference eligible veterans may apply after age 37. In 2009, the Office of Personnel Management issued implementation guidance on the Isabella v. Department of State court decision: OPM Letter.
Special agents receive basic training in two locations. The first phase, the Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP) is conducted at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) at Glynco, GA. The second phase, the Special Agent Training Course (SATC) is conducted at the James J. Rowley Training Center, located in Beltsville, MD.
A Secret Service agent's career consists of three phases. In phase one, Secret Service special agents spend six to eight years on-the-job, assigned to a field office. After their field experience, agents usually transfer to a protective detail for four to seven years, during what is known as phase two or the protection phase. Following their protective assignment, many agents return to the field, transfer to a headquarters office, a training office, or other Washington, D.C.-based assignment for phase three of their career. Promotions affect the typical career path. An agent's working hours depend upon the assignment. Generally, an agent can expect to travel a lot and do a significant amount of shift work, especially during phase two. Throughout their career, agents continue their training.
Special officers (not to be confused with Uniformed Division Officers) are federal agents who work within the Special Agent Division of the USSS and perform a wide range of security functions and support assignments as part of the protective mission for the Secret Service. Whereas special agents alternate between protection and investigative assignments, special officers are hired only to work protection details. They must have a familiarity with all phases of protective responsibilities sufficient to assist in protective movements, cover designated security posts and drive protective vehicles.
Assignments may include
Special officers are sworn law enforcement officers, and are authorized to make arrests in connection with their official duties. They are classified as federal agents but use "special officer" as their official title much the same way as Deputy US Marshals are special agents but use the title "Deputy US Marshal".
Newly appointed special officers must successfully complete eight (8) weeks of intensive training at the Special Officer Basic Training Course at the Secret Service James J. Rowley Training Center just outside Washington, D.C. The training includes courses such as Criminal Law, Laws of Arrest, Search and Seizure, Control Tactics, Civil Liability, Emergency Medicine, Basic Water Safety, Firearms and Weapons Handling, Radio Communications, Emergency Driving and Physical Fitness Training.
Since the agency's inception, a variety of weapons have been carried by its agents.
Initially the firearms were privately procured and there was little if any standardization. In the 1930s, the USSS issued the Colt M1911A1 pistol in .45 ACP caliber. In the 1950s and 1960s, Special Agents carried the Smith & Wesson Model 36 and Colt Detective Special .38-Special revolvers.
Between 1981 and 1991, the Secret Service issued the Smith & Wesson Model 19 and the Smith & Wesson Model 66 .357 Magnum revolvers, with 2.5-inch barrels all the way up to the 4-inch-barreled models, loaded with hollow-point rounds.
By 1992, the standard issue weapon became the SIG Sauer P228 9mm pistol. This weapon stayed in service through 1999.
The Secret Service replaced the Thompson submachine gun with the Uzi submachine gun in the 1970s. Uzis that the Secret Service used have slightly shorter-than-standard barrels so they could to fit inside the standard size Samsonite briefcases that concealed them. They phased out the Uzi in the mid 1990s and replaced it with the H&K MP5. The Secret Service was the last Federal agency to use the Uzi.
The current sidearm for USSS agents is the SIG Sauer P229 chambered in .357 SIG, which entered service in 1999, and also the FN Five-seven pistol. A variety of off duty, back up, and undercover weapons are also authorized.
Agents and officers are trained on standard shoulder weapons that include the FN P90 submachine gun, the 9mm Heckler & Koch MP5 submachine gun, and the 12-gauge Remington 870 shotgun. The agency has initiated a procurement process to ultimately replace the MP5 with a 5.56mm rifle.
Units assigned to the Special Operations Division carry a variety of non-standard weapons.
The Counter Assault Team (CAT) and the Emergency Response Team (ERT) are both issued the 5.56mm Knight's Armament Company SR-16 CQB assault rifle. CAT also uses 12 gauge Remington 870 MCS breaching shotguns.
Uniform Division technicians assigned to the Counter Sniper (CS) team use custom built .300 Winchester Magnum-chambered bolt-action rifles referred to as JARs ("Just Another Rifle"). These rifles use Remington 700 actions in Accuracy International stocks with Schmidt & Bender optics. CS technicians also use the 7.62mm KAC SR-25/Mk11 Mod 0 semi-automatic sniper rifle with a Trijicon 5.5× ACOG optic.
The Department of Homeland Security has made numerous attempts to bring the Secret Service's weapons procurement in line with the rest of the department. The agency has resisted these inroads and currently maintains an independent acquisition process.
The agency uses Motorola XTS and APX radios and surveillance kits in order to maintain communications. These radios are known to use DES encryption keys. When operationally required, members of the Special Operations Division use military grade radios that use Type 1 encryption algorithms.
When transporting the President in a motorcade, the Secret Service uses a fleet of custom-built armored Cadillac Parade Limousines, the newest and largest version of which is known as "The Beast". Armored Chevrolet Suburbans are also used when logistics require such a vehicle or when a more low profile appearance is required. For official movement the limousine is affixed with U.S. and presidential flags and the presidential seal on the rear doors. For unofficial events the vehicles are left sterile and unadorned.
Special Agents and Special Officers of the Secret Service wear attire that is appropriate for their surroundings, in order to blend in as much as possible. In most circumstances, the attire of a close protection shift is a conservative suit, but it can range from a tuxedo to casual clothing as required by the environment. Stereotypically Secret Service agents are often portrayed wearing reflective sunglasses and a communication earpiece. Often their attire is customized to conceal the wide array of equipment worn in service. Agents wear a distinctive lapel pin that identifies them to other agents.
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 Uniformed Division consists of the U.S. coat of arms on white or black, depending on the garment. Also, the shoulder patch is embroidered with "U.S. Secret Service Uniformed Division Police" around the emblem.
The Secret Service has agents assigned to 136 field offices and the headquarters in Washington, D.C. The field offices are located in cities throughout the United States and in Brazil (Brasilia), Bulgaria (Sofia), Canada (Montreal, Ottawa, Toronto, Vancouver), Colombia (Bogota), China (Hong Kong), France (Paris, Lyon), Germany (Frankfurt), Italy (Rome), Mexico (Mexico City), Netherlands (The Hague), Romania (Bucharest), Russia (Moscow), South Africa (Pretoria), Spain (Madrid), Thailand (Bangkok), and the United Kingdom (London). The offices in Lyon and The Hague are respectively responsible for liaison with the headquarters of Interpol and Europol, located in those cities.
In April 2012, an incident involving the president's security detail received international press attention. The incident involved 11 agents and personnel from four branches of the U.S. military; they allegedly engaged prostitutes while assigned to protect the U.S. President at the 6th Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia. As of April 24, 2012, nine employees had resigned or retired.
After the incident was publicized, the Secret Service implemented new rules for its personnel. The rules prohibit personnel from visiting "non-reputable establishments" and from consuming alcohol less than ten hours before starting work. Additionally, they restrict who is allowed in hotel rooms.
A few weeks later, stories emerged of Secret Service agents hiring strippers and prostitutes prior to Obama's 2011 visit to El Salvador.
In 2015, two inebriated senior service agents drove an official car into the White House complex and collided with a barrier. One of the congressmen in the United States House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform that investigated that incident was Jason Chaffetz. In September 2015, it was revealed that 18 Secret Service employees or supervisors, including Assistant Director Ed Lowery, accessed an unsuccessful 2003 application by Chaffetz for employment with the agency and discussed leaking the information to the media in retaliation for Chaffetz' investigations of agency misconduct. The confidential personal information was later leaked to The Daily Beast. Agency Director Joe Clancy apologized to Chaffetz and said that disciplinary action would be taken against those responsible.
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