The US Secret Service
The US Secret Service
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.
The U.S. Secret Service has two distinct areas of responsibility:
- Financial Crimes, covering missions such as prevention and investigation of counterfeit U.S. currency, U.S. treasury securities, and investigation of major fraud.
- Protection, which entails ensuring the safety of current and former national leaders and their families, such as the President, past Presidents, Vice Presidents, presidential candidates, visiting heads of state, and foreign embassies.
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 Internal Revenue Service (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:
- The President, the Vice President (or other officer next in the order of succession to the Office of President, should the Vice Presidency be vacant), the President-elect, and the Vice President-elect
- The immediate families of the above individuals
- Former Presidents and their spouses for their lifetimes except when the spouse divorces or remarries. From 1997 until 2013, legislation became effective limiting Secret Service protection to former Presidents and their spouses to a period of 10 years from the date the former President leaves office. President Barack Obama signed legislation reversing this limit and reinstating lifetime protection on January 10, 2013.
- The widow or widower of a former President who dies in office or dies within a year of leaving office for a period of one year after the President’s death (the Secretary of Homeland Security can extend the protection time)
- Children of former Presidents until age 16 or 10 years after the presidency
- Former Vice Presidents, their spouses, and their children under 16 years of age, for up to 6 months from the date the former Vice President leaves office (the Secretary of Homeland Security can extend the protection time)
- Visiting heads of 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, as directed by the President
- Major presidential and vice presidential candidateS.
- The spouses of major presidential and vice presidential candidates (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 Homeland Security
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.
The Director of Secret Service is appointed by the President of the United States.