What is the origin of the Secret Service?
The United States Secret Service, one of the nation's oldest federal investigative law enforcement agencies, was founded in 1865 as a branch of the U.S. Treasury Department. It was originally created to combat the counterfeiting of U.S. currency - a serious problem at the time. In fact, following the Civil War, it was estimated that one-third to one-half of the currency in circulation was counterfeit.
In 1901, following the assassination of President William McKinley in Buffalo, New York, the Secret Service was first tasked with its second mission: the protection of the president. Today, the Secret Service's mission is two-fold: protection of the president, vice president and others; and investigations into crimes against the financial infrastructure of the United States.
Who is the Secret Service authorized to protect?
By law, the Secret Service is authorized to protect:
- The president, the vice president, (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, their spouses, except when the spouse re-marries
- Children of former presidents until age 16
- 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 and
- National Special Security Events, when designated as such by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security
How long do former presidents receive Secret Service protection after they leave office?
In 1965, Congress authorized the Secret Service (Public Law 89-186) to protect a former president and his/her spouse during their lifetime, unless they decline protection.
How does the Secret Service "protect" the president?
In order to maintain a safe environment for the president and other protectees, the Secret Service calls upon other federal, state and local agencies to assist on a daily basis. The Secret Service Uniformed Division, the Metropolitan Police Department, and the U.S. Park Police patrol the streets and parks nearby the White House. The Secret Service regularly consults with experts from other agencies in utilizing the most advanced security techniques. The military supports the Secret Service through the use of Explosive Ordnance Disposal teams and communications resources. When the president travels, an advance team of Secret Service agents works with the host city, state and local law enforcement, as well as public safety officials, to jointly implement the necessary security measures.
Which candidates for President does the Secret Service protect?
In regard to presidential campaign, the Secret Service is authorized by law (18 United States Code § 3056) to protect:
- Major presidential and vice presidential candidates and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election. As defined in statute, the term "major presidential and vice presidential candidates" means those individuals identified as such by the Secretary of Homeland Security after consultation with an advisory committee.
The Secret Service provides protection for major candidates, unless declined.
The Secret Service has no role in determining who is to be considered a major candidate. The Secretary of the Homeland Security determines who qualifies as a major candidate and when such protection should commence under the authority of Title 18, United States Code, Section 3056. This determination is made in consultation with an advisory committee comprised of the following individuals:
- Speaker of the House
- House Minority Whip
- Senate Majority Leader
- Senate Minority Leader
- One additional member chosen by the committee
How can I report a threat towards a protectee?
Contact your nearest U.S. Secret Service field office which is listed in the "Emergency Numbers" section in the front of most phone books.
The Secret Service is interested in legitimate information relating to threats, plans or attempts by individuals, groups or organizations to harm Secret Service protectees. However, the agency does not desire or solicit information pertaining to individuals or groups expressing legitimate criticism of, or political opposition to, the policies and decisions of the government or government officials.
What types of crimes does the Secret Service investigate?
The Secret Service has primary jurisdiction to investigate threats against Secret Service protectees as well as financial crimes, which include counterfeiting of U.S. currency or other U.S. Government obligations; forgery or theft of U.S. Treasury checks, bonds or other securities; credit card fraud; telecommunications fraud; computer fraud, identify fraud and certain other crimes affecting federally insured financial institutions.
What legal authority and powers do Secret Service agents have?
Under Title 18, Section 3056, of the United States Code, agents and officers of the United States Secret Service can:
- Carry firearms
- Execute warrants issued under the laws of the United States
- Make arrests without warrants for any offense against the United States committed in their presence, or for any felony recognizable under the laws of the United States if they have reasonable grounds to believe that the person to be arrested has committed such felony
- Offer and pay rewards for services and information leading to the apprehension of persons involved in the violation of the law that the Secret Service is authorized to enforce
- Investigate fraud in connection with identification documents, fraudulent commerce, fictitious instruments and foreign securities and
- Perform other functions and duties authorized by law
The Secret Service works closely with the United States Attorney's Office in both protective and investigative matters.
What are the rules for the printing, publishing and illustration of U.S. currency?
The Counterfeit Detection Act of 1992, Public Law 102-550, in Section 411 of Title 31 of the Code of Federal Regulations, permits color illustrations of U.S. currency, provided:
- The illustration is of a size less than three-fourths or more than one and one-half, in linear dimension, of each part of the item illustrated
- The illustration is one-sided and
- All negatives, plates, positives, digitized storage medium, graphic files, magnetic medium, optical storage devices, and any other thing used in the making of the illustration that contain an image of the illustration or any part thereof are destroyed and/or deleted or erased after their final use
Title 18, United States Code, Section 504 permits black and white reproductions of currency and other obligations, provided such reproductions meet the size requirement. See the section on this website entitled Know Your Money for more information.
How many people are employed by the Secret Service?
The Secret Service employs approximately 3,200 special agents, 1,300 Uniformed Division officers, and more than 2,000 other technical, professional and administrative support personnel.
Does the Secret Service auction equipment and vehicles that it no longer uses?
The Secret Service does not conduct government auctions. The General Services Administration handles auctions of government property. You can contact them at the following address:
General Services Administration
Office of Public Affairs
18th & F Streets, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20405