The United States Secret Service is one of the oldest federal law enforcement agencies in the country and ranks among the most elite in the world. With its origin dating back to the end of the American Civil War, the Secret Service was originally founded to combat the then-widespread counterfeiting of U.S. currency. In 1901, the agency was asked to begin its protective mission after the assassination of President William McKinley – the third sitting U.S. President to be assassinated. Today, the Secret Service proudly continues to protect both national leaders and visiting foreign dignitaries while helping to secure the nation’s financial infrastructure through financial and cybercrime investigations.
The men and women who make up the Secret Service – both past and present – have embodied a tradition of excellence through integrity, commitment and honor. Their stories are the Secret Service’s history – a proud history that continues to evolve and grow with every passing year.
The Secret Service Division was formed on July 5, 1865, as part of the Department of the Treasury. Chief William P. Wood was sworn in as the first Secret Service chief (now known as “Director”) by Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch.
Secret Service responsibilities broadened to include "detecting persons perpetrating frauds against the government." This appropriation resulted in investigations into the Ku Klux Klan, nonconforming distillers, smugglers, mail robbers, land frauds and a number of other infractions against federal laws.
Secret Service headquarters was relocated from Washington, D.C., to New York City. The headquarters returned to Washington four years later.
The first Secret Service commission book was issued.
Congress passed legislation prohibiting the counterfeiting of any coin, gold or silver bar.
Congress officially acknowledged the Secret Service as a distinct organization within the Treasury Department. However, it was still dependent upon the annual appropriations and the availability of funds, since no enabling legislation existed. (This did not change until July 16, 1951.)
The Secret Service began informal part-time protection of President Cleveland.
As a result of the assassination of President William McKinley, Congress requested Secret Service protection of U.S. Presidents.
The Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for protection of the President. At this time, only two men were assigned fulltime to the White House Detail.
Congress passed the Sundry Civil Expenses Act for 1907, which provided funds for presidential protection by the Secret Service.
Secret Service operatives began to investigate western land frauds. The Secret Service's investigation returned millions of acres of land to the government. Operative Joseph A. Walker was murdered on November 3, 1907, while working on such a case.
The Secret Service began providing protection for the President-elect.
Congress authorized permanent protection of the President and statutory authorization for President-elect protection. (Treasury Department Appropriations Act of 1913)
President Wilson directed the Secretary of the Treasury to have the Secret Service investigate foreign espionage in the United States.
Congress authorized protection for the President's immediate family. (Treasury Department Appropriations Act of 1917)
Congress enacted legislation making it a crime to threaten the President by mail or by any other manner.
The White House Police Force (present-day Uniformed Division) was created at the request of President Warren G. Harding. At this time, the Police Force was under the daily supervision of the President's military aide, who was also the Director of Public Buildings.
President Hoover placed the White House Police Force under the supervision of the Secret Service. (Public Law 71-221)
An assassination attempt was made on President-elect Franklin Roosevelt in Miami, Florida, on February 15, 1933.
Secret Service “operatives” were now referred to as “agents.”
Treasury Guard Force (later renamed the Treasury Police Force) came under the supervision of the Secret Service.
Private Leslie Coffelt, White House Police Force, was shot and killed by two Puerto Rican nationalists while protecting President Truman at the Blair House on November 1, 1950.
Triggered by the attack on President Truman, Congress enacted legislation that permanently authorized Secret Service protection of the President, his immediate family, the President-elect and the Vice President (if he wished). (Public Law 82-79)
The first formal Special Agent Training School was held. The three-week course covered investigative and protective responsibilities of agents in the 1950s.
Congress expanded coverage to include the Vice President (or the next officer to succeed the President) without requiring his request for protection, the Vice President-elect and, at his request, the former President for a reasonable period of time (approximately six months). (Public Law 87-829)
President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, on November 22, 1963.
Later, Congress passed legislation for protection of Mrs. John F. Kennedy and her minor children for two years. (Public Law 83-195)
Congress passed legislation making it a federal crime to attempt to assassinate the President. (Public Law 89-141)
Congress authorized the Secret Service to protect a former President and his wife during his lifetime. Unless declined, protection for the widow and minor children of a former President was extended to four years after the President leaves or dies in office. (Public Law 89-186)
Protection was extended to the widow and minor children of a former President until March 1, 1969 (Mrs. Kennedy and children).(Public Law 90-145)
Congress authorized protection for the widow of a former President until her death or remarriage. Minor children of a former President were granted protection until they reached 16 years of age, unless protection was declined. (Public Law 90-608)
As a result of presidential candidate Senator Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, Congress authorized protection of major presidential and vice presidential candidates and nominees. (Public Law 90-331)
The White House Police Force was renamed the Executive Protective Service and increased its responsibilities to include the protection of diplomatic missions in the Washington, D.C., area. (Public Law 91-217)
Phyllis Shantz became the first female officer sworn into the Executive Protective Service (modern-day Uniformed Division) on September 15, 1970.
Congress authorized Secret Service protection for visiting heads of a foreign state or government, or other officials as directed by the President.
The 60 acres of land purchased by the U.S. government for training facilities in 1967 was turned over exclusively to the Secret Service. It became what is today known as the Secret Service’s James J. Rowley Training Center.
Laurie Anderson, Sue Ann Baker, Kathryn Clark, Holly Hufschmidt and Phyllis Shantz were sworn in as the first five female Special Agents on December 15, 1971.
An assassination attempt was made on presidential candidate George Wallace in Laurel, Maryland, on May 15, 1972.
Congress authorized protection for the immediate family of the Vice President. (Public Law 93-552)
Assassination attempts were made on President Gerald Ford in Sacramento, California, on September 5, 1975, and again on September 22, 1975, in San Francisco, California.
Congress authorized protection for the spouse of a major presidential or vice presidential candidate. (Public Law 94-408)
The Executive Protective Service was officially renamed the Secret Service Uniformed Division on November 15, 1977.
An assassination attempt was made on President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C., on March 30, 1981.
Title 18 USC Section 470 provided that any person manufacturing, trafficking in, or possessing U.S. counterfeit currency abroad may be prosecuted as if the act was committed in the U.S.
Congress enacted legislation requiring that Presidents in office prior to January 1, 1997, will continue to receive Secret Service protection for their lifetime. Presidents elected to office after that time will receive protection for 10 years after leaving office. (Public Law 103-329)
On April 19, 1995, the Murrah Federal Building containing the Oklahoma City Field Office was destroyed by a bomb. Six Secret Service personnel were among the 168 killed.
On May 19, 1995, Secretary of the Treasury Robert Rubin signed Treasury Order Number 170-09 prohibiting vehicular traffic on sections of Pennsylvania Avenue and certain other streets adjacent to the White House. The Secretary delegated to the Director of the Secret Service, the authority to carry out such closings.
The Secret Service was given authority by Section 648 (b) of Public Law 104-208 to investigate offenses for the production, sale, transportation and/or possession of fictitious financial instruments purporting to be those of the United States, a foreign government, a state or other political subdivisions of the United States.
The Telemarketing Fraud Prevention Act (Public Law 105-184) was passed, which allows for criminal forfeiture of fraud proceeds for convictions of violations of 18 U.S.C. Sections 1028, 1029, 1341, 1343 or 1344, or of a conspiracy to commit such an offense, if the offense involved telemarketing.
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (Public Law 105-318) was passed, which amends 18 U.S.C. Section 1028 to establish the offense of "Identity Theft." Penalties are established for anyone who knowingly transfers or uses, without authority, any means of identification of another person, with the intent to commit or to aid someone to commit an unlawful activity that is a violation of the identity theft provisions of section 1028.
The United States Secret Service Memorial Headquarters Building was dedicated in Washington, D.C.For the first time, the agency had its own building with headquarters personnel housed under one roof. Previously, the agency had rented office space in buildings throughout the Washington, D.C., area.
The Presidential Threat Protection Act (Public Law 106-544) was passed, which clarified and extended the Secret Service’s authority to investigate threats to active and former protectees, and to participate in the planning, coordination and implementation of security operations at National Special Security Events. In addition, it gave the Secret Service limited administrative subpoena power for use in protective intelligence investigations when a threat to a protectee is determined to be imminent.
Amidst the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, Craig J. Miller of the Secret Service was one of the more than 2,800 people who were killed.At the time, the Secret Service’s New York Field Office was housed in Building 7 of the World Trade Center and collapsed as a result of the attacks in New York.
In October of 2001, President Bush signed into law H.R. 3162, the USA PATRIOT Act. In response to this legislative mandate, the Director of the Secret Service designated eight major metropolitan areas, where assets and resources were directed, establishing a network of regional Electronic Crimes Task Forces across the United States.
The Department of Homeland Security was established with the passage of Public Law 107-296.
On March 1, 2003, the Secret Service was transferred from the Department of the Treasury to the new Department of Homeland Security. Recognized for the Secret Service’s central role in the protection of both the nation’s leaders and the financial and critical infrastructure of the United States, the Secret Service contributes to the Department of Homeland Security’s common mission of protecting the American people from harm.
Barbara Riggs, a veteran agent of the Secret Service, became the first woman in the agency’s history to be named Deputy Director.
Protection began for presidential candidate Illinois Senator Barack Obama in May, the earliest initiation of Secret Service protection for any candidate in history. Presidential candidate New York Senator Hillary Clinton already received protection before she entered the race due to her status as former First Lady.
The Secret Service marked five years under the Department of Homeland Security. In those five years, the Secret Service made nearly 29,000 criminal arrests for counterfeiting, cyber investigations and other financial crimes, 98 percent of which resulted in convictions, and seized more than $295 million in counterfeit currency. The Secret Service investigated and closed financial crimes cases where actual loss amounted to $3.7 billion and prevented a potential loss of more than $12 billion.
In 2008, Congress passed legislation (H.R. 5938), the "Former Vice President Protection Act of 2008," which authorized Secret Service protection for former Vice Presidents, their spouses and their children less than 16 years of age for up to six months after the Vice President’s term in office has ended. The bill applied to Vice Presidents holding office on or after the date of enactment and also authorized the Secretary of Homeland Security to direct the Secret Service to provide temporary protection for these individuals thereafter if information or conditions warrant such protection.
The 56th Presidential Inauguration was the largest and most complex event ever overseen by the Secret Service. In all, five separate National Special Security Events came under the umbrella of the Inauguration of President Barack Obama, and the Secret Service oversaw the design and implementation of the security plan for each of them. Working in cooperation with its local, state, federal security, public safety and military partners, the agency ensured the safety for each event and protectee, as well as the nearly two million people who were estimated to have attended the events.
The Secret Service announced the creation of its second overseas Electronic Crimes Task Force (ECTF), a network of pubic-private partnerships dedicated to fighting high-tech, computer-based crimes. Based in the United Kingdom, this second international ECTF came on the heels of the agency's 2009 announcement of its first European ECTF based in Rome, Italy.
The Uniformed Division Modernization Act (Public Law 111-282), signed into law on October 15, 2010, ensures that Uniformed Division personnel are equally compensated for their work and allows greater flexibility in hiring personnel at higher levels based on their law enforcement experience and qualifications.
The Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012, reverses a previous law that limited Secret Service protection for former Presidents and their families to 10 years if they served after 1997. Former President George W. Bush and future former Presidents will receive Secret Service protection for the rest of their lives. Children of former Presidents up to the age of 16 are assured protection under the new law.
Julia A. Pierson was sworn in as the 23rd Director of the United States Secret Service on March 27, 2013. Ms. Pierson is the first female Director of the agency.
Joseph P. Clancy was appointed by President Barack Obama as the 24th Director of the United States Secret Service on February 18, 2015.