We’ve all seen them in the movies—suited agents with sunglasses and fancy earpieces—but the U.S. Secret Service isn't made for TV. No, the agency's purpose is much more important: it plays a vital role in the protection of the president and his family, as well as the fight against financial crimes.
The federal agency was established by President Abraham Lincoln on the same day he was assassinated (April 14, 1865) and was originally created to fight counterfeiting. Its protection duties didn't begin until 1901, after the assassination of President William McKinley.
Today, there are more than 6,500 members of the Secret Service including special agents, Uniformed Division agents and technical, professional and administrative personnel. The canine unit is made up of Belgian Malinois, a small breed from Holland. Dogs are with their Uniformed Division handlers 24/7 and remain with them even after retirement. Agents in the Presidential Protection Division (PPD) are the only ones tasked with protecting the Commander in Chief and their family.
Regardless of their role, all agents are trained for 11 weeks at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in law, firearms, defensive tactics and report writing. An additional 16 weeks of training is required once they arrive in Washington, DC, which includes advanced driving techniques, physical protection and detecting counterfeit money and credit card fraud.
While their main responsibilities are no secret, here are a few more things you might not know about the Secret Service and its agents:
- The president and vice president can’t refuse protection while in office, but once out of office, the president and their spouse can decline lifelong protection and/or hire their own security detail
- When traveling, the president is never more than 10 minutes from a trauma center and agents carry bags of the president’s blood in case a transfusion is needed
- They investigate anyone who’s made a threat against the president to determine if it’s real
- The president is never alone—an agent is present in the bathroom, at the doctor’s office and all other seemingly private situations
- Agents film the president so they can review the footage in the event of an attack
- All food eaten by the president is prepared under Secret Service supervision
- When the president is staying at a hotel, they keep an elevator repairman on standby in case the president gets stuck
- They can track down threatening handwritten notes thanks to ink “tags” that identify the brand of pen and where in the country it’s sold
- They’re on duty even during the president’s leisure time, which means they can be forced to pick up hobbies including running and horseback riding
- There are some cases when sunglasses protect eyes from projectiles and allow agents to scan a crowd undetected, but most of the time they’re just protecting their eyes from the sun
- The Secret Service is present at major events like the Super Bowl, even if the president isn’t. This is to work with other federal agencies to prevent terrorist attacks
- In November 2016, the agency seized 30 million counterfeit dollars and 50,000 euros—their largest seizure ever—in Lima, Peru
- Secret Service FAQ Page
- 10 Things You Didn’t Know about the U.S. Secret Service
- CNN: Secret Service Facts
Article authored by and containing the opinions of Starr Wright USA. This article is offered solely for informational purposes. Starr Wright USA is a marketing name for Starr Wright Insurance Agency, Inc. and its affiliate(s). Starr Wright USA is an insurance agency specializing in insurance solutions for federal employees and federal contractors. For more information, visit wrightusa.com. Starr Wright USA is a division of Starr Insurance Companies, which is a marketing name for the operating insurance and travel assistance companies and subsidiaries of Starr International Company, Inc. and for the investment business of C.V. Starr & Co., Inc.