The men in black suits who stand around the white house, walk alongside the president, and talk into their cufflinks are members of the oldest federal law enforcement agency—the United States Secret Service. This branch of law enforcement was originally created in 1865 to combat counterfeiting of U.S. currency. Thirty-six years later, after the assassination of President McKinley, the Secret Service was assigned to protect the President. Today, the agency is mandated by Congress to carry out a variety of responsibilities, including:
Protection of the President: This includes protecting the current 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, and major presidential candidates within 120 days of the general election.
Protection of the presidential families: The immediate families of the above individuals as well as former presidents and their children receive protection from the secret service, as well. Spouses of former presidents receive protection until they remarry; children are protected until age 16.
Protection of foreign visitors: The Secret Service is often assigned to protect visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling with them
Financial crime investigation: The Secret Service still investigates counterfeiting of U.S. currency, and now also investigates 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.
In order to carry out these responsibilities, the secret service is in constant contact with other federal and local agencies and departments to use the most advanced techniques and technology. The agency employs over 3000 agents, 1300 uniformed officers, and more than 2000 other support staff.
In order to be hired by the Secret Service, all employees undergo a full background investigation which can take approximately six to nine months to complete. New agent trainees for the Secret Service is a bit more intense than police officer or FBI training. New agents are first sent to the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Georgia, where they are enrolled in a 10-week course, designed to train new federal investigators. After this training, agents are sent to a 17-week Special Agent Training Course at the Secret Service training academy, outside of Washington, D.C. This course focuses on the dual responsibilities of investigations and protection in areas such as combat, counterfeiting, access device fraud, financial criminal activity, survival skills, protective intelligence, physical protection techniques, and emergency medicine.
After training, special agents are assigned to a field division and begin their careers in the United States Secret Service. The Secret Service carries the weight and responsibility of national security on their shoulders, as well as to “safeguard the nation’s financial infrastructure and payment systems to preserve the integrity of the economy, and to protect national leaders, visiting heads of state and government, designated sites, and National Special Security Events.” (Secret Service Mission)