Entrusted with providing security for the most powerful human being on the planet, a United States Secret Service agent holds one of the most dramatic, demanding and dangerous jobs ever created for humankind. They are tasked with defending the President of the United States from all manners of attacks and threats, whether it is domestic or foreign. While we see them cameo every time the U.S. President makes an appearance in a movie or a television show, we can hardly say that we know much about the agency or the job apart from them looking like they are not allowed to show feelings or the fact that they wear awesome clothes. They always look mysterious and aloof even though they are literally right next to other Secret Service agents. They look like they are always ready to go into action at any moment for the person they are protecting. People can only wonder about their background, what goes on in their heads and what their life is like. But here, we put a temporary stop to wondering so we can marvel at the awesomeness that is the U.S. Secret Service. Here are fifteen of the secrets of the highly-acclaimed U.S. Secret Service.
15. Only one Secret Service agent has died protecting the President
Knowing that this job is one of the most dangerous jobs in this world, one will assume that many agents have lost their lives performing their duty of protecting the U.S. President. However, historians say that the agency has only lost one agent named Private Leslie Coffelt who was at the time protecting President Harry S. Truman. It was in 1950 when two Puerto Ricans attacked the Blair House where the President was staying due to renovations at the White House. Coffelt was mortally wounded after being shot three times in the abdomen and chest. Known as an expert sharpshooter, Coffelt was still able to shoot one of the assailants in the head before collapsing from his wounds. His sacrifice and heroism is commemorated with a plaque at the Blair House.
14. They’re always ready to raise their weapons
Providing security and protection for the U.S. President is at the top of the list of a Secret Service agent’s tasks and responsibilities. Translation: they are always ready to raise their weapons when it is necessary to do so. Because of the numerous threats that the President has to face every single day, each of the agents is specifically trained to effectively assess the situation and to always be prepared to draw their weapons. If you look closely at the photos showing the Secret Service agents, you will notice that their hands are most of the time at their waist. It does not matter how the fingers are positioned but know that those hands are always ready to react, draw the weapon and fire at the most imminent threat faster than you can say ABC.
13. They never have to swear to die for the president
“You swore an oath to die protecting the President!” A legitimate U.S. Secret Service agent would not be lying if he replied to that statement with, “No, I did not.” The truth of the matter is while it is commonly depicted that way in movies, there is no oath that states that an agent should protect the President even if it means his demise. This is probably one of the most prevalent urban legends of all. The oath only states, “I, do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic…” And it is definitely not followed with “or die trying.” But while there is no official affirmation, sacrificing one’s life for the President is heavily understood by all agents.
12. Secret Service agents carry presidential blood with them
While it is true that the U.S. Secret Service agents protect the President, not all employees of the agency get to protect him directly. But those agents who are part of the Presidential Protection Division are supposed to carry bags of the commander-in-chief’s blood wherever they go. All of the agents who are part of this division are specially trained to perform “ten-minute medicine” or doing everything to make sure that the President survives while waiting for appropriate medical attention when an emergency arises. While the entire procedure is not divulged, previous agents of the agency reveal that bags of blood of the President are included in his motorcade to ensure that if a transfusion is necessary, there is no risk of a lack in supply.
11. The Secret Service has kept mistresses secret
The commander-in-chief of the most powerful nation in the world normally has a lot of accolades to his name. However, there have been numerous instances in the past when a President shook the nation with scandals of Presidential infidelity. Keeping the word “secret” in Secret Service, the agents are expected to keep mum and help to usher the mistresses of the President. According to rumours, Presidents Franklin Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson, Grover Cleveland and Bill Clinton are among those who have engaged in extramarital flings while President. As they say, “With great power, comes great responsibility.” That great responsibility also stretches to being discreet when they have to use the oval office for anything other than law-making. It’s a good thing the U.S. Secret Service is always there to help.
10. Secret Service agents don’t always wear a suit
As we commonly see in the news, the members of the agency, especially those who are part of the Presidential Security Detail, wear a formal suit. While it is fairly common for them to wear this attire, it is not mandatory. U.S. Secret Service agents are allowed to wear casual clothing like a pair of jeans and a shirt while on duty. However, when part of the detail, agents opt to wear the suit to provide an appearance of professionalism rather than one of tactical response. Since the President is the man of the masses, he is expected to interact with citizens from time to time. It would be difficult for a civilian to approach the President if he had someone on his side carrying tactical gear and rifles.
9. Secret Service agents wear sunglasses, but not for the reason you think
When we see Secret Service agents, what we usually spot first is their formal attire, earpieces and their sunglasses. Most of us think that the sunglasses are a device designed to scan the vicinity or the environment for anything that may cause an immediate threat to the President. Maybe it is and they would just like to keep us in the dark. Others claim that it is so that potential attackers cannot see that the agent is on to them. But most agents say that the reason they wear this accessory is the same purpose that such an item was created for: to protect their eyes from the sun. After all, it is easier to spot what the crowd is doing when their eyes are protected from sunlight.
8. There are more of them than you realize
When the U.S. Secret Service is mentioned, many people will automatically think that there are only a handful of agents and those people are the ones directly protecting the President of the United States of America. They could not be farther from the truth. As of 2017, the agency employs approximately 6,500 employees, which consist of 3,200 special agents, 1,300 uniformed division officers and more than 2,000 administrative, professional and technical support personnel. Currently, they have 116 field and resident offices all over the country and 20 offices in other parts of the world. While 6,500 is considered a lot, such a number is still not enough considering the wide scope of tasks under the umbrella of the agency. The special agents serve on security details and investigate various federal and security-related crimes.
7. The agency does not only guard presidents
While one of the primary tasks of a special agent is to guard the President, he is not the only person on this planet who gets to be under the protective mission of the agency. The Vice-President, officials in order of succession to the Office with their spouses and immediate families are also protected with a security detail. Children of former Presidents under the age of 16 are also covered by the protection. In addition, a separate security detail is provided whenever a head of a foreign state or government visits the United States. Sometimes, even officials going on special meetings abroad are provided with protection by the U.S. Secret Service. The agency uses a tactical threat assessment developed by the Intelligence Division to identify the risks for their protectees.
6. The agency protects former presidents and their spouse during their lifetime
All former presidents and their spouses are covered with the protection of the United States Secret Service. Presidents from 1965 to 1996 all enjoyed lifetime Secret Service protection, including their wives and children under the age of 16. It was only limited to ten years by a statute issued in 1994 which was done as a cost-saving measure by Congress. It was not until January 2013 when then-President Barack Obama signed the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 reinstating the lifetime Secret Service protection which would include George W. Bush (his predecessor), himself and all other subsequent Presidents. In the entire history, Richard Nixon was the only American President who did not make use of this privilege and relinquished it in 1985.
5. FBI was born from the Secret Service
The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the domestic intelligence and security agency service of the United States. This federal law enforcement agency operates under the Department of Justice and has jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of Federal crimes. But did you know that the first agents of the FBI were former U.S. Secret Service agents? After the assassination of McKinley, President Roosevelt instructed Attorney General Charles Bonaparte to organize an investigative service that would report only to the Attorney General. Despite Congress’ prohibition, Bonaparte used the expense funds of the Department of Justice to hire people from the Secret Service to work for the new investigative agency. It was initially called the Bureau of Investigation but was later renamed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
4. After 9/11, the agency now oversees security at non-political events
After the attack on the World Trade Center and its New York City field office on September 11, 2001, the United States Secret Service took jurisdiction over the security of non-political events. The agency spearheads the planning of the security for the country’s major events that draw in large crowds like the Super Bowl. As part of the Department of Homeland Security, the USSS also deals with events that might be the subject of terrorist attacks, as it is a key member of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Joint Terrorism Task Force which has a goal of combating all forms of terrorism on a national and international level. In history, the 56th Presidential Inauguration was the largest and most complex event ever overseen by the Secret Service.
3. The agency started protecting presidential candidates after one was killed
It was not until presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy was shot and killed in the middle of the 1968 elections that the United States Secret Service started offering protection for Presidential candidates. Vice-Presidential candidates and their spouses are offered this protection as well. According to Public Law 90-331, Congress authorized the protection of Presidential, Vice-Presidential candidates and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election. Barack Obama, however, was given this protection a year and a half before Election Day making him the candidate who received protection from the agency for the longest period of time. The candidates and nominees can decline this protection but with the level of competition during elections, we think the protection of the U.S. pre-Secret Service is better than none.
2. Abraham Lincoln created the Secret Service the same day he died
The United States Secret Service is one of the oldest and the most elite federal law enforcement agencies in the world. This agency dates back to the end of the American Civil War. Created for a purpose other than what it serves now, which we will discuss in the next item, the legislation forming the U.S. Secret Service was on top of Abraham Lincoln’s desk the night he was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. The official foundation day of the USSS is on April 14, 1865, which was a Good Friday. It was initially called the “Secret Service Division” of the Department of Treasury. It remained a part of the Department of Treasury until 2003 when it was transferred under the Department of Homeland Security.
1. The Secret Service’s original mission was to stop counterfeit currency
When the notion of a federal law enforcement agency was conceived, the idea did not involve investigating murder cases or protecting the U.S. President. In fact, the original mission that the U.S. Secret Service was given was to probe and crack down the production of counterfeit currency at the time. The agency was provided with a task to combat the widespread counterfeiting at the time which was thought to severely affect the U.S. economy and threatened to destroy it. The Secret Service Division was then part of the Department of Treasury with Chief William P. Wood who sworn in as the first ever Secret Service Chief. It was not until 1901 when the agency assumed its first protective mission after President William McKinley was assassinated by Leon Czolgosz.
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