After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, the Secret Service was directed by Congress to protect the President of the United States. This duty remains the primary responsibility of the United States Secret Service. Today the Secret Service is authorized to protect the following:

- the President, the Vice President (or other officer next in order of succession to the Office of President), the President-elect, and Vice President-elect;

- the immediate families of the above individuals;

- former Presidents and their spouses for their lifetimes, except that protection of a spouse will terminate in the event of remarriage;

- 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 U.S., and official representatives of the U.S. performing special missions abroad;

- major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, and within 120 days of the general Presidential election, the spouses of such candidates.

Secret Service protective methods are generally the same for all individuals protected. Permanent protectees, such as the President and First Lady, have details of special agents permanently assigned to them. Temporary protectees, such as candidates and foreign dignitaries, have details of special agents on temporary assignment from the Service's field offices. With the exception of the President, the President-elect, the Vice President, and the Vice President-elect, all individuals entitled to Secret Service protection may decline protection if they choose.


Work begins on a protectee's visit to a locality when a lead advance agent is assigned to draw up a security plan. Throughout the planning stages and the visit, the lead agent and his team work closely with the Special Agent in Charge and other personnel from the nearest district field office.

The advance team surveys each site to be visited. From these surveys, the members determine manpower, equipment, and other requirements. Protective research personnel on the advance team conduct electronic and environmental surveys; others select hospitals and evacuation routes for emergencies. Fire, rescue, and other public service personnel in the community are alerted. A command post is established with full communications facilities. The assistance of the military, state, county, and local law enforcement organizations is a vital part of the entire security operation.

Before the protectee's arrival, the lead advance agent holds briefings for all agents and other law enforcement representatives participating in the visit. Personnel are told where they will be posted and are alerted to specific problems associated with the visit. Intelligence information is discussed, identification specified, and emergency options outlined. Just prior to the arrival of the protectee, checkpoints are established, and access to the secured area is limited.

During the visit, Secret Service and local law enforcement personnel form a network of support for members of the detail surrounding the protectee. The Secret Service command post acts as the nerve center for protective activities, monitors emergencies, and keeps all participants in contact with one another.

After the visit, agents analyze every step of the protective operation, record unusual incidents, and suggest improvements for the future.


Protective research is an important ingredient in all security operations. Protective research technicians and engineers develop, test, and maintain technical devices and equipment needed to secure a safe environment for the Service's protectees.

Agents and specialists assigned to protective research also evaluate information received from other law enforcement and intelligence agencies regarding individuals or groups who may pose a threat to protectees. Such information is critical to the Service's protective planning.


The men and women of the Secret Service Uniformed Division are an integral part of the Service's protective program. First established in 1922 as the White House Police, they were renamed the United States Secret Service Uniformed Division in 1977.

Uniformed Division officers in the White House Branch are responsible for security at the Executive Mansion; the Treasury Building, Annex, and grounds; and the Old and New Executive Office Buildings. Uniformed Division officers clear all visitors, provide fixed posts, and patrol the White House Grounds.

The Foreign Missions Branch of the Uniformed Division safeguards foreign diplomatic missions in the Washington, D.C., area. Officers maintain foot and vehicular patrols in areas where embassies are located. They are assigned to fixed posts at locations where a threat has been received or at installations of countries involved in tense international situations. This Branch also provides security at the Vice President's residence and at the Blair House when foreign dignitaries are in residence.

Uniformed Division officers have additional duties, closely involving them in almost every phase of the Service's protective mission. The Administration and Program Support Branch officers operate magnetometers at the White House and at other sites to prevent persons from taking weapons into secure areas. Uniformed Division canine teams respond to bomb threats, suspicious packages, and other situations where explosive detection is necessary. The Uniformed Division countersniper team performs still other important security functions.


The protective responsibilities of the United States Secret Service represent only half of its mission. The Service was founded in 1865 as a bureau of the Treasury Department. It was originally established to suppress counterfeiting. Although suppressing the counterfeiting of U.S. currency and securities remains a primary mission of the Secret Service, our responsi- bilities have expanded to include: stolen or forged U.S. Government checks, bonds, and other Government obligations; fraud and related activity in connection with identification documents; and major fraud cases involving credit and debit cards, computers, automated teller machines, telecommunications, or electronic fund transfers.

Planning and maintaining security for individuals and property protected by the United States Secret Service is a complicated and demanding process. The Secret Service is able to fulfill its protective responsibilities because of the cooperation and assistance of private citizens and members of the law enforcement community.