Most Americans have a picture in their heads regarding Secret Service Agents, at least I do. Black suits, white shirts, black ties, dark sun glasses and an earpiece dangling out of one of their ears, maybe speaking into a radio. Well, for those of you who are interested, here’s a little more info…
We all know (or should know) that Abraham Lincoln is famous for many things, The Gettysburg Address, The Emancipation Proclamation and his leadership during the Civil War but did you know that he also can take credit for the formation of the United States Secret Service?
When the United States Secret Service was established, its main duty was to prevent the illegal production, or counterfeiting, of money. You see, during the 1800s, America's monetary system was a mess. Bills and coins were issued by each state through individual banks. While this generated many types of legal currency, with so many different kinds of bills in circulation, counterfeiters had a field day. Estimates are that during President Lincoln's Administration, over 1/3rd of the country’s money was fake. Acting on the advice of Secretary of the Treasury Hugh McCulloch, Lincoln established a commission to stop this growing problem that was destroying the nation's economy, and on April 14, 1865, (the date itself is kind of ironic, please read on) he created the United States Secret Service to carry out the commission's recommendations.
The Secret Service went to work on July 5, 1865. Its first chief was William Wood. Chief Wood, widely known for his heroism during the Civil War, was very successful in his first year, shutting down more than 200 counterfeiting plants. This success helped prove the value of the Secret Service, and in 1866 the National Headquarters was established in the Department of the Treasury building in Washington, D.C.
During the evening of the same day President Lincoln established the Secret Service, he was assassinated at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., by John Wilkes Booth.(see, told ya!) As most of the country mourned, a call went out to expand the duties of the Secret Service to include protection of the president. Congress took the matter under consideration but it would take another 36 years and two more presidential assassinations, James A. Garfield, September 10, 1881 and William McKinley 1901 before they added protection of the President to the list of duties performed by the Secret Service.
Since 1901, every President from Theodore Roosevelt on has been protected by the Secret Service. In 1917, threats against the President became a felony and Secret Service protection was broadened to include all members of the First Family. In 1951, protection of the Vice President and the President-elect was added. After the assassination of Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy in 1968, President Lyndon B. Johnson authorized the Secret Service to protect all Presidential candidates.
Today, the Secret Service is made up of two primary divisions -- the Uniformed Division and the Special Agent Division. The primary role of the Uniformed Division is protection of the White House and its immediate surroundings, as well as the residence of the Vice President, and over 170 foreign embassies located in Washington, D.C. Originally named the White House Police, the Uniformed Division was established by an Act of Congress on July 1, 1922, during President Warren G. Harding's Administration
The Special Agent Division is charged with two missions: protection and investigation. During the course of their careers, special agents carry out assignments in both of these areas. Their many investigative responsibilities include counterfeiting, forgery, and financial crimes. In addition to protecting the President, the Vice President, and their immediate families, agents also provide protection for foreign heads of state and heads of government visiting the United States.
In 1994, Congress passed legislation stating that Presidents elected to office after January 1, 1997, will receive Secret Service protection for 10 years after leaving office. Individuals elected to office prior to January 1, 1997, will continue to receive lifetime protection.
Okay, the real source was the Secret Service themselves