Back in the 1800’s the Secret Service was created to fight against the growing threat of counterfeiting in the United States at the time. Fast forward to today, the Secret Service is most known for its vital role in the protection of the presidency, other important political figures, and security at national events. The agency also continues to play an important role in the protection of the United States’ federal financial institutions and national currency.
Even though Secret Service Agents have direct ties and relations to the presidency and presidential candidates, they are still allowed to vote in all elections. Under the 26th Amendment to the United States Constitution, individuals are granted the right to vote regardless of their career.
When thinking of the Secret Service and the agents that make up the agency, you may think of those stealthy-looking guys dressed in the iconic black suits posed around the White House and in constant tow with the President. Their in-depth daily roles and job functions aren’t openly discussed much past protection of the presidency, but there is much more entailed to the job. Read below to find out more about what it means to be among the most elite in the protection and law enforcement realm.
What Do Secret Service Agents Do? – Besides Protect the President
The Secret Service falls under the Department of Homeland Security and is guided by the Secretary of Homeland Security. Although the Secret Service was initially created to provide investigations into counterfeit crimes, in the early 1900s it received an additional function – protection services. Let’s dive into the two functions of the Secret Service a bit more.
Function #1: The protection of political leaders, their families, and visiting foreign government officials.
There is a long list of individuals that the Secret Service is required to protect. That list can be found under 18 U.S. Code § 3056 – Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service. To name a few – the president, vice president, immediate family of the president and VP, former presidents and their families, Popes, prime ministers, etc.
Under the direction of the President and Secretary of Homeland Security, Secret Service agents work alongside local law enforcement to patrol the White House and the area surrounding it, including the Treasury Department.
In addition to working at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington D.C., Secret Service Agents also work throughout the country and internationally. They provide security to those who fall under their protection while they travel domestically and abroad. They also coordinate and carry out all security operations at events that fall under the category of “National Special Security Events,” such as presidential inaugurations or national sporting events.
Function #2: Enforcement and investigation into financial crimes, securities fraud, and counterfeit currency.
The Secret Service’s original function of combating counterfeiting within the United States has expanded to the protection of all financial crimes committed against the United States’ financial institutions. Other duties now include – forgery of U.S. Treasury checks, credit card fraud or identity fraud that affects any federally insured financial institution, cybercrime, etc.
According to the Secret Service’s website, they prevented $2.8 billion worth of potential loss to the U.S. economy from cybercrime in 2019. Their goal is to guard U.S. currency and the methods by which our financial system functions.
Many agents specialize and work as either part of the protective services or investigative services. Protective services are likely to work in and around the White House and the vice president’s residence. While those specializing in investigative services can be found working throughout the United States and abroad. Any agent may be called upon at a moment’s notice to attend to any protective or investigative detail, regardless of their normal assignment, so they are required to travel frequently.
What Power Do Secret Service Agents Have?
Secret Service Agents hold very similar powers to cops, sheriffs, and other law enforcement officers. Just as sheriffs hold the power to enforce laws enacted by their county, Secret Service Agents enforce laws enacted under the federal government concerning their duties to protect important political figures and the United States’ financial institutions.
According to 18 U.S. Code §, 3056 – Powers, authorities, and duties of United States Secret Service, Secret Service Agents have the power to:
- carry a firearm
- execute warrants
- make arrests without warrant for any offense committed in their presence or for which they have reasonable cause that a crime was committed
- investigate fraud – credit card, identity, etc.
- offer and pay rewards for information or services in connection to investigations being conducted under the Secret Service’s authority
As mentioned in the prior section, Secret Service Agents can be found carrying out all the above powers throughout the United States in response to crimes against the financial structure of the United States government. Agents are normally assigned to a duty station. Duty stations are spread out all over the country and internationally.
How is the Secret Service Involved with Candidates for Presidency?
Likely the reason for individuals to question whether or not Secret Service Agents can vote is due to their personal and intimate involvement with the presidency, including presidential candidates. As mentioned before, this involvement does not impact an agent’s right to vote in any election. It is important however to understand how they are involved in protecting candidates for the presidency.
According to the Secret Service’s website, by law, they must protect “major presidential and vice-presidential candidates and their spouses within 120 days of a general presidential election.” Candidates also hold the right to deny Secret Service protection. Those who fall within the terms “major presidential and vice-presidential candidates” are determined by an advisory committee, not the Secret Service itself. The advisory committee consists of the Speaker of the House, the minority leader of the House, the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, and one additional member selected by the other four members.
Secret Service agents provide the same day-to-day planning and protection for presidential candidates as they would the acting president, regardless of their political preferences or beliefs. As you can see, Secret Service agents need to remain professional and unbiased when it comes to dealing with their daily duties.
They are responsible for the protection of the most important political figures in our society who hold a great deal of information essential to national security. They may hold the most honest and well-informed votes among those in our society, as they see on a day-to-day basis the characteristics and moralities of our potential political figures.
Who Can Become A Secret Service Agent?
Safeguarding the president, vice president, foreign diplomats, U.S. currency and financial institutions is arguably one of the most important jobs in national security. Due to the pressure and demands of the career, there are several qualifications an individual must meet to be considered for a highly competitive position among the elite men of the Secret Service.
An exemplary resume and influential connections within the field are great ways to set your application out from other applicants. Some general requirements need to be met to even apply to be a Secret Service Agent. Those basic requirements include:
- be between the age of 21 and 37 years old
- be a U.S. citizen
- possess a valid driver’s license
- have 20/100 vision
- have a bachelor’s degree and demonstrate superior academic achievement
- qualify for top-secret military clearance
- pass an extensive background check and polygraph exam
Superior academic achievements can include a GPA of 3.0 or above, graduating within the top one-third of your class, and/ or having been inducted into an academic honors society. Those who do not meet the superior academic achievement qualifications may also qualify if they have a master’s degree or have prior law enforcement experience (cop, investigator, detective). They are looking for someone who has knowledge and experience in investigating, interviewing witnesses/suspects, and arresting criminals.
There are also some exceptions to the age range requirement when it comes to those who hold veteran status. If you are a veteran of the United States Armed Forces, you must be younger than 40 at the time of submitting your application.
Find out more information on secret service officers HERE.
Does the president receive protection after leaving office?
Yes. All presidents and their spouses, that served after President Eisenhower, are entitled to receive lifetime Secret Service protection by law. Children of past presidents are also entitled to protection until the age of 16. This protection can be denied.
How much do Secret Service Agents make?
According to Glassdoor, Secret Service agents make on average an annual salary of about $144,000. The average annual salary ranges from about $100,000-170,000. Their annual salary is determined by their federal pay grade as a federal employee of the United States government.
Can the president deny Secret Service protection?
No. The acting President is not permitted to deny protection by the Secret Service due to the importance of national security. Only former presidents and/or their spouses or presidential candidates can deny protection by the Secret Service.
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Please note: This blog post is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a legal expert to address your specific needs.