The Secret Service was created in 1865 as a federal law enforcement agency within the Treasury Department. It derives its legal authority from Title 18, United States Code, Section 3056. It was established for the express purpose of stopping counterfeiting operations which had sprung up in this country following the introduction of paper currency during the Civil War (Treasury, 2002, Online). The Secret Service maintains its role as guardian of the integrity of our currency, but today also investigates crimes involving United States securities, coinage, other government issues, credit and debit card fraud, and electronic funds transfer fraud. The most obvious of its other activities is executive protection, which began after the assassination of President McKinley in 1901(Treasury, 2002, Online).
In the 1800s, America's monetary system was very disorganized. Bills and coins were issued by each state through individual banks, which generated many types of legal currency. With so many different kinds of bills in circulation, it was easy for people to counterfeit money. The Secret Service officially 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, closing 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 (Treasury, 2002, Online).
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. The country mourned as news spread that the President had been shot (White House, online). It was the first time in our nation's history that a President had been assassinated and it was the reason that the Congress eventually, after two more presidential assassinations, added Presidential protection 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 (White House, online). 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 (1963-1969) authorized the Secret Service to protect all Presidential candidates. Over the years, the Secret Service's function has continued to change and grow. Its functions include:
Protecting the President and Vice President and their families, candidates for those offices, former Presidents and their families, and visiting heads of foreign states and governments;
Enforcing laws against counterfeiting currency, coins, or securities of the United States;
Enforcing laws against fraud or forgery of Government checks or bonds, and other securities and obligations of the United States;
Investigating credit and debit card fraud, computer fraud, and electronic fund transfer fraud;
Furnishing physical security for the White House, the Main Treasury Building, and foreign embassies and missions in Washington, New York and other cities. (Treasury, 2002, Online). These functions are directly reflected, below, in their mission statement and fall into two distinct categories the investigative mission and the protective mission.
The United States Secret Service is mandated by
statute and executive order to carry out two
significant missions: protection and criminal
investigations. The Secret Service protects the
President and Vice President, their families, heads of
state, and other designated individuals; investigates
threats against these protectees; protects the White
House, Vice President's Residence, Foreign Missions,
and other buildings...
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