What It Means to Be a US Secret Service Agent

Obviously, the US Secret Service is an employing organization to be proud of. Numerous films and literary works have been dedicated to secret agents and their heroic deeds in the face of international threats and dangers, so the public mostly remains with a romanticized impression about what it takes to become a secret agent. However, in fact, this organization is only one of many US agencies caring about homeland security, and its history is long and interesting. This essay explores some important milestones of US Secret Service’s history and examines current responsibilities and duties of agents employed in it.

Creation of the US Secret Service dates back to April 1865, and its original aim was to address counterfeiting in the USA. Therefore, the subordination of this unit to the US Department of Treasury that may seem strange to a contemporary American becomes reasonable (Bumgarner, 2006). In the Civil War period, almost one-third of the US currency circulating around the state was considered fake, since production of counterfeited money was relatively simple in those days. Therefore, the Secret Service emerged as a major force to struggle against the illegal currency, supporting the US efforts in the form of national currency printing.

The name “Secret Service” was borrowed from the Pinkerton’s agency, an unofficial intelligence organization that helped the US authorities in many serious political matters. Initially tasked with fighting counterfeiting and detection of fraud, the US Secret Service was also tasked with broader dignitary-protection duties in 1894 (Wilson, 2012). After two presidential assassinations in 1865 and 1881, the Secret Service became unofficially involved in protection of the US President – Grover Cleveland at that time. Though even under the secret agents’ protection, another US President, William McKinley, was assassinated in 1901, the Congress expanded the Secret Service’s duties and asked for greater involvement in President’s protection, which culminated in the formal assignment of that function to the service in 1906 (Ayton, 2017).

Since that decisive moment, the duty of Secret Service agents to protect US Presidents has been the American “trademark.” In 1982, the Secret Service’s scope of duties also extended to presidential candidates and senior public officials, while the public regards agents of this division as those ready to take the bullet for the President (Owens, 2000). A grand change in this service’s functions was also witnessed in 1963, in the aftermath of President Kennedy’s assassination, extending the scope of protection to wives and children of acting and former presidents (Melanson, 2005).

As a result, at present, a number of former presidents and their families, the acting president and his family, as well as numerous nominees during the electoral race all fall under the protection of the Secret Service. This nevertheless causes some public debates and oppositions, since it is not clear what degree of significance the candidate should possess for being awarded Secret Service protection at the expense of the state, which is in fact taxpayer money. To resolve this challenge, the Secretary of the Treasury is assigned to determining which candidates qualify for such protection and which should not be granted protection (Holden, 2006). Thus, the Secret Service agent’s duties now include 24/7 protection of the acting president and his family, while during presidential campaigns, agents are tasked with coordination of security matters, provision of mail, luggage, residence, and transportation security, facilitation of access to travel and local press, and provision of necessary personnel identification and movement within secure areas (Melanson, 2005).

As the presented evidence suggests, the Secret Service indeed passed through a long and interesting path of duties’ change and has formed as a cult organization within the USA responsible for top country leaders’ 24/7 protection. While some critics consider the Secret Service a waste of taxpayer money, its agents are the primary force against attackers and threats for the highest-rank officials of the USA. Therefore, their mission is indeed dignified and only the best can get into the Secret Service for Presidential protection.


Ayton, M. (2017). Plotting to kill the President: assassination attempts from Washington to Hoover. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.
Bumgarner, J. B. (2006). Federal agents: the growth of federal law enforcement in America. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Holden, H. (2006). To be a U. S. Secret Service agent. St. Paul, MN: Voyageur Press.
Melanson, P. H. (2005). The Secret Service: the hidden history of an enigmatic agency. New York, NY: Basic Books.
Owens, R. (2000). Oklahoma heroes: the Oklahoma officers memorial. Padukah, KY: Turner Publishing Company.
Wilson, S. H. (2012). The U. S. justice system: law and constitution in early America. Boca Raton, FL: ABC-CLIO.

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