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United States Secret Service

The United States Secret Service is a United States federal government law enforcement agency originally created under the United States Department of the Treasury. On March 1, 2003, it was moved under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Homeland Security. The Secret Service has primary jurisdiction over counterfeiting of currency and the protection or bodyguard of the President and other major political leaders (called "protectees").

The Secret Service Division began on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency, which is why it was established under the Department of the Treasury. After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress informally requested Secret Service Presidential protection. A year later, it assumed full-time responsibility for protection of the President.

The Secret Service Presidential Protection Detail safeguards the President of the United States and his immediate family. They are heavily armed and work with local police and the military to safeguard the President when he travels. Because the President of the United States has nuclear weapons launch authority, s/he is protected with deadly force.

Some critics of the United States Secret Service have maintained it acts as a secret police agency. Such critics may point, for example, to an incident where Steve Jackson Games was raided by (perhaps overzealous) Secret Service Agents in a move that was later ruled to be illegal and unjustified. The Secret Service has also been involved in many incidents that, arguably, involved, essentially, the punishment of those with dissident political views or attempts to silence these individuals, and having nothing to do with counterfeiting or protection of protectees. For instance, it has been alleged that the Secret Service was involved in removing graduates from the Ohio State University graduation who had organized to turn their backs on the speaker, George W. Bush. The role of the Secret Service in getting some individuals it deemed to be a danger to protectees involuntarily committed, without any claim that the individuals in question were mentally ill, has also led to criticism.

In 1968, as a result of Presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy's assassination, Congress authorized protection of major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates and nominees. (Public Law 90-331). Congress also authorized protection of widows of Presidents until death, or remarriage, and their children until age 16.

Congress passed legislation in 1994 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. (Public Law 103-329)

See also: law enforcement, police

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