Here is some background information about the Secret Service, a federal agency tasked with protecting the president of the United States, among many other responsibilities.
The Secret Service is one of the country’s oldest federal investigative agencies, founded in 1865 to stop counterfeiters.
There are approximately 3,200 special agents and an additional 1,300 uniformed officers who guard the White House, the Treasury building and foreign diplomatic missions in Washington.
In addition to protecting the First Family, the Secret Service also provides security for the vice president, the president-elect, the vice president-elect, former presidents and their families, presidential candidates, visiting heads of state and representatives of the United States performing special missions overseas.
After September 11, 2001, the Secret Service took on new responsibilities, overseeing security at non-political events that could be targets for terrorists, like the NFL Super Bowl.
July 5, 1865 – The Secret Service is established as an investigative unit within the Department of Treasury. At the time, the country was awash with forged currency. Between one-third and half of the money in circulation was counterfeit, according to some estimates.
1867 – The role of the agency expands to include investigations of mail theft, bootlegging, smuggling and fraud.
1894 – The Secret Service provides part-time protection for President Grover Cleveland after the agency discovers an assassination plot while probing a group of gamblers.
1898 – A White House detail is established to protect President William McKinley during the Spanish-American War. After the end of the war, Secret Service operatives continue to watch over the White House part time.
September 6, 1901 – McKinley is shot and critically wounded during a reception in Buffalo, New York. McKinley dies eight days later and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt is sworn into office. The assassination prompts Congress to request full-time Secret Service protection for presidents.
1902 – The Secret Service establishes an around-the-clock White House detail to protect President Roosevelt.
1908 – The FBI is established, with a group of Secret Service and Department of Justice investigators.
1917 – Congress passes a law making it a federal crime to threaten the president.
November 1, 1950 – Secret Service officer Leslie Coffelt is gunned down while protecting President Harry S. Truman at the Blair House in Washington. He is the first and only Secret Service member to be killed in the line of duty guarding the president.
November 22, 1963 – President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. According to the Warren Commission, a number of agents protecting Kennedy had been out late the night before the tragedy and some violated protocol by drinking alcohol. Ultimately, the agents were not disciplined and the Warren Commission concluded that there was no misconduct.
1968 – After the assassination of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, the Secret Service offers protection to major presidential and vice presidential candidates.
March 30, 1981 – President Ronald Reagan is shot and injured by John Hinckley Jr. Secret Service Agent Timothy McCarthy is also hit, trying to block Hinckley as he fires at Reagan. Press Secretary James Brady and a Washington police officer are also wounded.
1994 – Congress authorizes the Secret Service to help the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The agency provides forensic and technical assistance to local, state and federal agencies.
April 19, 1995 – Domestic terrorists bomb the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, which housed a regional Secret Service office. Six agency employees are among the 168 people killed in the attack.
September 11, 2001 – The Secret Service’s New York field office in 7 World Trade Center is destroyed during the terror attacks. The attacks kill Special Officer Craig Miller.
March 2003 – The Secret Service moves from the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security. Despite its transfer to DHS, the agency continues to investigate financial crimes.
November 11, 2011 – A gunman fires an assault rifle at the White House, hitting the residential wing of the building at least seven times. Four days later, a housekeeper and a White House usher spot bullet holes in the residence. Five days after the shooting, the gunman, Oscar Ramiro Ortega-Hernandez is arrested at a Pennsylvania hotel. In March 2014, Ortega-Hernandez is sentenced to 25 years in federal prison.
April 2012 – After allegations of misconduct involving prostitutes, 11 Secret Service members are relieved of duty and returned to the US from Columbia, where they had been working on security ahead of a visit by President Barack Obama.
February-March 2013 – Mark Sullivan retires as director of the Secret Service. Julia Pierson takes his place. She is the agency’s first female director.
March 23, 2014 – A member of the Secret Service’s elite counter assault team is found passed out in an Amsterdam hotel lobby after a night of alleged partying. He and two other members of the presidential detail are recalled home and placed on administrative leave.
September 19, 2014 – After jumping the White House fence, 42-year-old Omar Gonzalez, of Copperas Cove, Texas, gets through the North Portico doors of the White House with a three-and-a-half-inch folding knife in his pants pocket. In early accounts of the incident, the Secret Service claimed the intruder didn’t get past the portico doors. More than a week later, Gonzalez is indicted on three separate federal and District of Columbia charges. In June 2015, Gonzalez is sentenced to 17 months in prison.
October 1, 2014 – In the wake of several security breaches, Pierson resigns as director of the Secret Service. Joseph Clancy, a former special agent from the president’s security detail, steps in as interim director.
December 2014 – A government panel established after a White House intruder incident in September, releases a report recommending more effective fencing around the executive mansion. The review also describes a leadership vacuum within the agency, along with a lack of focus and a need for more training. The panel recommends hiring 85 new agents and 200 uniformed officers to prevent future breaches.
January 14, 2015 – Four high-ranking Secret Service executives lose their posts as the agency undergoes a change in leadership prompted by the breaches and scandals.
February 18, 2015 – President Obama chooses Clancy to be the director of the agency, going against recommendations to bring in an outsider to help the Secret Service implement reforms.
March 4, 2015 – Two Secret Service supervisors returning to the White House from a party unwittingly drive into a barricade and interfere with an investigation of a suspicious package. The supervisors were drinking at the party, according to a congressional review of the incident.
April 8, 2015 – A senior supervisor is placed on administrative leave amid allegations he sexually assaulted a female colleague at the office after hours.
June 9, 2015 – The Washington Post reports that dozens of new Secret Service hires have been posted in sensitive locations without proper national security clearances. An agency spokesman tells the Post the vetting process is being expedited so all the new staffers will be cleared within three days.
September 25, 2015 – The DHS’s Office of the Inspector General releases a memorandum revealing that Secret Service employees improperly accessed the personnel file for Congressman Jason Chaffetz, who had once applied for a job with the agency. Chaffetz chairs the committee investigating the Secret Service. According to the memo, agency employees accessed Chaffetz’s personal information approximately 60 times.
September 30, 2015 – The DHS reports a senior manager at the Secret Service encouraged employees to leak Chaffetz’s job application to retaliate against the congressman. “Some information that he might find embarrassing needs to get out. Just to be fair,” the manager wrote in an email.
October 21, 2015 – The DHS issues an alert, warning Secret Service management that agents are overworked and fatigued. According to the alert, two officers were discovered sleeping at their posts during an audit of security at protected buildings.
December 2015 – The House Oversight Committee issues a 438-page report, “United States Secret Service: An Agency in Crisis.” The report examines the 2011 White House shooting episode, the misconduct in Colombia, the breach at the CDC and the incident involving the supervisors driving into a crime scene. The review lists six additional breaches that took place over the course of a single month, including a security lapse that enabled an uninvited guest to go backstage at a function and speak to the president. The committee proclaims that the agency has failed to implement many of the reforms recommended by the government panel in 2014. In conclusion, the committee declares that “the agency’s recent public failures are not a series of isolated events, but the product of an insular culture that has historically been resistant to change.”
May 26, 2016 – After reviewing the conduct of 57 Secret Service personnel, “41 are receiving some level of discipline” regarding the leak of Chaffetz’s job application, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson says in a statement.
November 15, 2016 – The Secret Service conducts the largest seizure of counterfeit currency in the agency’s history. Thirty million counterfeit US dollars and 50,000 euros are discovered in Lima, Peru.
February 14, 2017 – Secret Service Director Clancy announces his retirement to the staff. His retirement is effective March 4.
March 16, 2017 – A laptop with highly sensitive information, including floor plans and the evacuation protocol for Trump Tower, is stolen from a Secret Service agent’s car in Brooklyn.
April 13, 2017 – Two law enforcement officials tell CNN that two Secret Service officers were fired over their handling of a March 10 incident in which a White House fence jumper made it to just steps from a main door to the executive mansion.
April 25, 2017 – President Donald Trump appoints Randolph Alles, a retired Marine two-star general, as the next director of the Secret Service.
April 8, 2019 – The White House announces a “career member” of the Secret Service, James Murray, has been chosen to be its new director, following the news that Trump is removing Alles as director, amid a shakeup at the Department of Homeland Security. Murray is sworn in on the first of May.
May 7, 2021 – Murray testifies before Congress for the first time in public since the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol. He says that had the Electoral College count been declared a National Special Security Event, a designation used by the Department of Homeland Security for events such as the President’s State of the Union address, the Secret Service would have been in charge of security. While Murray acknowledges that additional precautions could have been taken regardless of who was in charge, he says that putting the agency in charge of security preparations prior to the attack would have helped to better protect the Capitol.
May 12, 2021 – The Secret Service reports that it has assisted in recovering approximately $2 billion in fraudulently obtained Covid-19 relief funds and seized more than $640 million from accused fraudsters. The agency has opened 690 cases regarding unemployment insurance fraud, and 720 Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Paycheck Protection Program fraud investigations and inquiries.