The United States Secret Service gets a lot of attention (good and bad) for its role in protecting the President, the First Family, and presidential candidates on the trail. But that wasn’t their original intended role. The Secret Service was formed by Abraham Lincoln in April, 1865, days prior to his death, to combat the rampant counterfeit issue with US currency brought on by the Civil War. A branch of the Treasury Department, the branch began investigating everything from bad money to murder because, at that time, no other apparatus of the federal government had the jurisdiction to do so except the US Marshalls and they were short on man power.
So how did an organization started to battle funny money become the protector of US presidents? Here’s a short timeline of Big Moments in Secret Service History:
- 1865 – The Secret Service is created
- 1901 – Congress first informally requested the Secret Service provide protection following the assassinating of President William McKinley
- 1902 – The Secret Service assumed full-time responsibility for the protection of the president (the Uniformed Division)
- 1968 – As a result of the Robert Kennedy assassination, Congress authorized protection of major presidential candidates and nominees (they may decline protection)
- 1965 & 1968 – Congress authorizes lifetime protection for the spouses of deceased presidents (unless they remarry) and the children of former presidents until age sixteen, or ten years after the presidency
- 2003 – Oversight of the department was transferred from the Treasury Department to the Department of Homeland Security
While some responsibilities have been siphoned off the Secret Service, they still do vastly more than protect presidential types. They are still involved in tracking and prosecuting counterfeiters as well as electronic or cyber crimes with regard to financial institutions and ‘critical infrastructures.’
Secret Service agents have served as romantic heroes in Hollywood since the 1950’s when Burt Lancaster starred in Mister 880, and most notably in1992’s The Bodyguard, which featured Kevin Costner as a retired agent protecting a music diva. Most recently, Gerard Butler surfaced as hero material as Agent Mike Banning in Olympus has Fallen. Can you say “eye candy”?
I recently started a new WIP that features a Secret Service hero, and the research has been so much fun! So which type of heroic agent turns the pages for you?