The Secret Service

The Secret Service is the government agency that is responsible for protecting the political leaders of the United States and visiting dignitaries, as well as protecting the U.S. financial system. It was created in 1865 specifically to help cut down on the amount of counterfeit money that was flowing through the war-torn nation as the Civil War came to an end.

President Abraham Lincoln was largely responsible for creating the Secret Service. Treasury Secretary Hugh McCullough swore in Chief William P. Wood in July 1865. This was about three months after Lincoln was assassinated but the Secret Service would have been no help to Lincoln, anyway. Protecting the president was not the responsibility of the Secret Service yet. It was not until 1902, during the administration of President Teddy Roosevelt, that the Secret Service took over the full-time duty of protecting the president. Two officers were in charge of protecting Roosevelt but now, there are dozens of Secret Service agents that travel with the president and the president's family every time they leave the White House. There are also many Secret Service agents on duty at the White House 24 hours a day, although they do not live there. Visitors to the White House can often see agents on the roof or in the hallways.

Following the assassination of Robert Kennedy in 1968, Congress approved Secret Service protection for presidential and vice-presidential nominees. In 1971, foreign leaders visiting the U.S. were first given Secret Service protection. For a period of time, Congress had removed lifetime protection for presidents, saying that the millions of dollars per year that it can cost to protect one person is too expensive. However, in January 2013, President Barack Obama signed a bill that returned lifetime Secret Service protection to former presidents and their spouses. Children of former presidents can receive Secret Service protection until they are 16.


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