Sunday, April 22, 2012

US Secret Service Maintains Dual Mission - Investigations, Protection

A sex scandal involving several U.S. Secret Service agents and prostitutes in Colombia is focusing unwanted attention on the elite law enforcement organization that protects the president of the United States.

U.S. Secret Service agents are credited with saving President Ronald Reagan's life during an assassination attempt in 1981.

Day in and day out, Secret Service agents and uniformed officers protect high level government leaders and their families in Washington and around the world.  The agency also provides security for visiting foreign leaders and dignitaries.

"Congress actually authorized us to protect the president in 1901," noted Special Agent Byron Tarver.  "And slowly, we've inherited other protectees.  We also have the vice president.  We also protect candidates that run for president."

Former Secret Service Agent Tim McCarthy says the Presidential Protective Division is a large operating unit.

"I won't get into the exact numbers of people involved, but it can be tens of thousands, depending on the event that the president is attending," noted McCarthy.

Former Secret Service Deputy Director Clint Hill was the agent assigned to protect President John F. Kennedy the day he was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963.  Hill says the men and women who work for the agency are extremely dedicated to their mission.

"They are very determined," said Hill.  "They are going to do the job - no matter what - and prevent anything from happening.  Politics doesn't enter into it."

Protecting the president and other government officials is only part of the Secret Service's mission. 

Since the organization began in 1865, its primarily mission has involved protecting the integrity of the nation's financial system.  Its agents investigate crimes involving the counterfeiting of U.S. and foreign currency and other securities.

Special Agent Byron Tarver is based in Bangkok, Thailand.  He says the Secret Service office there concentrates on anti-counterfeit efforts.

"Counterfeit here in our region is active, mainly toward the south in Malaysia and Indonesia, not so much here in Thailand," said Tarver.  "Several years ago, we had a lot more activity, but it seems to be on a lull.  Counterfeit seems to come in peaks and valleys."

With advances in technology, the U.S. Secret Service has expanded its investigations to include financial institution fraud, counterfeit credit cards and computer crimes.

Yet it is the service's protection of the president that most people see.  But it is what people do not see that agents also consider important.

VOA News

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