USSS Jurisdiction & Investigative Priorities
A Secret Service special agent’s primary investigative duties center on safeguarding the US payment and financial systems. The agency’s original mission of enforcing anti-counterfeiting remains active, but it has expanded into investigating credit and debit card fraud, computer fraud affecting federal interests, and fraudulent identification documents. With the Justice Department, the Secret Service conducts civil and criminal investigations related to federally-insured financial institutions.
The Secret Service’s most recent annual report, for Fiscal Year 2013, notes that during the period, the agency recovered about $156 million in counterfeit US currency, closed over 260 counterfeit manufacturing operations in the US and abroad, and arrested nearly 2,700 persons on counterfeiting charges.
To aid the agency’s expanded responsibilities for financial crimes, including cybercrimes, credit and debit card fraud, bank and mortgage fraud, Secret Service investigators have formed networks of 45 Financial Crimes Task Forces and 33 Electronic Crimes Task Forces to track and combat modern-era high-tech crimes. Secret Service agents sometimes take assignments to work undercover in investigations.
The agency’s financial crimes investigators pursue cases against fraud involving financial institutions, money laundering and a wide variety of other crimes. In one five-year period (2003-2008), the Secret Service made nearly 29,000 criminal arrests for counterfeiting and financial crimes, including cybercrimes. Convictions resulted in 98% of those cases, and during that period, the agency investigated and closed financial crimes cases with actual losses of $3.7 billion, and prevented potential losses of over $12 billion.
Since 1901, when the Secret Service was given the responsibility for protecting the president, its protective mission has expanded over time. Through its Presidential Protection Division and its Dignitary Protection Division, the agency is now also responsible for safeguarding:
- the vice president (and whenever that office is vacant, the individuals next in line of succession to the presidency);
- the president-elect and vice president-elect;
- the immediate families of those protectees;
- former presidents and their spouses, for life (or, for a spouse, until remarriage);
- children of former presidents until the age of 16;
- visiting heads of foreign states and their spouses traveling with them in the US, other distinguished foreign visitors, and official representatives of the United States while undertaking special missions abroad;
- major presidential and vice presidential candidates, and their spouses within 120 days of a presidential election (earlier protection can be accorded, depending on the perceived threat level);
- other individuals designated by presidential order; and
- National Special Security Events designated by the Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security (such as political party conventions, international summits, and inaugurations)