LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Their mission today is famous: protect the president (and other leading politicians) at all costs. Even if it means putting their lives on the line. But, what if I told you that was only half of the job of the Secret Service, and it is NOT why it was created in the first place?
The Secret Service of the United States was created back in 1865, right at the end of the Civil War. Believe it or not, though, their duty was not to protect the president during the tumultuous time. Their role was actually purely to find and stop the counterfeiting of money.
Fake money was a HUGE problem at the time, so the U.S. Treasury---yes, the Treasury—created the Secret Service to combat it. They had a big task on their hands, too: it’s estimated that up to half of all money in circulation at the time was fake.
Stopping financial crimes would be the Secret Service’s sole job for nearly 40 years. However, in 1901 they got another big responsibility. That was the year President William McKinley was shot and killed in Buffalo, New York. He was the third American president to be assassinated, and it’s his death that added political protection to the mission of the Secret Service.
Today, that’s what the officers are best known for; but, investigating financial crimes is still among their responsibilities. To get all of these things done, the Secret Service employs around 3,200 special agents, 1,300 uniformed division officers, and more than 2,000 people.
Agents famously are trained to “take a bullet” for the president, putting themselves in harm's way to keep the Commander-in-Chief safe. Thankfully, though, the Secret Service reports that officers getting shot protecting the president is rare.
Its website only lists three times that an officer has been shot defending the president during an assassination attempt, and only one of them died. Officer Leslie Coffelt was shot and killed in 1950 when two Puerto Rican nationalists tried to assassinate President Harry Truman.
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