History

Secret Service Saves

1909 – President William Taft agreed to meet with Mexican President Porfirio Diaz, in Texas and then El Cuidad. As this was to be the first time a US president was scheduled to cross over the Mexican border, it was decided that additional security detail was necessary to counteract the numerous assassination threats. Military troops, local policemen and 250 agents in a private security detail, led by Frederick Russell Burnham, were added to the president’s protection detail.

During the summit, Burnham noticed a civilian with a concealed weapon and signaled a Texas Ranger to help him disarm the man. His keen observation and quick action, kept both presidents safe during the incident. 

1950 – Two Puerto Rican nationals approached Blair House (where the president was residing while the White House was being renovated), on November 1st, with the intention of killing Harry S. Truman. They began shooting at the Secret Service officers that were on duty at the time. Despite mortal wounds received during the shootout, Private Leslie Coffelt killed one of the assailants. Even though the other was shot, he survived and spent 29 years in prison for the crime. Private Coffelt is the only Secret Service agent that has died to date, while protecting a president from an assassination attempt. 

1965 – During the assassination of President Kennedy, two Secret Service agents’ actions helped to save the lives of the first lady and the vice president. Clint Hill, who was assigned to the protection of Mrs. Kennedy, leapt from his vehicle onto the president’s still moving limousine. He guided her from the trunk to backseat and shielded her, and the president, with his body until the car arrived safely at the hospital.

Rufus Youngblood was riding in the vice-president’s vehicle, and after the shots were fired threw himself over the vice president to protect him from being harmed. He was officially commended for his bravery, and the story is recorded in his memoir Twenty Years in the Secret Service.

After the successful assassination of President Kennedy, the agents’ morale became very low, and the department changed many of its procedures. This included systemising training, to ensure that they would be better prepared for any future attempts on the president’s life. 

1981 – Six shots were fired in an assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan, in March 1981.  Special Agent Tim McCarthy stepped in front of him, and shielded the president with his body. He was shot in the abdomen, but made a full recovery. McCarty was awarded the NCAA Award of Valour in 1982, for the bravery he displayed while protecting Reagan.  

The Secret Service and Financial Crimes

As the Secret Service continue to protect assigned individuals, their financial services to the country have also expanded. In 1984, Congress passed the Comprehensive Crime Control Act which gave the Secret Service additional jurisdiction over credit card and computer fraud. On October 26, 2001, President George W. Bush signed the USA Patriot Act, which made it necessary for the Service to establish Electronic Crime Task Forces around the country. They currently have 28 branches which allow federal, state and local law enforcement to work together, as well as prosecutors, private-industry companies and academia. These task forces are responsible for conducting investigations into crimes that have a significant impact on the community or economy, multi-district or transnational organized criminal groups, or the use of innovative technology to commit a criminal act.

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