When most people think of the United States Secret Service, they usually think about one thing; the protection of the President, along with other designated officials. While providing security for some of the most high profile political figures in the world is one of the Secret Service's main responsibilities, they do have one other primary responsibility that many people are not aware of; suppressing the counterfeiting of U.S. currency.
The Secret Service was created on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C as the "Secret Service Division" of the Department of the Treasury in order to help stop the counterfeiting of U.S. currency. The counterfeiting of currency was widespread after the Civil War, with a reported one third of the currency that was circulated at the time being counterfeit. Prior to the creation of the Secret Service, there were only three other federal law agencies; the United States Park Police, the U.S. Post Office Department's Office of Instructions and Mail Depredations, and the U.S. Marshals Service.
It was only after the U.S. Marshals Service realized that they didn't have enough people to be able to investigate all crime that was under federal jurisdiction, that the Secret Service began to investigate non-counterfeiting related crimes in 1867. These crimes included investigations into the Ku Klux Klan, smugglers, people who committed mail fraud and other federal crimes.
In 1894, the Secret Service began part-time protection of then President Grover Cleveland, though it was in an informal capacity. The assassination of President William McKinley in 1901 prompted Congress to request Secret Service protection of U.S. Presidents, and in 1902, the Secret Service assumed full-time protection of the President.
The responsibility of full-time protection of the President and other high profile figures hasn't stopped the Secret Service from it's original duties of stopping the counterfeiting of currency though. Last week for example, the Secret Service pulled off their biggest counterfeiting bust in the agency's history. Agents in Peru seized an estimated $30 million in counterfeit cash that was piled up in houses and apartment buildings in the country's capital of Lima.
The operation, nicknamed "Operation Sunset," took two years to pull off. The Secret Service worked with 1,500 Peruvian national police officers during the raids, and 40 people were arrested as a result.
So the next time you think about the Secret Service, remember that they're not only protecting the President, but they're also fighting against the counterfeiting of currency as well.