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Senators propose moving Secret Service back to Treasury

The shift would highlight the protective agency's more investigative activities. Plus, a look at the Secret Service's evolution and movies featuring its agents to help you pass time in coronavirus self-isolation.

Michele Obama and her Secret Service agent
Secret Service agent Allen Taylor following former First Lady Michelle Obama in a less formal setting. Obama discusses her protective coverage in Netflix's now-streaming "Becoming" documentary. (Photo: Netflix)

The Secret Service could be heading home.

The federal law enforcement agency known mostly for its agents who protect the president, the White House occupant's family and other U.S. elected leaders and visiting foreign dignitaries is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Sounds logical, right? That was the thought when the Secret Service was moved in 2003 to DHS, the cabinet department was created in response to 9/11.

The Secret Service, however, was founded in 1865 as part of the Treasury Department with its agents focusing on catching currency counterfeiters in the wake of the Civil War. It took on its more widely-recognized protective mission in 1901 after the assassination of President William McKinley.

Now, say Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-California) and Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina), it's time to put Treasury back in charge of the U.S. Secret Service. The move, according to the Senators who have introduced a bill to do just that, will improve accountability and bolster national investigative priorities.

Executive Branch support: The Trump Administration in February recommended returning the Secret Service to Treasury in its 2021 budget. That proposal's overall $15.7 billion for Treasury's domestic programs marked $2.4 billion for the Secret Service under that department.

When the budget was released, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin cited the proposed return of the Secret Service to Treasury, saying it would "better equip the nation to fight the crimes of tomorrow."

While the Executive branch is for the move, the actual transfer requires Congressional action.

Feinstein and Graham started that process with the introduction May 6 of S. 3636, The U.S. Secret Service Mission Improvement and Realignment Act of 2020. Mnuchin is pleased.

Many investigative areas: In announcing their bill, Feinstein and Graham noted that in addition to its protective duties, the Secret Service performs key financial, counterfeit currency and cybercrime investigations into criminal activities targeting U.S. financial payment systems.

The realignment/return would naturally serve the Treasury's goal of maintaining a stable and secure national economy, said the Senators, and allows the Secret Service to reprioritize its investigative mission.

The agency notes that with the convergence of advanced technology and the internet, both the quantity and sophistication of cybercrimes targeting U.S. financial institutions and critical infrastructure have increased. To fight these attacks, the Secret Service multipronged approach includes its:

  • Criminal Investigative Division (CID), headquartered in Washington, D.C., and which supports strategic investigations into attacks on the country's financial infrastructure. Its cyber workforce has contributed to the apprehension of transnational cyber criminals responsible for large-scale data breaches, online criminal hosting services and the trafficking of stolen financial data.
  • Electronic Crimes Task Force (ECTF) Program, an established network of partnerships to combat cybercrime through coordinated investigations, training and technical expertise and information sharing. Its 40 ECTFs are allied with more than 4,000 private sector partners; 2,500 international, federal, state and local law enforcement partners; and 350 academic partners. Since its inception, the ECTFs have prevented over $13 billion in potential losses to victims and arrested approximately 10,000 individuals. State and local law enforcement ECTF partners are trained by the U.S. Secret Service National Computer Forensics Institute.

As for the money needed to accomplish these investigations, Feinstein pointed to the bill's requirement that the Secret Service report its expenditures, including payments to private entities.

Hollywood and the Secret Service: The Secret Service's activities are far ranging and varied, but the entertainment industry tends to focus, like most of us, on the protective component.

Part of the Netflix documentary on Michelle Obama, highlighted at the top of this post, offers a real-life take of one instance of Secret Service protection.

In movies, however, Hollywood tends to go for excitement. Secret Service agents on the big screen, or streaming to our TVs or devices in more cases nowadays, are big budget productions where top-dollar stars beat the bad guys threatening the president. After two-plus hours and innumerable explosions, the American way is saved.

If something along those lines appeals to you as you search for something new to watch during COVID-19 self-isolation, below, in no particular order, are 12 Secret Service themed movie suggestions.

  1. Vantage Point (2008) — Dennis Quaid is the Secret Service agent in this thriller told through multiple points of view in an assassination attempt.
  2. Guarding Tess (1994) — Nicolas Cage is the agent who suffers through guarding a widowed and rebellious First Lady played by Shirley MacLaine.
  3. The Sentinel (2006) — Michael Douglas is an agent framed for murder and blackmailed over an affair with the First Lady. Backing up Douglas are Kiefer Sutherland and Eva Longoria. Of course all ends as it should; Jack Bauer is on the job!
  4. First Kid (1996) — Sinbad as a Secret Service agent. 'Nuff said.
  5. Murder at 1600 (1997) — Diane Lane as a Secret Service agent working with a D.C. police detective played by Wesley Snipes to solve the film's title.
  6. First Daughter (2004) — This rom-com has Marc Blucas as an agent who goes undercover to shadow the president's daughter, played by Katie Holmes. Spoiler alert: They fall in love and live happily ever.
  7. The Bodyguard (1993) — Yes, the film's hit theme "I Will Always Love You" got better reviews (and more plays) than the movie, but many still enjoy watching the late Whitney Houston being protected by former Kevin Costner's former Secret Service agent.

  8. Dave (1993) — Kevin Kline has a dual role in this comedy about a presidential look-alike hired by the Secret Service to stand in as the incapacitated president, who had a stroke during a tryst.
  9. To Live and Die in L.A. (1985) — William L. Petersen in his pre-CSI television days is a Secret Service an agent tracking the counterfeiter who killed his partner.
  10. In the Line of Fire (1993) — Clint Eastwood is stereotypical Secret Service agent Frank Horrigan, who's haunted by the fact that he was on duty in Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. As his career winds down, he must stop another assassin, played with evil relish by John Malkovich.
  11. Olympus Has Fallen (2013) — Gerard Butler is Secret Service agent Mike Banning, who's trapped inside the White House in the wake of a terrorist attack and works with national security to rescue the President from his kidnappers. Admit it. When you saw the poster you thought Morgan Freeman, not Aaron Eckhart, was playing the president.
  12. Angel Has Fallen (2019) — Butler's Banning is back in this "Fallen" sequel. This time he's framed for the attempted assassination of the president and must evade his own agency and the FBI as he tries to uncover the real threat.

Enjoy the movies, if not the coronavirus lock-down time.

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