Secret Service

Why is the Secret Service known by that name? Is it any more secret than say, the ATF or the Customs Service?

According to its website,, “The Secret Service Division began on July 5, 1865 in Washington, D.C., to suppress counterfeit currency.” But it was not until 1883 that it “was officially acknowledged as a distinct organization within the Treasury Department.” Maybe it really was operated off the books for its first couple decades, and the name stuck.

When I was in seventh grade, we took a trip to D.C.–a class trip sort of thing, you know. Anyway, when we were at the White House I went up to a Secret Service guy and asked him “so… what’s the secret?” He got (theatrically) shifty-eyed and said…

“I can’t say”

Yes, I’m sure they get this constantly. Pesky seventh-graders.

The Secret Service may have been incorporated into a division of the Treasury Department in July, 1865, but its existence definitely predates that.

Currently The Secret Service investigates counterfeiting and check crimes in addition to providing protection for the President and a few other designated government officials. Originally The Secret Service was a spy organization, organized and headed by Lafayette Curry Baker during the Civil War. It was responsible primarily for counterintelligence work, searching out Confederate spies and saboteurs. It also conducted some spy missions into enemy territory.

Lincoln is said to have disliked and distrusted Baker intensely. Interestingly, Baker’s nephew, Laclede Baker, is the man usually credited with having shot John Wilkes Booth.

Note that the recently passed Homeland Security Act transfers the SS from Treasury to the new Dept. of Homeland Security.