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Who Receives Secret Service Protection?

Secret Service protection is a privilege granted to key government figures, including the President, Vice President, their immediate families, and visiting heads of state. Former presidents also receive this safeguard for life. This elite security detail ensures the safety of those who shape our nation's future. Ever wonder how these decisions are made? Let's explore the intricate criteria behind the scenes.
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

The original intent of the US Secret Service had little to do with protection. At first, the agency’s sole intent was to investigate and prevent counterfeiting of US dollars. In 1901, however, President William McKinley was assassinated, and one result of this was assigning Secret Service agents to protect the life and well-being of the subsequent presidents. Since then, protection has been extended to other government officials, some well-known politicians and visiting dignitaries, and former presidents and their families, at least for some period of time.

There are a few people who always receive protection, including the current US president, vice president, and sometimes other high-ranking officials who might succeed the president. For instance, the speaker of the house might, under some circumstances, be entitled to Secret Service protection, especially if a situation arose where the vice president or president were in danger. Wives of the president and vice president, and their children under age 16, are entitled to protection too.

Secret Service agents protect people important to the well-functioning of the government.
Secret Service agents protect people important to the well-functioning of the government.

At one time, former presidents received Secret Service protection for life. This changed in 1996, and now former presidents and first ladies are only entitled to this protection for ten years after their service to the country. The protection can continue, however, especially if ordered by the current president. Essentially, the president has the authority to extend protection to anyone or to any event, such as a meeting of high-ranking officials, that might carry potential danger. Also, presidents in office may extend it to all of their children, not just those under the age of 16.

The Presidential Protective Division is overseen by the Secret Service, whose primary focus is anti-counterfeiting measures.
The Presidential Protective Division is overseen by the Secret Service, whose primary focus is anti-counterfeiting measures.

Vice presidents typically do not have Secret Service protection after their term of service is up, unless some threat or danger exists. If the vice president runs for the office of president, however, he or she — and all other major candidates in the primary and general presidential election — are likely to receive protection. Just how soon this is provided may be based in part on the profile of the candidate and any possible early threats, which are not that uncommon, to a candidate’s life.

Anyone in need can receive protection from the secret service if the president grants it.
Anyone in need can receive protection from the secret service if the president grants it.

Another way in which the Secret Service functions is to protect foreign heads of state or visiting dignitaries with high profiles. Visits may be arranged contingent on guarantees of protection, though heads of state may also bring their own version of the Secret Service with them. When a number of foreign dignitaries meet with the president, additional Secret Service agents are usually employed to create the safest environment possible for all concerned.

Some people are allowed to refuse protection if they do not desire it. Though President Clinton has lifetime protection, and is the last president to receive it, unless laws change, he could refuse the services of Secret Service members. Generally, a president or vice president in office cannot refuse protection because of the high security nature of these positions.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who is entitled to receive Secret Service protection?

By law, the President and Vice President of the United States receive full-time Secret Service protection. This extends to their immediate families as well. Former presidents and their spouses are also entitled to protection for their lifetimes, although they can decline it, as Richard Nixon did in 1985. Children of former presidents receive protection until they are 16 years old. Major presidential and vice-presidential candidates, along with their spouses, typically receive protection within 120 days of a general presidential election.

Can other individuals receive Secret Service protection?

Yes, other individuals can receive Secret Service protection. The Secretary of Homeland Security can authorize temporary protection for individuals such as visiting heads of state or government, designated individuals at special events like summits, and others who may be at risk due to their association with the U.S. government. Additionally, the President can direct the Secret Service to protect other individuals as necessary.

How long do former presidents receive Secret Service protection?

Former presidents receive Secret Service protection for their lifetime. This was reinstated in 2013 when President Barack Obama signed the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 into law, reversing a 1994 law that limited post-presidential protection to 10 years. The spouses of former presidents are also covered unless they remarry, and their children receive protection until they reach the age of 16.

Do all family members of the President receive Secret Service protection?

All immediate family members of the President receive Secret Service protection. This includes the President's spouse and their children. However, adult children of the President are not automatically entitled to protection unless they are under 16 years of age or if the President requests extended protection for them. The Secret Service also assesses threats and can provide protection to extended family members if deemed necessary.

Is Secret Service protection available for presidential candidates?

Yes, major presidential and vice-presidential candidates receive Secret Service protection. This is typically provided within 120 days of the general presidential election. The decision to provide protection to a candidate is made by the Secretary of Homeland Security after consultation with a congressional advisory committee. Factors such as prominence in the polls and fundraising ability are considered when determining which candidates receive protection.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent UnitedStatesNow contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen

Tricia has a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and has been a frequent UnitedStatesNow contributor for many years. She is especially passionate about reading and writing, although her other interests include medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion. Tricia lives in Northern California and is currently working on her first novel.

Learn more...

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Discussion Comments

anon1007113

MAY 22nd, 2022!?

Smh

Christensen should receive a pink slip for this non sense, seeing as ban-guns-OBAMA signed a law in January 2013, restoring SS protection to all former US presidents and their spouses FOR LIFE

WHERE THE FACT FINDERS JOKERS AT …

anon1001983

Check your facts. Obama signed a bill giving secret service protection to the former presidents and first ladies for life

anon249012

Wouldn't Secret Service protection also apply to the White House Chief of Staff since he is so close to the POTUS?

anon125869

According to the Secret Service website, under the new law, presidents who are in office before January 1, 1997 will continue to receive Secret Service protection for their lifetime. Individuals elected to office after that time will receive protection for 10 years after leaving office.

Therefore, President Clinton will be the last president to receive lifetime protection and President Bush is the only president affected by the limitation at this time.

anon100437

Thank you. the information was informative. Mr G

sunshine31

I really learned a lot. I just want to say that Secret Service agents generally earn between $51,000 to $108,000. The salary depends on the rank as it is a government position.

They usually won’t consider anyone older than 37 years of age and a potential applicant has to have a bachelor’s degree or at least three years of some sort of security or law enforcement detail.

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    • Secret Service agents protect people important to the well-functioning of the government.
      By: Ragne Kabanova
      Secret Service agents protect people important to the well-functioning of the government.
    • The Presidential Protective Division is overseen by the Secret Service, whose primary focus is anti-counterfeiting measures.
      By: Africa Studio
      The Presidential Protective Division is overseen by the Secret Service, whose primary focus is anti-counterfeiting measures.
    • Anyone in need can receive protection from the secret service if the president grants it.
      By: David Stuart
      Anyone in need can receive protection from the secret service if the president grants it.