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The U.S Secret Service Today

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Inside the White House

Many citizens, young and old, write to the President to ask him questions about the Secret Service. Here are a few of the most frequently asked questions about this unique agency within our federal government.

Why do the agents look as if they're talking into their sleeves?

The Secret Service has its own unique communications system. To protect the President, all of the agents on duty must know where the President is at all times. Each agent has an earpiece that allows him or her to hear other Secret Service personnel and to receive directions from a special command center. Much like an air traffic controller who is helping pilots land airplanes, agents at the command center are able to alert agents to information they need. Connected to the special earpiece is a small microphone that rests just inside the agent's sleeve, allowing him or her to easily communicate simply by speaking into the microphone next to the agent's wrist.

Before entering the White House grounds, cars and packages must be inspected by K-9 teams such as Officer William Hernandez and his dog Rex.

Why do some agents have dogs with them?

In the 1970s, the Secret Service created the K-9 division, which paired specially trained dogs with handlers, or K-9 Technicians. These special dogs have been trained to detect drugs, explosives, and firearms. Although German Shepherds were first used, the Secret Service now uses only Belgian Malinois dogs from Holland. Known for their adaptability to new climates and environments and their work drive, these dogs are exceptional members of the Secret Service. They generally work 7-11 years in the Secret Service and grow to an average 75 pounds. At night, after a busy day's work, they go home with their handlers, where they are a part of the family.

Why do some agents wear suits and others wear uniforms?

Special agents, the ones you usually see with the President, do not wear uniforms. This helps the agents blend in with crowds so that they are not easily detectable. Those who are in the Uniformed Division wear uniforms because their jobs require them to be recognized as police officers. Many of these officers are posted at different areas around the White House, in front of embassies, and at the Vice President's residence.

I like to ride my bike a lot. I've seen officers outside the White House on bikes. What do they do?

The Bike Patrol plays a unique role within the Secret Service. By using bicycles, officers can easily chase a suspicious individual who is walking near the White House, and patrol the very large White House compound -- which comprises not only the White House itself, but the areas immediately surrounding it -- much faster than on foot.

The Bike Patrol helps keep the streets surrounding the White House secure.

I went on a White House tour with my class. We all had to go through metal detectors before we could go inside. Why?

Everyone who comes through the White House must pass through a metal detector, or magnetometer. This special machine alerts the Secret Service to any potential weapons that are being brought into the complex. Going through a magnetometer not only protects the First Family and the White House, but also protects tourists and other White House visitors from anyone who might be trying to cause harm.

Do Socks and Buddy have their own Secret Service agents?

While the Secret Service is responsible for protecting the White House and its inhabitants, Socks and Buddy do not have their own agents. In fact, Socks is delighted when he can slip into an open closet or onto a windowsill to take a quick nap, without an agent alerting Buddy to know where to find him!

Special Agent Lisa Risley

How can I become a Secret Service agent?

The Secret Service is always interested in qualified applicants. Requirements for each position within the agency vary. If you would like information on becoming an agent or an officer, you may write to the Secret Service at the following address:

United States Secret Service
Personnel Division
1800 G Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20223

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