The Secret Service has an active presence in South Carolina with three field offices:
- Charleston; 843-388-0305
- Columbia (state capital); 803-772-4015
- Greenville; 864-233-1490
Special agents have both protective and investigative functions. Although known for protecting the president, other national leaders, visiting heads of state and select places and events, the Secret Service was originally formed to combat counterfeiting. That mission has expanded to include safeguarding the financial infrastructure and preserving the integrity of the economy. In today’s electronic world that includes cyber crimes.
Educational Requirement for Becoming a Secret Service Agent in South Carolina
Secret Service agents are required to have a bachelor’s degree or better in a relevant field like criminal justice or law enforcement administration. There are at least 29 eligible colleges/universities in South Carolina where an average of 941 students graduate in criminal justice every year.
The importance of education is exemplified by the April 2012 appointment of South Carolina native A.T. Smith as Deputy Director of the US Secret Service. Smith earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and began his career as a communications dispatcher for the Greenville Sheriff’s Department. He subsequently earned two master’s degrees, one in criminal justice and one in management. He now oversees daily operations of the Secret Service, which has 7,000 employees and a $1.6 billion budget.
Additional requirements for a career in the Secret Service include:
- Several years experience in law enforcement or criminal investigation
- United States citizenship
- Between the ages of 21 and 37
- Good health/eyesight
- Excellent physical condition
- Good moral character
- Able to quality for a top secret security clearance
All new recruits spend months training at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia followed by 14 weeks of specialized training at the James J. Rowley Training Center outside D.C. Agents return to the center at various times throughout their career for additional training in such things as management, administration and new technical advances.
South Carolina Electronic Crimes Task Force
Columbia, SC is home to one of the 29 electronic crimes task forces that the US Secret Service has established across the country. In 2003, the SC Electronic Crimes Task Force partnered with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division to become the center for federal, state and local law enforcement efforts to fight computer and other high-tech crimes in the state. The center handles the forensic examination of computer evidence and is responsible for the investigation of the following crimes:
- Internet fraud
- Computer intrusions
- Child Pornography
- Other telecommunications crimes
Vigilance by the task force allowed them to alert state officials in Columbia about a breach in internal revenue service computers discovered from an investigation of the stolen identity of three individuals. It was revealed that a hacker had sent an e-mail to multiple Department of Internal Revenue employees that contained an imbedded link that opened a computer virus. When just one employee clicked on the link the hacker was able to use that employee’s user name and password to log onto IRS computers and steal the information on 3.8 million tax returns, including 699,000 business returns and 3.3 million bank accounts. The attack exposed the vulnerabilities of state government systems and led to widespread improvements in cyber defense.
Other South Carolina Secret Service Successes
On February 13, 2013, a investigation by both Charleston SC and Georgia Secret Service agents led to the arrest of Patrick R. McIntosh in Georgia for threatening the life of President Obama on Facebook and for possessing three firearms while under indictment in South Carolina for felony stalking.
On December 11, 2013, a Greenville Secret Service investigation led to a guilty plea by Benton Hall for obstructing justice as a co-conspirator in a silver ponzi scheme. Hall was caught trying to hide assets that had been bilked from investor in the scheme.