After the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901, Congress directed the
Secret Service to protect the President of the United States. Protection remains the
primary mission of the United States Secret Service.
Today, the Secret Service is authorized by law to protect:
- the President, the Vice President, (or other individuals next in order
of succession to the Office of the President), the President-elect and Vice President-elect;
- the immediate families of the above individuals;
- former Presidents, their spouses for their lifetimes, except when the
spouse re-marries. In 1997, Congressional legislation became effective
limiting Secret Service protection to former Presidents for a period of
not more than 10 years from the date the former President leaves office.
- children of former presidents until age 16;
- visiting heads of foreign states or governments and their spouses traveling
with them, other distinguished foreign visitors to the United States, and
official representatives of the United States performing special missions abroad;
- major Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates, and their spouses
within 120 days of a general Presidential election.