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Midshipmen Tour U.S. Secret Service Headquarters

Posted on: May 08, 2014 08:00 EDT by LT Harry Qui

The Naval Academy Chemistry Department recently organized a rare trip to the U.S. Secret Service headquarters for midshipmen to learn about the agency’s history and missions.

While the protection details for the president and vice-president are the most visible part of the agency’s mission, that is not the only mission for the U.S. Secret Service.

The midshipmen were eager to learn about the agency and its accomplishments since its formation. The group was greeted at the front entrance by the resident historian. After a brief introduction of the organizational hierarchy, the group was led into the building.

Once inside, the historian took out an ordinary-looking five dollar U.S. treasury note, which turned out to be a counterfeit. The historian clarified to everyone that the Secret Service was created at a time where the public was losing faith in U.S. currency. Thus, it was tasked to investigate and capture counterfeiters.

Counterfeiters range from one-person operations to international crime syndicates, and the methods for counterfeiting are just as diverse, ranging from photocopier to using printing plates to cybercrime.

Amongst the counterfeits, some have distorted the line between counterfeiting and art. One such person was Emanuel Ninger or "Jim the Penman" as he was referred to at the time. After his capture, the public didn’t see him as a criminal. Many admired his work and called for his leniency before he was sentenced. Today, although it is illegal to own one of his banknotes, there are a several notes thought to be in private collections.

As we move into the digital age, ecommerce and digital payments are rapidly overtaking physical exchange of U.S. treasury notes. This opens a new frontier for illicit activities, such as cybercrime, where shoppers’ personal information can be stolen from retail stores’ databases, banks and other financial institutions.

Now criminals are armed with publics’ personal information, which could lead to direct economic losses of the public. In addition, with mass personal information stolen, this could lead to identity theft at an unprecedented level. Therefore, the U.S. Secret Service armed with working knowledge in combating counterfeiters was called to restore the safety and the stability of ecommerce.  

Through this glimpse into a less-well-known aspect of the Secret Service’s history, the midshipmen gained a deeper appreciation of this important federal agency and its role in keeping the US currency intact and the President safe.

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