|Diplomatic Security Service|
|Seal of the Diplomatic Security Service|
|Special Agent Badge|
|Motto||Protecting Americans Around the World|
|Formed||1916 Bureau of Secret Intelligence
1945 Office of Security (SY)
|Legal personality||Governmental: Government agency|
|Federal agency||United States|
|Specialist jurisdiction||Protection of internationally protected persons, other very important persons, and-or of state property of significance.|
|Agency executive||Jeffrey Culver, Director|
|Parent agency||Bureau of Diplomatic Security|
|Visa fraud, Passport fraud, Protection of the Secretary of State, visiting foreign dignitaries, U.S. Ambassadors overseas and U.S. embassies and consulates|
The U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is the federal law enforcement arm of the United States Department of State. The majority of its Special Agents are members of the Foreign Service and federal law enforcement agents at the same time, making them unique. The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, more commonly known as Diplomatic Security, or DS, is the parent organization of the Diplomatic Security Service. Both terms, DSS or DS, are used interchangeably within the State Department and other agencies to refer to the DSS. The DSS is structured as a federal law enforcement agency, primarily made up of U.S. Federal Agents mandated to serve overseas and domestically. DSS is the most widely represented U.S. law enforcement agency world wide.
As federal agents, all DSS Special Agents have the power to arrest, carry firearms, and serve arrest warrants and other court processes. DSS Special Agents protect the U.S. Secretary of State and foreign dignitaries. The State Department's web site says that "The Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) is the security and law enforcement arm of the U.S. Department of State. DS is a world leader in international investigations, threat analysis, cyber security, counterterrorism, security technology, and protection of people, property, and information.".
When assigned to domestic field offices, DSS Special Agents are responsible for conducting investigations into passport and visa fraud as well as providing protection for the United States Secretary of State and others. Overseas, DSS Special Agents are called Regional Security Officers (RSOs), and are charged with the security and law enforcement duties at U.S. missions, embassies, and consular posts. The Diplomatic Security Service is the lead U.S. investigatory agency in cases of international terrorism, although this function may be detailed to the FBI.
There are approximately 1,500 DS Special Agents. Special Agents are sometimes referred to as "DS Agents" or "DSS Agents". Both terms are used interchangeably within the agency and other organizations.
Unlike all other civilian federal law enforcement officers, DSS agents must serve multiple-year tours overseas as a condition of employment. When not at an overseas assignment, they serve domestically, in field offices and HQ positions. A minority of DSS agents are members of the State Department's civil service (GS-1811) and do not serve tours overseas; they focus on criminal work and dignitary protection within the United States.
DSS agents are hired after an intensive evaluation process that includes a Foreign Service Board of Examiners writing evaluation, knowledge-based test, panel interview and situational judgment exercises carried out by veteran DSS agents. Those selected undergo a comprehensive medical examination needed for worldwide availability, as well as an exhaustive background investigation for security clearance at the level of top secret/sensitive compartmentalized information (TS/SCI). A final suitability review and vote by a Foreign Service panel evaluates a candidate's overall ability to represent the interests of the United States as a diplomat abroad. All agents have at least a four year university degree. Agent candidates must be under the age of 37 at the time of commissioning.
After a new agent candidate is hired, he or she begins a six month training program that includes the Criminal Investigator Training Program (CITP) at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center (FLETC) (pronounced flet-see) in Glynco, Georgia; a Basic Special Agent Course at the Diplomatic Security Training Center, and courses at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) in Arlington, Virginia. A new training facility that will consolidate DSS' far-flung training venues is currently under development. A new agent is usually assigned to a domestic field office for two years before taking on an overseas assignment, although an agent can expect to be sent on frequent temporary duty assignments overseas even when assigned to a domestic post. However, agents may be called overseas much earlier depending on the needs of DSS. As members of the Foreign Service, agents are expected to spend most of their career living and working overseas, often in hazardous environments or less developed countries throughout the world.
DSS is the agency identified to accept high threat protection assignments around the globe. The largest permanent dignitary protection detail carried out by DSS agents is on the Secretary of State. DSS also has an ongoing protection detail on the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
Most all other 'details' are on visiting foreign dignitaries and diplomats, and are on a temporary basis for the duration of a dignitary's visit. Foreign Ministers from important nations, as well as those with threats, are typically covered by DSS.
DSS has the authority to provide protection for Foreign Heads of State, and did so through the early 1970s. At that time there was an order signed by President Richard Nixon also giving this authority to the U.S. Secret Service (USSS), which has protected heads of state ever since. The appointment of Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State raised the question of whether and when the Secret Service or DSS would provide protection. As former First Lady Clinton receives Secret Service protection, as does her husband, who would, presumably, occasionally accompany her on official trips. However, DSS has been named the lead agency to carry out the protection for Mrs. Clinton.
DSS agents have protected such people as Prince Charles, Princess Diana, Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas the Dalai Lama, Zalmay Khalilzad and Boris Yeltsin (in the days preceding the collapse of the Soviet Union).
The Bureau of Diplomatic Security's Office of Foreign Missions is responsible for the protection of foreign embassies and consulates on U.S. soil. Since the DSS does not have a true uniformed force with police powers, other agencies or local police departments are reimbursed for providing this service. Two notable examples of this are the Secret Service Uniformed Division in Washington, DC and the New York City Police Department in New York City.
During the annual United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in September, DSS, as well as the USSS, protects many dozens of varied dignitaries, mostly in New York City. DSS may also provide protection to others as assigned, including foreign persons without any government status, but who might have a threat against them . DSS also protects certain U.S. Ambassadors overseas. Currently, the protection detail for the U.S. Ambassador to Iraq, Christopher R. Hill, is one of the largest critical threat protection details in the history of DSS.
DSS has also protected or does protect the Presidents of Afghanistan, Haiti and Liberia. What makes these 'details' unique is that the protection, done by U.S. federal agents - DSS, is carried out overseas, in the protected person's home country.
DSS investigations, carried out by numerous Field Offices and Resident Agent offices throughout the U.S, and by RSOs overseas, focus mainly on passport or visa fraud. DSS Special Agents also investigate such cases as international parental kidnapping, violations of the Protect Act, assaults on federally protected persons, fugitive arrests overseas (with host nation assistance), Counterterrorism and Counterintelligence (CI) investigations. If there is a nexus to diplomatic activities, the U.S. Foreign Service, or terrorism, DSS is typically involved.
It is a federal offense to apply or assist someone in applying for a U.S. Passport or Visa when they are not entitled to one. Usually this means an alien in the U.S. trying to establish a false U.S. identity, or stealing the identity from an American, often one who has died. Visa fraud can also include being part of or participating in sham marriages in order to allow an unentitled foreigner to become a U.S. citizen.
Sometimes Americans, including Foreign Service Officers (FSOs), are the target of DSS investigations, such as an FSO selling visas for personal gain. DSS also investigates other alleged improper or illegal behavior by Department of State personnel, to include incidents of espionage. Such cases would involve other agencies, such as the Department of Justice. Overseas DSS must take the role of local and state law enforcement when investigating issues such as spousal or child abuse by U.S. government personnel assigned to the embassy. This is because the host country will not investigate or prosecute diplomats, who are considered to have immunity from their laws. DSS also conducts tens of thousands of background investigations per year - not just for the Department of State, but for other federal agencies as well.
In recent years, DSS has expanded its overseas investigations program with A/RSO-I's (Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigators), also known as "Overseas Criminal Investigators." These agents are given special training in consular functions and are commissioned consular officers. However, they spend a large amount of their time working with the fraud units in consular sections, investigating visa and passport fraud, alien smuggling, and human trafficking, although they have responsibilities outside of their respective Consular assignments for mission security. They work closely with host-country law-enforcement agencies and have recently been instrumental in dismantling several large alien-smuggling rings.
The Diplomatic Security Service Office of Investigations and Counterintelligence (DS/ICI/CI) conducts a robust counterintelligence program designed to deter, detect, and neutralize the efforts of foreign intelligence services targeting Department of State personnel, facilities, and diplomatic missions worldwide.
The office's counterintelligence division conducts aggressive counterintelligence inquires and counterespionage investigations with other U.S. Government agencies. Counterespionage investigations are conducted in close coordination with the FBI in accordance with their legal mandates.
The division conducts numerous counterintelligence and security awareness training programs for all U.S. Government personnel requesting or having access to sensitive Department of State facilities and information. All training programs enhance the understanding of both foreign intelligence and espionage threats and countermeasures, and educate employees on the foreign intelligence environment.
In addition, the office relies on a cadre of security engineers to deter, detect, and neutralize attempts by foreign intelligence services to technically penetrate U.S. office buildings and residences. These efforts range from detecting a simple listening device in the wall to countering the most sophisticated electronic eavesdropping devices and systems.
On June 4, 2009 the DSS and the FBI arrested former Department of State employee Walter Kendall Myers on charges of serving as an illegal agent of the Cuban government for nearly 30 years and conspiring to provide classified U.S. information to the Cuban government. Mr. Myers’ arrest is the culmination of a three-year joint DSS/FBI investigation.
The Diplomatic Security Service maintains agents in dozens of Joint Terrorism Task Force operations around the country. The Office of Protective Intelligence and Investigations (PII) in the Threat Intelligence and Analysis division has DSS Special Agents who travel all over the world investigating threats to the Secretary of State and U.S. Embassies and Consulates. DSS Special Agents on the New York JTTF provided critical information in the immediate aftermath of 9/11 and DSS Agents assigned as Regional Security Officers around the world tracked down leads for the FBI and other federal agencies. Any time there is a threat or an attack against a U.S. Embassy or Consulate, DSS Special Agents are the first on the scene to investigate.
The Diplomatic Security Service investigates crimes against State Department personnel and other U.S. Government personnel and families assigned under Chief of Mission authority at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad. DSS Special Agents have investigated thefts, assaults, rapes, and murders, among other charges, around the world. Unlike investigations conducted in the United States by other federal agencies, DSS Agents have to work jointly with their foreign counterparts in often hostile areas of the world.
Because the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service is the most widely represented law enforcement organization in the world, DSS’s capability to track and capture fugitives who have fled U.S. jurisdiction to avoid prosecution is unmatched. During 2007, DSS assisted in the resolution of 113 international fugitive cases from over 30 different countries.
DSS Special Agents located and returned Jared Ravin Yaffe from Brazil. Yaffe, wanted in California for multiple counts of alleged child sexual assault, kidnapping, and unlawful flight to avoid prosecution, was returned to the United States on May 12, 2009, to face trial. On February 11, 2009, the United States District Court, Southern District of California issued a federal arrest warrant for Yaffe for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution. Yaffe was profiled on the television show America’s Most Wanted on April 11, 2009.
On September 19, 2009, Special Agents from the U.S. Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) located Derrick Yancey, a former Deputy Sheriff from DeKalb County Georgia, in Punta Gorda, Belize. Yancey was wanted in Georgia for double murder of his wife Linda Yancey and a day laborer. Upon arrival at a local bar, at 6:05 PM local time, a DSS agent tapped on Yancey's shoulder and told him "It is time to go." Belize authorities then arrested Yancey. Yancey was featured on America's Most Wanted.
On November 23, 2009 DSS Special Agents from the U.S. Embassy’s Regional Security Office (RSO) worked closely with the U.S. Marshals Service, Guatemalan National Police, and INTERPOL to locate alleged murder suspect 24-year-old Ariel Beau Patrick, who was taken into custody in Guatemala. Ariel Patrick was featured on America's Most Wanted.
AMW - America's Most Wanted featured the capture of Robert Snyder in Belize - DSS Special Agent (RSO) Rob Kelty interviewed by John Walsh - Segment aired on February 27, 2010 on AMW.
The DSS presence overseas is led at each post (embassy) by a DSS Special Agent who is referred to as a Regional Security Officer, or more commonly as the "RSO", who is the agent-in-charge of a Regional Security Office and who serves as the senior law enforcement advisor and security attaché to the U.S. Ambassador.
Once assigned overseas, a DSS agent will typically serve first as a Special Agent called an Assistant Regional Security Officer (A/RSO) in a Regional Security Office. Agents that enjoy the overseas lifestyle will try to get a second tour in a Special Agent slot at a large embassy or even possibly a Regional Security Officer (RSO) slot at a small post or a Deputy Regional Security Office (D/RSO) at a medium-sized post. Usually after two back-to-back overseas tours agents will be encouraged to return to the U.S. and serve in a Headquarters position before returning overseas as a Regional Security Officer.
DSS has been expanding its criminal role overseas and now has many overseas fraud investigator positions. These positions are referred to as “I” positions - as in “Investigator” - and they are commonly referred to as A/RSO-Is. These agents work out of the consular sections of embassies and consulates instead of the Regional Security Offices. The performance of these agents is rated by the RSO or the Deputy RSO and is reviewed by the Consul General.
There are several other overseas positions filled by DSS agents. At new building construction sites, agents will serve as the Site Security Manager where they will supervise the overall security of the new building including the Construction Security Technicians (CST) and Cleared American Guards (CAG). For construction at posts where there is a critical counterintelligence (CI) threat, agents will also serve as CI investigators dedicated to preventing compromise of the most sensitive spaces within the new embassy.
It is common for domestically assigned DSS agents to serve temporary duty (TDY) at Embassies overseas. Such duty can range from various types of protection duties to RSO support or security training for an overseas post, and may last for as little as a few days to multiple months.
DSS agents have been involved in the investigations of most terrorist attacks on U.S. interests overseas in the past twenty years, including the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, and bombings of two U.S. Embassies in East Africa in 1998. Perhaps most notably, in 1995 DSS Special Agents Jeff Riner and Bill Miller, the RSOs assigned to the U.S. embassy in Pakistan , along with Pakistani police and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), arrested Ahmed Ramzi Yousef, who was wanted in connection with the 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York City. Despite FBI press releases, it was not the FBI who captured Yousef but the ISI and DSS.
DSS agents have often found themselves in harm's way with four agents and 28 contract security specialists killed in the line of duty as of July 2006. The vast majority of DSS casualties had taken place within the five years in Iraq where DSS continued to conduct its most critical and dangerous protective missions.
In addition to being posted at US missions around the world, DSS agents also have the unusual role of securing large-scale special events where there is a significant US interest. In the past, DSS agents have worked closely with their foreign counterparts to secure such events as the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, China, the 2007 Pan American Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, World Cup Soccer Matches, the 2006 Winter Olympic Games in Turin, Italy; the 2010 Winter Olympics in Canada , and a host of other special events. While the Olympics are the most well-known events, DSS agents have worked with host country security on numerous other large-scale events around the world. For events with a large US presence, such as the Olympics, an Olympic Security Coordinator - always a DSS agent - will be named to manage all of the security and liaison with the host government. All other federal agencies, such as the FBI, ATF, USSS, and DOD components, will report to the DSS agent in charge.
The origins of the DSS go back to 1916 with a handful of agents assigned special duties directly by the Secretary of State, Robert Lansing. Headed by a Chief Special Agent, who was also called Special Assistant to the Secretary, these agents worked in Washington, D.C., and New York City. This group of agents would sometimes be referred to as the Office of the Chief Special Agent, however it was known as the Bureau of Secret Intelligence. They were operated with private funds from the Secretary's office. Conducting sensitive investigations, they focused mainly on foreign agents and their activities in the United States (this in the days before the CIA; and before the FBI became the primary domestic intelligence organization for the U.S.).
The U.S. Diplomatic Security Service was known as the Bureau of Secret Intelligence at its inception in 1916. The Department of State's Bureau of Secret Intelligence was also known as U-1, an off-the-books adjunct to the Division of Information. Before the United States entered World War I, German and Austrian spies were conducting operations in New York City. The spies were using forged or stolen identity papers. President Woodrow Wilson authorized the Secretary of State to establish a security arm of the Department of State. Three agents were recruited from the United States Secret Service because of their experience with counterfeit currency. Since the United States Postal Inspection Service had the best laboratory, the director of the new agency was recruited there.
The assumption is that the name "Office of the Chief Special Agent," which was sometimes used in 1916, and to this day by various information portals to include the Department of State's website, to downplay the bureau's original mission.
After 1918, when Congress passed laws requiring passports for Americans returning from overseas, and visas for aliens entering the United States, State Department agents began investigating passport and visa fraud. Around this same time State Department agents began protecting distinguished visitors to the United States. During World War I the Chief Special Agent's office had the responsibility for interning and exchanging diplomatic officials of enemy powers. By the 1920s the Chief Special Agent, no longer reporting his office's activities directly to the Secretary of State, began reporting to the Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. Within the next two decades major passport fraud activities were detected worldwide, often involving both Communists and Nazis. Many of these fraud rings were exposed and neutralized.
During World War II, State Department agents were once again involved in interning and exchanging diplomatic officials of enemy powers. Around this time the Chief Special Agent's office became known as SY, which was short for the Office of Security, which in turn was under the Administration Bureau of the Management Undersecretary. After World War II, SY began expanding its presence overseas, with numerous Regional Security Officer (RSO) positions created in overseas posts.
In 1961, Otto Otepka, then a Deputy Director of SY, brought to the attention of the United States Senate Internal Security Subcommittee deficiencies in the State Department clearance process. The allegations were traced all the way up to then Secretary of State Dean Rusk. Despite multiple awards, appeals from multiple U.S. Senators, and not backing down, Secretary Rusk removed Otepka from his position and ultimately unceremoniously fired him.
Starting sometime after World War II SY began regularly protecting visiting heads of state, but had done so sparodically since the 1930s. Before his departure in 1947 SY Director Bannerman began codifying procedures for overseas security. This process continued in the late 1940s with a number of RSO positions being created. From that time and through the early 1970s the number of agents remained relatively small, hovering around 300, with more than half of these serving overseas at any given time. The April 1983 US Embassy bombing was a catharsis for 'SY', which would transform 'SY' into the newly created Diplomatic Security Service, part of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
Congress formed a commission headed by Admiral Inman to look into the bombings of U.S. Diplomatic facilities in Beirut. The resultant Inman Report recommended that security at the State Department needed to be elevated to a higher priority. Thus in 1985 Congress created the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), headed by an Assistant Secretary of State, and the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS), headed by the Director of DSS, who is subordinate to the Assistant Secretary of State for DS.
The DSS, technically a sub unit of DS, had a director placed at its head. The Director of DSS is an active DSS agent, and is often referred to by a term more familiar: the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS), as he/she is senior to the various Assistant Directors of Diplomatic Security who hold positions equivalent to Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS). The PDAS designation signifies the DSS director's preeminence over the other DASs within DS, while at the same time signifying his/her position under the Assistant Secretary of State for Diplomatic Security.
The first several Assistant Secretaries for DS were senior Foreign Service Officers, the last three have been senior law enforcement, brought in from other law enforcement agencies. With the creation of DS and the DSS, its ranks grew to well over 1,000 agents. However, by the mid 1990s budget cutbacks were foisted on the U.S. State Department by Congress and the Department in turn trimmed the budget of DSS to the point where it had dwindled to a little over 600 agents. At the time this seemed justified by Department hierarchy who thought DS was growing much too fast in over-reaction to the Beirut bombings.
Although DS was by then a Bureau within the State Department, overseas the vast majority of RSOs continued to report to the Administration Officer. This changed in 1999, as fallout from the east Africa embassy bombings of 1998. The terse message from the then Undersecretary for Management announcing the immediate change made it clear that this action was against his best judgment and insinuated that it was done because then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright ordered it. This change stripped DS out from under Administration Officers and placed the RSO directly under the Deputy Chief of Mission (DCM) in the chain of command at an Embassy.
In recent years DS, although not autonomous from the U.S. State Department, has been given more leeway in handling its own affairs. Budgetary approvals and allocations and hiring and promotion numbers for DS and DSS still must be cleared through the U.S. State Department. Traditionally DS, and more specifically the Diplomatic Security Service, has had a conflicted relationship with its parent agency, the U.S. State Department. The main mission of the U.S. State Department is not law enforcement, but is of course diplomacy. Having a law enforcement arm has not been an easy fact for the State Department culture to accept. In fact, for a number of years DS was told specifically by the State Department that it was not a law enforcement agency, and the title of Foreign Service Diplomatic Security officer was emphasized while the title of Special Agent was downplayed. The State Department now more readily accepts the 'special agent' terminology.
Looking at its history it becomes apparent there is a pattern of forced changes in relation to security for the U.S. State Department and its facilities overseas (American embassies and consulates). Often this change is the result of a serious incident, such as a terrorist attack on a U.S. mission. Since 1999 and especially after the creation of the U.S. embassies in Kabul and Baghdad there seems to be an increasing acceptance and desire by State Department hierarchy to fully embrace and support the goals of the Diplomatic Security Service. Likewise, DS has been allowed a greater degree of independent action in administering itself and has been allowed to hire new agents at a rate that keeps overall numbers from slipping downward.
For people who do not work for the Department of State (DoS), there is much confusion about the relationship between the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). Even within Department of State there is still some confusion regarding the difference between DS and the DSS.
DS oversees all security related matters of the U.S. Department of State, which includes security at U.S. embassies and consulates. DS has approximately 34,000 employees; 1,500 of whom are the U.S. federal agents within DSS. The DSS was structured as a law enforcement agency within DS. As such the DSS is the primary mechanism by which DS accomplishes its law enforcement (criminal investigative) and security missions.
An Assistant Secretary of State is in charge of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Office of Foreign Missions (OFM). Under the Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Eric Boswell, are several Deputy Assistant Secretaries (DAS). The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary (PDAS) is the Director for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The Director of DSS is an active DSS Special Agent.
Within DoS, all employees who work for DS (the bureau) are referred to as DS employees. Even within DSS, agents refer to themselves as DS Agents. This usage is also used in DoS press releases, although recently multi-agency press releases from the U.S. Attorney’s offices use the technically correct Diplomatic Security Service. Additionally, Agents are frequently assigned to positions within DS (the bureau) but outside of the DSS chain of command hierarchy. This may seem a little counterintuitive but is a common practice within the Department of State. For example while assigned overseas, DoS employees are evaluated by their superiors at the embassy or consulate to which they are assigned. In the case of DSS agents, the RSO (senior special agent at post) is rated by the Deputy Chief of Mission and reviewed by the Chief of Mission (Ambassador). The DSS hierarchy in Washington has no input on the agent’s evaluation. This is only a technicality however; as agents frequently receive instructions from HQ.
Former weapons included the Uzi submachine gun and the Ruger Mini-14 carbine. Stockless or 'shorty' versions of the Remington 870 shotgun may still be found in some DSS offices. DSS agents used to carry the Smith & Wesson Model 19 revolver (357 cal.), but switched to 9 mm pistols around 1993.
These and other weapons systems may be employed by DSS Special Agents assigned to high-threat locations. The agents going to those locations attend additional training before they are deployed.
Since the establishment of the Diplomatic Security Service, four Special Agents have died in the line of duty.
|Officer||Date of Death||Details|
|Special Agent Daniel Emmett O'Connor||
||Terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103|
|Special Agent Ronald Albert Lariviere||
||Terrorist attack on Pan Am flight 103|
|Special Agent Edward J. Seitz||
||rocket attack - Iraq|
|Special Agent Stephen Eric Sullivan||
||car bomb - Iraq|