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The Diplomatic Security Service of the USA

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The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is a relatively unknown law enforcement agency within the US Department of State (DoS). Their primary mission is to ensure the security of US personnel and property at embassies and missions around the world. DSS Special Agents protect the Secretary of State, the US Ambassador to the UN and visiting dignitaries below the head of state level1 when they visit the United States. They also investigate passport and visa fraud, conduct personnel investigations and grant clearances to DoS employees.

Badges Without Borders

As federal agents who work all over the world, they are in a natural position to pursue leads in worldwide investigations. In order to secure their embassies, they have close contacts with local law enforcement agencies all over the world. They use these contacts to help them primarily with terrorism investigations and to some extent to help other agencies.

Although the FBI received the credit, DSS agents actually found and arrested Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the architect of the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing. Special Agents Bill Miller and Jeff Riner were given a tip by an associate of Ramzi Yousef about his location. They contacted local officials and arrested Yousef.


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 authorised the Secretary of State to establish a security arm of the Department of State. The DSS was established in 1916 as the Bureau of Secret Intelligence. Three agents were recruited from the United States Secret Service because of their experience with counterfeit documents. Since the Postal Inspectors had the best laboratory, the director of the new agency was recruited there2.

In 1918, Congress passed a law that required passports for American citizens travelling abroad and visas for people entering the United States. The Department of State issued the passports and visas, so the new agency was charged with passport and visa fraud.

In the late 1970s and the early 1980s, there were over 100 terrorist attacks against Americans abroad, and American embassies were bombed. Admiral Bobby Inman led a commission that reviewed the security arrangements of the Department of State. As a result, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and the DSS were established in 1985. The DSS was structured as a law enforcement agency.

1Heads of state are protected by the United States Secret Service (USSS).2The USSS is the lead agency for counterfeit currency investigations.

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