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Bureau of Diplomatic Security

Bureau of Diplomatic Security

The Bureau of Diplomatic Security, more commonly known as Diplomatic Security, or 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. DS's intent is that the State Department can work at foreign missions safely and securely.

An Assistant Secretary of State is in charge of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security and the Office of Foreign Missions. Under the Assistant Secretary of State are several Deputy Assistant Secretaries; the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary is the Director for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). The DSS is an organization/office/division within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS). The Director for the Diplomatic Security Service, who is the top ranking Special Agent in the service, leads a force of Special Agents, Diplomatic Couriers, Security Engineering Officers, and Security Technical Specialists. Special Agents are sometimes referred to as "DS Agents" or "DSS Agents." Both terms are used interchangeably within the agency and other organizations.

Overseas, DS develops and implements effective security programs to safeguard all personnel who work in every U.S. diplomatic mission around the world and to protect classified information at these locations. The DS 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, and who serves as the senior law enforcement and security attaché. In the United States, DS protects the Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and foreign dignitaries/diplomats who visit the United States. DS has protected Yasser Arafat, the Dalai Lama and Prince Charles. The agency develops and implements security programs to protect the more than 100 domestic State Department facilities as well as the residence of the Secretary of State.

In matters of criminal investigation, DS is the lead agency in the U.S. for cases of international terrorism involving U.S. citizens. DS personnel and Special Agents conduct personnel security investigations, issue security clearances and conduct criminal investigations involving visa and passport fraud. DS also assists foreign embassies and consulates in the United States with the security for their missions and personnel.

Since 1984, DS has administered the Rewards for Justice Program, which pays monetary rewards of up to $5 million, or in recent years even more, upon special authorization by the Secretary of State, to individuals who provide information which substantially leads to countering of terrorist attacks against United States persons. Through 2001, $62 million had been paid to over 40 people in this effort.



The Office of Security within the U.S. Department of State was formally established in 1916 under Secretary of State Robert Lansing. The office was headed by a Chief Special Agent, who also carried the title of Special Assistant to the Secretary and reported directly to the Secretary on special matters.

A handful of agents worked out of two locations, Washington, D.C. and New York City, operating on confidential funds from the Secretary's office. They conducted sensitive investigations, especially on the operations of foreign agents and their activities in the United States. It was known as the Bureau of Secret Intelligence at its inception (1916). 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.

In 1918, the United States Congress passed legislation requiring passports for Americans traveling abroad and visas for aliens wishing to enter the United States. Shortly thereafter, the Chief Special Agent's office began investigating passport and visa fraud. Special agents also protected distinguished visitors to the United States.

During World War I, the Chief Special Agent's office was given the responsibility for interning and exchanging diplomatic officials of enemy powers and assisting in screening people repatriated from enemy-controlled areas.

The Chief Special Agent began reporting his normal activities to the Assistant Secretary for Administration. However, he still retained his title of Special Assistant to the Secretary and reported directly to the Secretary on sensitive matters.

With the help of the United States Postal Inspection Service, security at State expanded and increased the depth of personnel investigations. The Chief Special Agent's office was used not only for security work within the State Department but also in several aspects of immigration control and in the control of crime on the high seas.

In the 1930s, it became clear that there were major passport fraud activities worldwide involving both Communists and Nazis. The Chief Special Agent's office, working as the investigative and identification arm of the Passport Office, successfully exposed several of these subversive operations.

World War II

In many of these cases, the passport aspect was incidental to a much larger problem - Soviet and German espionage networks. Investigation of passport fraud in New York City led to the discovery of a Soviet intelligence network that, in turn, revealed a number of Soviet agents and American Communist Party members engaged in espionage activities. Although a back-door approach, these investigations succeeded in exposing for the first time the existence of such Soviet operations.

With the outbreak of World War II, the office expanded again to manage interning and exchanging diplomatic officials of enemy powers and screening Americans, or those claiming American citizenship, after they were forced to leave occupied territories.

After the war, Secretary of State Edward Stettinius undertook a complete reorganization of the Department that directly affected the Chief Special Agent's office. The Secretary requested the FBI review and make recommendations on physical and personnel security. One important result of that report was the separation of security functions in the Department.

A new security office was set up, separate from the Chief Special Agent's office. This new Office of Security (SY) had a program of regional security staffs in the United States and, for the first time, security officers at missions overseas. Later, security functions were merged and, in 1948, Foreign Correlations (an intelligence service) was incorporated into the office, bringing in that aspect of security. Also in that year, the Marine Security Guard Program was inaugurated at U.S. embassies.

The Cold War

The discovery of a listening device in the Great Seal at U.S. Embassy Moscow was the catalyst for developing countermeasures technology. By the end of the 1950s, hundreds of listening devices planted by foreign intelligence services were found in U.S. embassies. Also during this decade, a special assignments staff was created to investigate possible misconduct and contact with foreign intelligence services by State Department personnel. This staff worked closely with CIA and FBI counterintelligence. Reacting to the crisis in electronic surveillance, SY upgraded its technical security program and began hiring engineers. The assignment of Seabee teams to search for listening devices at U.S. Embassy Moscow and U.S. Embassy Warsaw led to the Seabee program within the Department.

SY assumed responsibility for the security of Department of State domestic facilities, which included information security, building passes, and the physical security of our facilities.

Beginning in the late 1960s, several ambassadors and Department officials were kidnapped or assassinated. These actions highlighted the possible exploitation of U.S. diplomats for political purposes. To meet this new threat, SY increased its protective capabilities.

The rages of terrorism continued, creating a new and increasingly dangerous threat to U.S. citizens and missions abroad, as well as to distinguished visitors to the United States. SY responded to the emerging threat by hiring over a hundred new agents and purchasing vehicles, radios, and other support equipment.

SY published handbooks on terrorism and provided advice for overseas personnel on traveling safely to and from work and how to make their homes safer. SY began to survey U.S. embassies for vulnerability to attack. Security officers received more intensive training and learned new skills, like defensive driving.


The intensity of terrorist attacks against Americans increased. In the period between 1979 and 1983, there were over 300 attacks; in 1984 alone, there were over 100 attacks. In 1984, Secretary of State George Shultz formed an advisory panel to study make recommendations on minimizing the probability of terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens and facilities.

Headed by retired Admiral Bobby Inman, this commission was known as the Advisory Panel on Overseas Security, or the Inman Panel. The panel examined the Department's security programs and, in a report published in June 1985, made its recommendations to the Secretary.

On November 4, 1985, the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) and the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) were officially established.

The Inman Panel's recommendations received strong support from Congress, and on August 27, 1986, Ronald Reagan signed H.R. 4151, the Omnibus Diplomatic Security and Antiterrorism Act of 1986, which codified the recommendations of the Inman panel. The new Bureau had a clearly defined mandate outlined in legislation and structured along the lines of other Federal law enforcement, security, and intelligence agencies.

The Diplomatic Courier Service joined the new Bureau at this time. Couriers no longer hand-carried pouches of communications but protected vast amounts of supplies, equipment, and construction materials bound for sensitive overseas posts.

By the end of the 1980s, DS began sharing information with the American business community operating abroad, through the Overseas Security Advisory Council, which itself expanded to include all members of the U.S. private sector, including non-governmental organizations, religious groups, academic organizations, and associations. Also, the Bureau expanded to provide state-of-the-art security to the Department's communications and information systems.

The security improvements developed and implemented during the 1980s helped Americans withstand the heightened threat in the next decade.

The DS Rewards for Justice Program was initiated in 1992. Since then, more than $49 million has been paid for information that prevented or resolved acts of international terrorism against Americans. Information received through this program has resulted in the capture of several terrorists, including Ramzi Yousef, the mastermind of the World Trade Center bombing in 1993.

DS continues to conduct criminal and personnel security investigations critical to the protection of American borders and the national security of the United States . Special agents investigate more than 3,500 passport and visa fraud violations each year. DS receives about 3,000 requests for overseas investigative assistance from U.S. law enforcement agencies annually and has achieved notable success in locating and apprehending wanted fugitives who have fled the United States .

DS also provides protective services to distinguished dignitaries visiting the United States, as well as 24-hour protection to the Secretary of State.

With the addition of the Office of Foreign Missions in 1996, DS assumed responsibility for servicing and regulating the activities of all foreign missions in the United States.

The War on Terror

Following the August 7, 1998, terrorist bombings of the U.S. Embassies in Dar Es Salaam, Tanzania, and Nairobi, Kenya, the State Department declared the protection of American personnel and facilities overseas a top priority. Congress passed a $1.4 billion Emergency Embassy Security Supplemental (of which DS received about $588 million) enabling the Bureau of make significant improvements at every U.S. diplomatic mission overseas. Since the bombings, the State Department has invested billions of dollars to improve systems and facilities and increase security staffing to protect personnel and dependents around the world.

As overseas security requirements increased, so did the demands on our Diplomatic Courier Service. Couriers now transport more than 10 tons of classified and sensitive materials overseas every year.

Security engineering officers (SEOs) continue to design and manage security equipment programs at all posts, which are vital to the protection of our people and facilities abroad. SEOs also work to detect and prevent the loss of sensitive information from technical espionage, a continuing challenge in light of rapidly changing technology in detection equipment, computer systems, intrusion detection systems, and access control equipment.

While focused on improving security at U.S. missions abroad, several highly publicized incidents at the State Department firmly emphasized the need to strengthen domestic security as well. In addition to taking additional security measures at the State Department, the Assistant Secretary for DS convened a panel of security experts from the FBI, CIA, Department of Defense, U.S. Secret Service, and DS to review all domestic security policies, programs, and procedures. The panel made recommendations concerning access control, physical and technical security, security awareness for employees, restriction of traffic around the building, creation of a chemical/biological program, and additional resources for security. The majority of these recommendations were implemented. The Department continues its efforts to enhance its domestic security program.

Since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, DS has played an active role in the global war on terrorism. With more than 480 special agents assigned to diplomatic missions in 157 countries, DS is the most widely represented American security and law enforcement organization around the world. Our agents have forged solid relationships with foreign police and security services worldwide. Through this global network of international law enforcement contacts, we have been able to identify, arrest, and prosecute potential terrorist suspects before they reach American shores.

The Antiterrorism Assistance Program, provides terrorism-focused police training to civilian security personnel from friendly governments. More than 31,000 students from 127 countries have received ATA training in the last 20 years. These students return to their countries better prepared to fight terrorism and protect Americans overseas during a crisis.

Assistant Secretaries

The head of the DS Bureau is an Assistant Secretary. Assistant Secretaries within the State Department are allowed to use the title of Ambassador.

  • Sheldon Krys (1986 - 1991), Foreign Service Officer, was also concurrently the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Information Management.
  • Anthony Cecil Eden Quainton (1992 - 1995), Foreign Service Officer, attempted to transfer the Bureau over to the Department of Justice
  • Eric Boswell (1996 - 1998, 2008 - present), Foreign Service Officer. Was first the Director of the Office of Foreign Missions, then brought on to concurrently be the DS Assistant Secretary. Reappointed July 7, 2008
  • David Carpenter (1998 - 2002), a former Secret Service Agent, was the first Assistant Secretary with law enforcement credentials.
  • Francis X. Taylor (2002 - 2005), Brigadier General and former head of the Air Force's Office of Special Investigations.
  • Richard J. Griffin (2005 - 2007), a former Secret Service Agent and former Inspector General of the Veteran's Administration.
  • Gregory B. Starr (2007 - 2008), Acting Assistant Secretary, a Diplomatic Security Special Agent and Director of the Diplomatic Security Service.

OSAC has evolved over the years, and not for the better. The primary purpose for OSAC now is to assist DSS agents on the verge of retirement find private sector security jobs. Each year OSAC has a meeting. The first day consist mainly of speaches citing how great OSAC is and presentation of awards. OSAC has a high number of constituents but the real authority is vested to a small number of security directors of major corporations. They are provided with access, and in turn hire retiring DSS agents who shamelessly audition for jobs. Basic OSAC constituents while high in number have no say in what type of program OSAC will provide. They are kepted in the dark like mushrooms. But on the plus side they are permitted to use OSAC as some sort of marketing tool and have access to the DOS gift shop.


Special Agents of the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS) are sworn Federal law enforcement officers who are responsible for the security of Foreign Service personnel, property and sensitive information throughout the world. DS Special Agents are also responsible for the protection of the Secretary of State, certain foreign dignitaries during their visits to the U.S., and others as designated by the Secretary of State. Major activities include protective services, management of security programs for Foreign Service posts, criminal investigations, and background investigations, in addition to administrative, training, and liaison functions.

Security Engineering Officers (SEO) are responsible for managing the Department's technical and information security programs, projects, and resources throughout the world. SEOs protect personnel, facilities, and sensitive information against espionage, terrorism, and crime. These highly skilled engineers develop, maintain, and install electrical and mechanical systems such as access and perimeter controls, Closed-circuit television, alarms, locks, and x-ray and bomb detection equipment. Engineers plan and conduct technical surveillance inspections to detect and nullify clandestine intrusions. They test new technical equipment and develop new techniques, strategies, and procedures for finding hidden intelligence-gathering devices. SEOs continually are challenged to identify security risks, analyze those risks, and develop systems to ensure the integrity of our computers and worldwide network information systems. U.S. Navy Seabees and a cadre of specially trained Security Technical Specialists (STS) assist SEOs with the maintenance and repair of our security systems. Domestically SEO's manage, plan, and provide engineering support to worldwide technical security programs and to the Secretary of State and visiting dignitaries. Overseas SEO's manage Engineering Service Centers (ESC) and Engineering Service Offices (ESO), which provide technical security to one or multiple posts under the management of Regional Security Officers (RSO).

Security Technical Specialists (STS) are support personnel within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security who assist in worldwide technical security programs. These programs provide protection for Department of State facilities and personnel from technical espionage, acts of terrorism, and crime. In this protection effort, sophisticated electronic and electromechanical security systems are used throughout the world, which include: intrusion detection systems (IDS), closed-circuit television (CCTV) systems, vehicular and pedestrian access control systems, metal detectors, and explosive detection systems. STS's support technical security support domestically and at ESC's and ESO's worldwide.

Diplomatic Couriers protect information by ensuring the secure movement of classified U.S. Government material across international borders to over 180 Foreign Service missions. Diplomatic pouches can contain thousands of pounds of equipment and construction materials, as well as classified documents bound for sensitive posts. Additionally, Diplomatic courier control officers escort sensitive, but unclassified, crated materials within the United States and across international boundaries. These materials receive the same secure shipment as diplomatic pouches but, unlike diplomatic pouches, are declared to customs on entry into a country. The Diplomatic Courier Service securely delivered over 9.5 million pounds of classified material and 1 million pounds of controlled material last year. The Diplomatic Courier Service is constantly evolving to meet the increasingly restrictive guidelines imposed by various countries.

Civil Service specialists

Contract security and administrative support staff


See also


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