The Diplomatic Security Service: U.S. Diplomacy's Global Force (Text Version)
Our mission: The Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) is the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State. DSS bears the core responsibility for providing a safe and secure environment for the conduct of U.S. diplomacy and for conducting visa and passport fraud investigations around the world. DSS is a leader in mitigating terrorist threats to U.S. personnel and facilities, mounting international investigations, and generating innovations in cybersecurity and physical security engineering.
DSS personnel travel the globe providing guidance, support, and leadership to protect American diplomats and U.S. national interests.
Protecting People, Property, and IInformation
The men and women of the Diplomatic Security Service belong to one of the most distinctive global security teams in the world. They protect the people, places, and vital information that allow the United States to be a leader in world events.
The Diplomatic Security Service conducts day-to-day law enforcement and security operations within the Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
The DSS family includes special agents, security engineering officers, security technical specialists, diplomatic couriers, security protective specialists, uniformed protective officers, civil servants, contractors, locally engaged security professionals, U.S. Marine Security Guards, and a contingent of U.S. Navy Seabees.
DSS is the most widely represented U.S. law enforcement and security organization in the world, protecting people, property, and information at 275 State Department locations around the globe.
Protecting People and Facilities
U.S. diplomats and their families, as well as State Department facilities, can be targets for terrorists and international criminals, even at locations that might be considered low threat. U.S. embassies, consulates, and personnel overseas have been targeted by gunmen, terrorists, rockets, mortars, complex assaults, truck bombs, criminals, and violent mobs.
A Worldwide Presence
The Diplomatic Security Service protects U.S. interests by sustaining strong partnerships with international law enforcement and security organizations. These relationships allow DSS to assist and coordinate with U.S. federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. This includes locating fugitives from justice, identifying criminal evidence in support of U.S. prosecutors, and providing support to law enforcement in both the United States and abroad.
DSS provides continuous security for the U.S. Secretary of State, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, and visiting cabinet-level foreign dignitaries when in the United States. This includes foreign ministers and many former heads of state, as well as high-level delegates attending the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York City.
DSS protects emissaries from international organizations and visiting royalty. Notable protectees have included His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet, members of Great Britain’s royal family, the Chairperson of the African Union, the NATO Secretary General, and dignitaries visiting presidential inaugurations.
DSS coordinates U.S. government agencies supporting international special security events (ISSEs) abroad. DSS leads the International Security Event Group, which coordinates security, law enforcement, and intelligence support for ISSEs overseas, including major athletic events and summits.
The Diplomatic Courier Service ensures the worldwide security and protection of classified diplomatic pouches. An expert cadre of approximately 100 diplomatic couriers transports classified and sensitive materials around the world. With regional courier offices in the United States, Germany, South Africa, Thailand, South Korea, Bahrain, Brazil, Cote d’Ivoire, and Senegal, couriers travel to diplomatic posts throughout the world, constantly trouble-shooting and innovating.
DSS technical experts develop and put in place a wide range of technical security countermeasures to protect U.S. diplomats and sensitive information. Security engineering officers provide technical security support and engineering expertise to protect U.S. Foreign Service posts overseas and in domestic locations. Responsibilities include working with all aspects of security systems – from design, development and analysis to installation and testing. They conduct security assessments for U.S. overseas missions, conduct technical surveillance countermeasure inspections, implement computer security measures, and support dignitary travel.
Security technical specialists provide support and assist in worldwide technical security programs which provide protection for U.S. Department of State facilities and personnel from technical espionage, acts of terrorism, and crime. Their work is incredibly varied – managing projects and people, supporting dignitary travel, exploring the use of new technology, and installing, maintaining, and repairing a vast array of complex technical security equipment.
The DS Command Center near Washington, D.C. monitors Department of State facilities and delegations around the world around the clock, using state-of-the-art technology and relaying two-way communication as events unfold. With links to other watch centers, including U.S. military combatant commands, the DS Command Center rapidly shares critical information.
More than 35,000 local guards protect U.S. overseas compounds. The local guards patrol the grounds, inspect vehicles, visitors, and packages, and respond to alarms and requests for assistance. Local guards are usually citizens of the host nation and managed by Regional Security Officers.
Mobile Security Deployments (MSD) teams provide rapid tactical responses in emergency situations by deploying highly trained security personnel. These teams can deploy anywhere in the world within 24 hours to provide security support to posts under high-threat conditions and to enhance protective support for the Secretary of State and other diplomats.
U.S. Marines – on duty protecting U.S. Embassies. Marine Security Guard (MSG) detachments are stationed at 177 U.S. embassies and consulates around the world, protecting U.S. diplomats and responding immediately to crises large and small. The Marines protect U.S. mission personnel, property, and classified information.
DSS works in close partnership with U.S. military regional commands. DSS closely coordinates with Department of Defense geographic combatant commands, which have the ability to temporarily deploy combat-trained troops to augment security at diplomatic posts.
DSS prepares the foreign affairs community and families to safely live and work overseas through its five-day Foreign Affairs Counter Threat (FACT) course. The FACT course provides the practical skills necessary to recognize, avoid, and respond to terrorist threats. Participants learn planning and risk management, security awareness, personal resilience, emergency medical care, personnel recovery, improvised explosive device (IED) awareness, self-defense, response to fire as a weapon, ballistics and attack recognition, direct and indirect weapons fire response, and counterterrorist driving.
On the final day of training, participants are involved in a three-hour reality-based culmination exercise that uses professional role players serving as host nation officials, bystanders, and attackers. The exercise ensures employees and family members can appropriately apply each of the skills they learned during the week while carrying out diplomatic functions in a high threat and high stress environment.
Domestic Protective Services
Approximately 1,200 uniformed security officers protect Department of State facilities across the United States. They patrol facilities, screen visitors and packages, and monitor communications and security systems. When emergencies occur, they are often the first responders on the scene, taking control of the situation and, if necessary, providing first aid and coordinating for follow-on assistance.
DSS uses specially trained canine security teams and their handlers to screen deliveries to State Department facilities and during special and major events, such as the United Nations General Assembly and the Arctic Summit.
Regional Security Officers - The Face of Security at U.S. Diplomatic Posts Overseas
Approximately1,000 special agents are assigned around the world as Regional Security Officers (RSOs) in U.S. diplomatic posts. RSOs manage security programs and provide the first line of defense for U.S. personnel and their families, as well as diplomatic facilities and national security information. RSOs develop, implement, and manage a range of physical, cybersecurity, and personnel security programs to mitigate threats and provide safe living and working environments. RSOs also serve as the principal law enforcement and security advisors to U.S. Ambassadors and Chiefs of Mission.
The RSO and assigned staff:
- Protect U.S. diplomatic facilities, personnel, and information.
- Serve as the U.S. Embassy’s law enforcement liaison to the host nation.
- Arrange training for foreign law enforcement and security officers to combat terrorism.
- Work with host nation police to pursue investigative leads on fugitives who may have fled overseas after committing crimes in the United States.
- Advise U.S. citizens about safety and security abroad.
- Share security information with the U.S. private sector through the Overseas Security Advisory Council.
- Oversee the conduct of personnel security background investigations for the U.S. Department of State and other U.S. government agencies at posts overseas.
Investigating Misconduct and Violent Crimes
DSS investigates allegations of criminal and administrative misconduct involving Department of State employees, dependents, contractors, and other U.S. personnel serving in diplomatic communities. DSS also investigates administrative and criminal cases in the United States with a connection to Department of State operations.
DSS investigators confront the dramatic increase in crimes involving computers and other electronic technologies affecting the Department of State. DSS personnel execute search warrants worldwide on electronic devices and storage media.
Providing Cyber and Technology Security
As the premier law enforcement and security authority within the Foreign Affairs Community, DSS executes its critical cybersecurity mission to ensure a safe digital environment for global diplomacy and the advancement of American national security interests. This involves protecting people, information, and technology assets worldwide against cyberattacks, data breaches, and information leaks. To effectively risk manage the Department’s global cyber exposure, the Cyber and Technology Security (CTS) directorate leverages its cyber, technology, and related criminal investigative programs to detect, analyze, and respond to all forms of cyber-based threats in a holistic manner.
Investigating Visa and Passport Fraud
U.S. passports and visas are among the most valuable documents in the world. Terrorists and trans-national criminals make wide use of bogus identities and counterfeit or stolen documents as gateways to more serious crimes, while fugitives often seek to flee overseas and evade justice.
DSS investigates criminal organizations that profit by exploiting temporary foreign workers. When investigators uncover visa-crime kingpins in the United States, DSS also knocks out the source of numerous criminal visa applications at U.S. embassies and consulates.
DSS special agents conduct criminal investigations from major field offices in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C., as well as from resident offices throughout the United States, including Puerto Rico. These offices work closely with local, state, tribal, and federal authorities on a wide range of investigations.
DSS special agents:
- Have a century of experience investigating passport and visa fraud.
- Are federal law officers with authority to conduct investigations and make arrests.
- Investigate the fraudulent issuance, acquisition, and use of U.S. passports.
- Build close relationships with passport offices as well as local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States.
- Are members of the federal Document and Benefit Fraud Task Forces (DBFTFs) in 16 U.S. cities.
- Deploy to U.S. embassies worldwide to investigate suspected visa and passport fraud.
- Train thousands of foreign law enforcement, immigration, and other personnel to recognize fraudulent documents, leading to the revocation or denial of over 50,000 visas and the arrest of well over 10,000 individuals by host nation partners for visa and passport-related charges.
DSS Combats Terrorism
DSS special agents deploy to major international events, such as the annual United Nations General Assembly in New York City and the summer and winter Olympic Games. Special agents investigate suspicious activities and potential threats against high-profile protectees and coordinate the flow of intelligence and law enforcement information throughout an inter-agency network.
DSS participates in FBI-managed Joint Terrorism Task Forces (JTTFs) in more than two dozen U.S. cities. DSS special agents assigned to these task forces work with state, local, and other federal law enforcement organizations to investigate individuals and organizations suspected of planning or committing terrorist acts at home and abroad. DSS task force officers are repeatedly deployed alongside their FBI colleagues to further counterterrorism investigations throughout the world.
Workforce and Information Assurance
DSS works across the Department of State to properly vet and clear employees and contractors with access to the Department’s information and facilities. As one of 24 U.S. government agencies with authorized investigative and adjudicative authority, as well as the third largest industrial security population, DSS is responsible for granting and maintaining an individual’s access to classified material. Once entrusted, DSS works with all employees to ensure that reporting requirements are followed and security incidents are properly handled. With a focus on deterrence of issues, DSS strives to prevent any risk to Department employees, information, and facilities.
Antiterrorism Assistance Program – Training Global Security Partners
The Antiterrorism Assistance (ATA) program aims to build counterterrorism capacity among international law enforcement and security partners. ATA provides advanced counterterrorism training and equipment grants to maintain and increase partners’ abilities to find and arrest terrorists. Nearly all terrorists captured overseas have been apprehended by law enforcement authorities of partner nations, most of which are recipients of ATA training and equipment.
DSS special agents assigned as Assistant Regional Security Officer-Investigators (ARSO-I) are key components to protecting the United States by disrupting criminal and terrorist mobility through proactive overseas investigations, capacity building, and liaison with foreign partners. DSS currently deploys over 100 ARSO-Is to 107 posts in 76 countries. Since 2005, the ARSO-I program has coordinated 13,224 overseas arrests and 1,736 fugitive returns. The program has trained more than 146,000 foreign personnel and contributed to the refusal or revocation of 65,665 U.S. visas.
Partnering with the Private Sector
The Overseas Security Advisory Council
The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) promotes security cooperation between U.S. private sector interests worldwide and the Department of State. OSAC identifies threats to U.S. companies, non-governmental organizations, faith-based organizations, and members of academic communities operating around the globe. One of OSAC’s main areas of focus is the quick sharing of unclassified security and safety information between the U.S. government and the U.S. private sector working overseas. See www.osac.gov
Rewards for Justice
Established by Congress, the Rewards for Justice Program allows the Secretary of State to offer financial rewards in excess of $25 million for information that leads to the arrest or conviction of anyone who plans, commits, aids, or attempts international terrorist acts against U.S. persons or property; that prevents such acts from occurring in the first place; that leads to the identification or location of a key terrorist leader; or that disrupts terrorism financing.
The Diplomatic Security Service is present in over 170 countries worldwide
DSS Field and Resident Offices
- Atlanta, GA
- Boston, MA
- Bridgeport, CT
- Buffalo, NY
- Charleston, SC
- Chicago, IL
- Dallas, TX
- Denver, CO
- Detroit, MI
- El Paso, TX
- Greensboro, NC
- Honolulu, HI
- Hot Springs, AR
- Houston, TX
- Los Angeles, CA
- Miami, FL
- Minneapolis, MN
- New Orleans, LA
- New York, NY
- Philadelphia, PA
- Portsmouth, NH
- San Diego, CA
- San Francisco, CA
- San Juan, PR
- Seattle, WA
- St. Albans, VT
- St. Louis, MO
- Tucson, AZ
- Washington, DC
To contact DSS investigative offices in U.S. cities, see www.state.gov/m/ds/about/18892.htm
For DSS offices overseas, contact individual U.S. Embassies, Consulates, or Missions.
United States Department of State
Bureau of Diplomatic Security
Washington, D.C. 20522-2008
Issued August 2017
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