2018 was another busy year for the Diplomatic Security Service (DSS). As the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State, DSS ensures a safe environment for the conduct of U.S. diplomacy and protects the integrity of U.S. travel documents.
Here are a few highlights of DSS accomplishments in 2018.
Blended in among Team USA and outfitted in official gear at the 2018 Winter Olympics were DSS special agents who oversaw the safety and security of the U.S. athletes, corporate sponsors, and members of the media. DSS is the U.S. government lead for all major international special security events like the Olympics, and more than 100 DSS personnel were on the ground supporting the 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympics, including special agents serving as field liaison officers and security analysts working around-the-clock in the DSS Joint Operations Center. Dozens arrived weeks before the opening games to coordinate with South Korean counterparts prior to the athletes’ arrival. DSS is already working with Japan and other partners to prepare for the 2020 Summer Games in Tokyo, and planning is well underway for the 2019 PanAm Games in Lima, Peru.
Transnational Criminal Investigations
DSS special agents and analysts across the globe investigate passport and visa fraud to ensure the integrity of U.S. travel documents. Often, these activities are used to perpetuate human smuggling and trafficking, forced labor, and other transnational crimes. This year, the DSS Houston Field Office (HFO) got justice for a forced labor victim who had spent years working seven days a week, without pay, as a nanny. An HFO special agent reached out to the DSS assistant regional security officer-investigator (ARSO-I) posted at the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos, Nigeria, who drove hours into the Nigerian countryside to the nanny’s hometown. Conducting interviews by flashlight in the witnesses’ native tongue, the ARSO-I gathered evidence that was key to proving the Texas couple had falsified the woman’s visa and was not complying with U.S. labor laws. The couple was sentenced in January 2018 and forced to pay restitution to the victim.
Construction of the U.S. Department of State Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) is well underway, with completion expected in late 2019. FASTC consolidates 11 hard-skills training locations into one facility, and has multiple venues including shooting ranges, smokehouses, a live-fire shoothouse, driving tracks, and more. The state-of-the-art facility allows for different types of training, including the Foreign Affairs Counter Threat course, which is required for everyone serving under chief of mission overseas; DSS Basic Special Agents Course training; Mobile Security Deployments training; specialized training with law enforcement and military partners; and more. DSS oversees FASTC, but the massive project is a department-wide priority that has been in the works for years.
Throughout 2018, DSS recognized the 100th anniversary of the U.S. Diplomatic Courier Service. After the Armistice at the conclusion of the First World War, the department assigned a group of handpicked U.S. Army messengers to support the peace negotiations that led to the Treaty of Versailles. These predecessors of diplomatic couriers hand-carried diplomatic pouches across war-torn Europe and into Bolshevik Russia, providing crucial support to U.S. diplomacy. Over the decades, diplomatic couriers have escorted classified and sensitive diplomatic pouches to U.S. posts across the world, getting their cargo to its destination in spite of regional conflicts, wars, natural disasters, transportation challenges, and other barriers. Today, a diverse team of more than 100 diplomatic couriers work out of 11 hubs around the world, and continue the work begun by a small group of men 100 years ago. An exhibit honoring the diplomatic couriers and their 100 years of service is on display at the U.S. Diplomacy Center through February 2019.
These snapshots provide a small glimpse into the daily work of DSS and its work in support of the department. Follow DSS on Facebook, Twitter and Flickr @StateDeptDSS to keep up with everything DSS is up to throughout 2019 and beyond.