Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents Support Boston Marathon Security

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A Diplomatic Security Service special agent watches over the starting area as runners prepare to line up for the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018, which took place in steady near-freezing rain.
A Diplomatic Security Service special agent watches over the starting area as runners prepare to line up for the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018, which took place in steady near-freezing rain.

Diplomatic Security Service Special Agents Support Boston Marathon Security

Law enforcement officers around the world plan to honor National Police Week, which runs May 13-19, 2018 and centers on Peace Officers Memorial Day every May 15. The Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) regularly partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement at major international events. In one recent example, DSS joined thousands of counterparts to provide security for the 122nd Boston Marathon.

As tens of thousands of participants from more than 100 nations filed toward the starting line of the 2018 Boston Marathon, one runner after another kept thanking the law enforcement officers – including Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) special agents – who stood watch over the historic annual event.

DSS Special Agent Seth Toensing personally received dozens if not hundreds of thank-you’s as runners prepared to start their 26.2 mile journey to central Boston.

A Diplomatic Security Service special agent watches over the starting area as runners line up for the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018, which took place in steady near-freezing rain. (State Department photo)

“That kind of made it all worthwhile,” Toensing said of getting thanked by so many runners as he stood for hours in driving rain, strong headwinds, and frigid temperatures just a few degrees above freezing. “Things like this kind of underscore the mood since the marathon bombing.”

Eight DSS special agents from the U.S. Department of State were among the federal, state, and local law enforcement officers, as well as National Guard military police, who provided security for the 122nd running of the Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018.

One of the premier sporting events in the United States, the Boston Marathon drew more than 30,000 registered runners from all 50 states and 109 nations. The 2018 marathon was notable for heavy rains and near-freezing temperatures that affected running times. The eight DSS personnel were based at the starting line of the marathon, where tens of thousands of runners gather in the small town of Hopkinton.

Special agents from the DSS Boston Field Office began formally supporting the event in 2014, the year after terrorists set off two homemade bombs near the finish line that killed three people and wounded more than 200 people.

Two Diplomatic Security Service special agents check their gear before dawn before heading out to provide security support for the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018. DSS personnel were among thousands of federal, state, and local law enforcement officers watching over the marathon. (State Department photo)

DSS is the law enforcement and security arm of the U.S. Department of State, with personnel assigned to 29 offices in U.S. cities, and at U.S. embassies and consulates around the world. DSS is a world leader in dignitary protection, international passport and visa fraud investigations, threat analysis, cybersecurity, counterterrorism, and security technology.

For the annual Boston Marathon, special agents from the Boston Field Office help bolster federal law enforcement presence and sometimes assist with the international dimensions of the event. Overall federal security is led by the Department of Homeland Security.

Over 30 foreign nations have a formal consular presence in Boston, and DSS assists in linking the consulate network with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health’s Mass Casualty Incident Tracker to aid foreign nationals during an incident, including previously during the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. In 2015, DSS coordinated a delegation of visiting Brazilian police officers to observe the marathon in preparation for the 2016 Summer Olympics.

Two Diplomatic Security Service special agents watch over the starting area as runners gather for the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018, which took place in steady near-freezing rain. (State Department photo)

When weather cooperates, as many as 1 million spectators line the route of the Boston Marathon.

The DSS Boston Field Office also provides support to the annual July 4th Boston Pops orchestra concert, regularly attended by hundreds of thousands of people.

The Boston Field Office spends much of its time focusing on criminal investigations, including passport and visa fraud cases. The field office also partners with federal, state, and local law enforcement on cases that have in international aspect, which allows DSS to draw on its global force of special agents and investigators.

A Diplomatic Security Service special agent stands watch over the starting line as the first wave of runners begin the 122nd Boston Marathon on April 16, 2018. (State Department photo)

The partnerships work in both directions, so DSS is always pleased to be able to work with local counterparts, said Paul Comforti, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the Boston Field Office.

“As the Diplomatic Security Service relies on state and local police support to safely conduct its law enforcement operations, the Boston Marathon is a great opportunity for us to give back and help our local law enforcement partners provide a secure environment for the world’s oldest annual marathon,” Comforti said.

The race course stretches through eight host cities and towns, drawing hundreds of thousands of spectators, Comforti said. For that reason, he added, “the marathon is an all-hands-on-deck security event for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, and the DSS Boston Field Office is proud to play a part in its success.”

About the Author: Vince Crawley serves in the Diplomatic Security Service's Office of Public Affairs.

Editor's Note: This entry also appears in the U.S. Department of State's publication on Medium.

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