Exploring Careers in Diplomatic Security

Special Agent Paul Davis (r) poses with Israeli Defense Minister Ehub Barak (center) and an Israeli Shin Bet officer.
Special Agent Paul Davis (r) poses with Israeli Defense Minister Ehub Barak (center) and an Israeli Shin Bet officer.

When Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad recently met Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak in New York to discuss issues surrounding a Palestinian bid for statehood at the United Nations, Paul Davies was at the center of it all.

Davies, a Supervisory Special Agent with the Bureau of Diplomatic Security (DS), was in charge of providing security for the Defense Minister, which included 35 special agents as well as coordination with the New York City Police Department. The meeting went off without a hitch.

Such is the life of a Special Agent in the Bureau of Diplomatic Security. One day, Davies may be guarding the Dalai Lama during a visit to Houston, and the next day he could be breaking down doors to arrest suspects for visa or passport fraud. Davies will be the featured speaker at Real Talk w/ CJ on Oct. 25 from 2 to 3 p.m. in CJava Café.

“The great thing about this job is it is interesting because it changes every day,” said Davies. “You get to spend a lot of time overseas and, because it is a smaller agency, you get more responsibility and experience early on in your career.”

As a Supervisory Agent with Diplomatic Security in the Department of State, Davies leads a team of 11 special agents in Houston, a city with the third largest number of consulates (80) in the U.S. The office, which covers Texas and Oklahoma, is responsible for maintaining the integrity of U.S. passports and visas; investigating human trafficking networks; providing support for Joint Terrorism Task Forces in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and El Paso; conducting personnel security investigations of prospective candidates for employment with the Department of State and other foreign affairs agencies; and protecting high-level foreign dignitaries during visits to the U.S. and foreign missions and consulates on U.S. soil.

During his career, Davies has protected many U.S. and foreign dignitaries, including former Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice. His Houston agents frequently travel overseas on foreign missions. His team is also responsible for investigating 250 cases of passport or visa fraud for the Department of State or those referred by other federal or local agencies. Those cases include human trafficking and smuggling, identity fraud or sham companies set up to bring in foreign workers. The Houston office is particularly busy because of its proximity to the Mexican border.

Davies began his career with Diplomatic Security in 1998 after graduating from The Citadel and serving eight years as an Officer in the U.S. Marine Corps. In 1993 while in Somalia, he met a DS Special Agent, who sparked his interest. After applying to the major federal agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and DEA, Davies opted for Diplomatic Security because it gave him the opportunity to spend time overseas. He has worked in Pakistan, Indonesia and Iraq. In fact, during an early assignment, he was in East Timor off Australia, where he had to evacuate the U.S. Embassy during a coupe e’tat.

“You have to be willing to travel,” Davies said. “Ninety percent of the agents will spend one-third to one-half of their time abroad.”

Davies has some tips for those interested in getting in his line of work. In addition to earning a college degree and getting good grades, Davies said legitimate, real life experience helps. At least 50 percent of Diplomatic Security agents come from either a law enforcement agency or the military.

Language skills are also a real plus, especially those in high demand, such as Arabic, Chinese, or Urdu, which is spoken in Pakistan.

Davies also recommends that students seek a leadership position in a club.

“Finding a leadership position in a club helps to beef up your application,” Davies said.

Member of The Texas State University System