Protecting U.S. Presidents and Louisiana

Leslie Pichon

LSU alumna Leslie Pichon has worked on the protective details of three consecutive American presidents— President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump—and is now working to secure Louisiana against cyber threats as Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans field office of the United States Secret Service.

– Photo by Elsa Hahne/LSU

Meet Secret Service Special Agent in Charge Leslie Pichon, Louisiana Cyber Champion and LSU Alumna 

LSU speech communication alumna Leslie Pichon is one of the nation’s premier cybersecurity leaders. After spending more than 20 years investigating financial fraud, serving at Secret Service headquarters and protecting three consecutive American presidents, she is now working to secure Louisiana against cyber threats as Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans field office of the United States Secret Service.

When LSU announced its defense and cybersecurity initiative in March 2022 on the Baton Rouge campus, Leslie Pichon was sitting behind LSU President William F. Tate IV and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards as they cut the purple and gold ribbon. Although she knew about the celebratory cannon fire that would be going off, the blast made her instinctively want to reach for her weapon and scan the horizon.

While instinct and raw talent undoubtedly have served Pichon well, she traces her success back to LSU where she was an undergraduate student majoring in speech communication between 1987 and 1991.

“I saw myself going into broadcast journalism at the time,” Pichon said. “To now be able to partner with LSU, my alma mater, on highly technical cybersecurity to help my school and my state—I have to pinch myself.”

Pichon works with multiple cybersecurity partners to protect Louisiana: law enforcement, including the Louisiana State Police Cyber Crime Unit; Louisiana National Guard; Louisiana’s ESF-17 emergency response function to cyberattacks as coordinated by the Governor’s Office; and LSU.

“Coming to the New Orleans field office in 2018, I made sure we joined the state’s cybersecurity commission, and that opened the door to all of these growing partnerships,” Pichon said. “Academia is so important because that’s where our next agents will be coming from. And if it’s important to pick a school, why not the best school?”

Cybersecrity ribbon-cutting with LSU President William F. Tate IV and Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards

During the March 2022 announcement of LSU’s commitment to become a leader in cybersecurity and defense, Leslie Pichon was sitting on the stage behind LSU President William F. Tate IV and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards as they cut the purple and gold ribbon. Here, Leslie Pichon is seen talking to LSU Professor Golden G. Richard III, faculty lead for cybersecurity.

– Photo by LSU


Pichon grew up in Slidell, Louisiana, in what she describes as an “All-American” community where there was “just happiness.” Her mom, the person she “looks up to the most,” taught English and sociology at Slidell High School where she also directed the student newspaper. Her stepdad was the basketball coach and athletic director at the school, while her dad was a businessman. Her grandfather, a doctor, helped found Slidell Memorial Hospital.

“That’s actually my grandfather’s doctor’s bag over there,” Pichon said, pointing across her corner office on the 14th floor of an office building at the foot of the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway where she keeps a clear view of life below.

It was a friend of the family who worked for the National Security Agency who persuaded Pichon, then a senior at LSU, to look into joining the Secret Service.

“He was always reading, but he was fun,” Pichon said. “He said, ‘You’re smart, you’re athletic, you’re assertive and I think you would enjoy it.’”

But Pichon really didn’t know what he was talking about. What even was the Secret Service?

“I went to the LSU Library to research it,” Pichon said. “From the moment I learned what the Secret Service was all about, I was hooked. Must have called this field office, actually, to ask about applying. Probably looked it up in the phone book. They said I needed three years of work experience before I could apply. That’s not true now, but it was back then, and they suggested military or law enforcement.”

Pichon chose law enforcement and set out to find a large police department where she could expand her horizons and gain experience. She settled on the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department, where she graduated in the top five of her training class and served as a police officer for five years.

“Nashville was a lot like New Orleans, a large city with a small-town feel,” she said.

At the three-year mark, she began the application process with the Secret Service. 

“It took a year and a half to get hired,” Pichon said. “The background check took way longer than it takes now, with all of our data on the internet.”

Pichon became a Secret Service agent in 1998.

“I don’t think we even used the word ‘cyber’ back then; cyber wasn’t a thing,” Pichon said. “I didn’t have a laptop; we didn’t have cellphones. We used the old pagers.”

All United States Secret Service agents have a dual mission—protection and investigations. As such, Pichon was repeatedly selected to work on the protective details of President George W. Bush, President Barack Obama and President Donald Trump.

“The most common misconception about us is that we protect the person and not the office,” Pichon said. “Sometimes people ask me, ‘How can you be on two presidents’ details? Our protective mission is focused on protecting the office of the presidency no matter who or what party holds that office, which is why I, and many agents like me, are able to serve during different administrations. Also, a lot of people don’t know we investigate crime, like financial fraud and cybercrimes.”

When she started as an agent, the most common kinds of financial crime were counterfeit currency and credit card fraud where people would emboss stolen credit card numbers onto fake cards.

“Back then, they weren’t using the internet or computers to further their schemes,” Pichon said. “But now, everyone is using a computer. Hacking into computers and stealing identities and information and even holding it hostage for ransom. Cyber technology has made it so much easier for the criminals, and that’s made our job so much more difficult.”

“That’s why it’s so important to ramp up our cyber-forensic capabilities and collaborate with partners like LSU,” Pichon continued.


As Special Agent in Charge, Pichon worked with headquarters on outreach to congress to amend the federal law that gives the Secret Service’s National Computer Forensics Institute, or NCFI, the authority to train people outside their own agency on cybersecurity methods and practices, such as digital forensics and memory forensics.

“Until this year, our NCFI was only able to train state, local, tribal and territorial law enforcement partners. Now we’re able to train any government employee who is part of our network of cyber fraud task forces,” Pichon said. “This really helps us tackle all kinds of cyber-enabled financial fraud and also helps the state battle ransomware attacks.”

As a senior executive selected for higher leadership, Pichon needed to choose a developmental assignment for herself. She chose cyber protection for her home state.

“I knew I could make positive changes by focusing on improving the infrastructure in Louisiana for investigating cyber-enabled financial crimes,” Pichon said. “Now that LSU is an NSA Center of Academic Excellence in Cyber Operations, our partnership can lead to a more permanent collaboration between Secret Service investigative agents and LSU undergrad and graduate students. That’s my end goal. I want to work with LSU to help secure our state and the nation’s critical infrastructure and protect the Gulf Coast, which is a prime target for cyberattacks, just like the East Coast and West Coast. LSU is helping to strengthen our resilience against cyber criminals, and the recruiting piece is just icing on the cake. I hope to get as many future Secret Service agents and cyber professionals as I can from LSU.”

LSU recently announced a formalized partnership with the United States Secret Service, which comprises recruitment from Athletics, collaborative research with cybersecurity students and continuing education for the elderly, a key target group for cyber fraud. When LSU announced a cyber partnership with Louisiana’s largest ports last month, Pichon was there, standing in the background.

In every engagement, Pichon uses the communication skills she learned at LSU.

“People ask me if I’m stressed out; I’m not,” Pichon said. “I’m confident in our abilities, and we pride ourselves on our advance work; trying to prevent something from happening as opposed to just reacting to it. I think that helps us in cybersecurity. We want to get out there; we want to do the educational piece, communicate with people and get ahead of the bad guys with preventative methods and practices.”

“I was always a team player—cheerleader, played soccer,” Pichon said. “That only grew stronger at LSU where I was an active member and pledge trainer of Chi Omega. I always felt anything was possible. Maybe every college student feels like that, but LSU really propelled me to excellence. Just the visceral feeling you get when you’re on the campus—you want to make your town, your community, your friends and family proud, and LSU supports that. I can’t really put a finger on it, but it’s about fighting for what you want and never giving up. Once a Tiger, always a Tiger.”

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