FBI Badge

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an agency of the United States Department of Justice that serves as both a federal criminal investigative body and an internal intelligence agency. The FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crime.[2] Its motto is "Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity", corresponding to the FBI initials.

The FBI's headquarters, the J. Edgar Hoover Building, is located in Washington, D.C.. Fifty-six field offices are located in major cities throughout the United States as well as over 400 resident agencies in smaller cities and towns across the country. More than 50 international offices called "legal attachés" are in U.S. embassies worldwide.

Contents [hide]*1 Mission and priorities
  • 2 Legal authority
  • 3 History
    • 3.1 Beginnings: The Bureau of Investigation
    • 3.2 The J. Edgar Hoover Directorship
      • 3.2.1 The FBI and national security
      • 3.2.2 The FBI and the civil-rights movement
      • 3.2.3 The FBI and Kennedy's assassination
    • 3.3 The FBI and organized crime
    • 3.4 Notable post-Hoover reorganizations
      • 3.4.1 Special FBI teams
      • 3.4.2 Notable efforts in the 1990s
      • 3.4.3 Post 9-11
  • 4 Organization
    • 4.1 BOI and FBI directors
    • 4.2 Hiring process
  • 5 Publications
  • 6 Crime statistics
    • 6.1 Uniform Crime Reports
    • 6.2 National Incident Based Reporting System
  • 7 Media portrayal
  • 8 Controversies and criticism
  • 9 FBI files on specific persons
  • 10 Notable people
  • 11 See also
    • 11.1 State-level organizations
    • 11.2 Similar agencies of other countries
      • 11.2.1 Europe
      • 11.2.2 Asia
      • 11.2.3 North America
      • 11.2.4 South America
      • 11.2.5 Oceania
  • 12 References
  • 13 Further reading
  • 14 External links

Mission and prioritiesEdit

In the fiscal year 2008, the FBI's total budget was approximately $6.8 billion, including $410 million in program increases to counter-terrorism, counter-intelligence, cybercrime, information technology, security, forensics, training, and criminal programs.

The FBI was established in 1908 as the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). Its name was changed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 1935.

The FBI's main goal is to protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.[3]

Currently, the FBI's top investigative priorities are:[4]

  1. Protect the United States from terrorist attack (see counter-terrorism);
  2. Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage (see counter-intelligence);
  3. Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes (see cyber-warfare);
  4. Combat public corruption at all levels;
  5. Protect civil rights;
  6. Combat transnational/national criminal organizations and enterprises (see organized crime);
  7. Combat major white-collar crime;
  8. Combat significant violent crime;
  9. Support federal, state, local and international partners;
  10. Upgrade technology for successful performance of the FBI's mission.

In August 2007, the top categories of lead criminal charges resulting from FBI investigations were:[5]

  1. Bank robbery and incidental crimes (107 charges)
  2. Drugs (104 charges)
  3. Attempt and conspiracy (81 charges)
  4. Material involving sexual exploitation of minors (53 charges)
  5. Mail fraudfrauds and swindles (51 charges)
  6. Bank fraud (31 charges)
  7. Prohibition of illegal gambling businesses (22 charges)
  8. Fraud by wire, radio, or television (20 charges)
  9. Hobbs Act (Robbery and extortion affecting interstate commerce) (17 charges)
  10. Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)-prohibited activities (17 charges)

Legal authorityEdit

[1][2]An FBI Agent tags the cockpit voice recorder from EgyptAir Flight 990 on the deck of the USS Grapple (ARS 53) at the crash site on November 13, 1999.The FBI's mandate is established in Title 28 of the United States Code (U.S. Code), Section 533, which authorizes the Attorney General to "appoint officials to detect... crimes against the United States." [6] Other federal statutes give the FBI the authority and responsibility to investigate specific crimes.

J. Edgar Hoover began using wiretapping in the 1920s during Prohibition to arrest bootleggers.[7] A 1927 case in which a bootlegger was caught through telephone tapping went to the United States Supreme Court, which ruled that the FBI could use wiretaps in its investigations and did not violate the Fourth Amendment as unlawful search and seizure as long as the FBI did not break in to a person's home to complete the tapping.[7] After Prohibition's repeal, Congress passed the 1934 Communications Act, which outlawed non-consensual phone tapping, but allowed bugging.[7] In another Supreme Court case, the court ruled in 1939 that due to the 1934 law, evidence the FBI obtained by phone tapping was inadmissible in court.[7] A 1967 Supreme Court decision overturned the 1927 case allowing bugging, after which Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act, allowing public authorities to tap telephones during investigations, as long as they obtain a warrant beforehand.[7]

The FBI's chief tool against organized crime is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. The FBI is also charged with the responsibility of enforcing compliance of the United States Civil Rights Act of 1964 and investigating violations of the act in addition to prosecuting such violations with the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). The FBI also shares concurrent jurisdiction with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

The USA PATRIOT Act increased the powers allotted to the FBI, especially in wiretapping and monitoring of Internet activity. One of the most controversial provisions of the act is the so-called sneak and peek provision, granting the FBI powers to search a house while the residents are away, and not requiring them to notify the residents for several weeks afterwards. Under the PATRIOT Act's provisions the FBI also resumed inquiring into the library records[8] of those who are suspected of terrorism (something it had supposedly not done since the 1970s).

Information obtained through an FBI investigation is presented to the appropriate U.S. Attorney or Department of Justice official, who decides if prosecution or other action is warranted.


Beginnings: The Bureau of InvestigationEdit

In 1886, the Supreme Court, in Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railway Company v. Illinois, found that the states had no power to regulate interstate commerce. The resulting Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 created a Federal responsibility for interstate law enforcement. The Justice Department, which was founded by John Verbruggen, made little effort to relieve its staff shortage until the turn of the century, when Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte reached out to other agencies, including the Secret Service, for investigators. But the Congress forbade this use of Treasury employees by Justice, passing a law to that effect in 1908. So the Attorney General moved to organize a formal Bureau of Investigation (BOI or BI), complete with its own staff of special agents. The Secret Service provided the Department of Justice 12 Special Agents and these agents became the first Agents in the new BOI. Thus, the first FBI agents, including John Verbruggen, were actually Secret Service agents. Its jurisdiction derived from the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887.[9][10] The FBI grew out of this force of special agents created on July 26, 1908 during the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. Its first official task was visiting and making surveys of the houses of prostitution in preparation for enforcing the "White Slave Traffic Act," or Mann Act, passed on June 25, 1910. In 1932, it was renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation. The following year it was linked to the Bureau of Prohibition and rechristened the Division of Investigation (DOI) before finally becoming an independent service within the Department of Justice in 1935.[9] In the same year, its name was officially changed from the Division of Investigation to the present-day Federal Bureau of Investigation, or FBI.

The J. Edgar Hoover DirectorshipEdit

The Director of the BOI, J. Edgar Hoover, became the first FBI Director and served for 48 years combined with the BOI, DOI, and FBI. After Hoover's death, legislation was passed limiting the tenure of future FBI Directors to a maximum of ten years. The Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, or the FBI Laboratory, officially opened in 1932, largely as a result of Hoover's efforts. Hoover had substantial involvement in most cases and projects the FBI handled during his tenure.

During the "War on Crime" of the 1930s, FBI agents apprehended or killed a number of notorious criminals who carried out kidnappings, robberies, and murders throughout the nation, including John Dillinger, "Baby Face" Nelson, Kate "Ma" Barker, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

Other activities of its early decades included a decisive role in reducing the scope and influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Additionally, through the work of Edwin Atherton, the FBI claimed success in apprehending an entire army of Mexican neo-revolutionaries along the California border in the 1920s. [3][4]Lester J. Gillis, also known as "Baby Face" Nelson.====The FBI and national security==== Beginning in the 1940s and continuing into the 1970s, the Bureau investigated cases of espionage against the United States and its allies. Eight Nazi agents who had planned sabotage operations against American targets were arrested, six of whom were executed (Ex parte Quirin). Also during this time, a joint US/UK code breaking effort (Venona)—-with which the FBI was heavily involved—-broke Soviet diplomatic and intelligence communications codes, allowing the US and British governments to read Soviet communications. This effort confirmed the existence of Americans working in the United States for Soviet intelligence.[11] Hoover was administering this project but failed to notify the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) until 1952. Another notable case is the arrest of Soviet spy Rudolf Abel in 1957.[12] The discovery of Soviet spies operating in the US allowed Hoover to pursue his longstanding obsession with the threat he perceived from the American left, ranging from Communist Party of the United States of America (CPUSA) union organizers to American liberals with no revolutionary aspirations whatsoever.

The FBI and the civil-rights movementEdit

During the 1950s and 1960s, FBI officials became increasingly concerned about the influence of civil rights leaders. In 1956, for example, Hoover took the rare step of sending an open letter denouncing Dr. T.R.M. Howard, a civil rights leader, surgeon, and wealthy entrepreneur in Mississippi who had criticized FBI inaction in solving recent murders of George W. Lee, Emmett Till, and other blacks in the South.[13] The FBI carried out controversial domestic surveillance in an operation it called the COINTELPRO, which was short for "COunter-INTELligence PROgram."[14] It aimed at investigating and disrupting dissident political organizations within the United States, including both militant and non-violent organizations, including the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading civil rights organization.[15]

Martin Luther King, Jr. was a frequent target of investigation. The FBI found no evidence of any crime, but attempted to use tapes of King involved in sexual activity for blackmail. In his 1991 memoirs, Washington Post journalist Carl Rowan asserted that the FBI had sent at least one anonymous letter to King encouraging him to commit suicide.[16]

The FBI and Kennedy's assassinationEdit

When President John F. Kennedy was shot and killed, the jurisdiction fell to the local police departments until President Lyndon B. Johnson directed the FBI to take over the investigation.[17] To ensure that there would never be any more confusion over who would handle homicides at the federal level, Congress passed a law that put investigations of deaths of federal officials within FBI jurisdiction.

The FBI and organized crimeEdit

In response to organized crime, on August 25, 1953, the Top Hoodlum Program was created. It asked all field offices to gather information on mobsters in their territories and to report it regularly to Washington for a centralized collection of intelligence on racketeers.[18] After the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, or RICO Act, took effect, the FBI began investigating the former Prohibition-organized groups, which had become fronts for crime in major cities and even small towns. All of the FBI work was done undercover and from within these organizations using the provisions provided in the RICO Act and these groups were dismantled. Although Hoover initially denied the existence[citation needed] of a close-knit organized crime network in the United States[citation needed] because he then had limited resources to deploy against organized crime,[citation needed] the Bureau later conducted operations against known organized crime syndicates and families, including those headed by Sam Giancana and John Gotti. The RICO Act is still used today for all organized crime and any individuals that might fall under the Act. [5][6]J. Edgar Hoover, FBI Director from 1924 to 1972.===Notable post-Hoover reorganizations===

Special FBI teamsEdit

In 1984, the FBI formed an elite unit[19] to help with problems that might arise at the 1984 Summer Olympics, particularly terrorism and major-crime. The formation of the team arose from the 1972 Summer Olympics at Munich, Germany when terrorists murdered Israeli Athletes. The team was named Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and acts as the FBI lead for a national SWAT team in related procedures and all counter terrorism cases. Also formed in 1984 was the Computer Analysis and Response Team (CART).[20] The end of the 1980s and the early part of the 1990s saw the reassignment of over 300 agents from foreign counter intelligence duties to violent crime and the designation of violent crime as the sixth national priority. But with reduced cuts to other well-established departments, and because terrorism was not longer considered a threat after the end of the Cold War,[20] the FBI became a tool of local police forces for tracking fugitives who had crossed state lines, which was a felony. The FBI Laboratory also helped develop DNA testing, continuing the pioneering role in identification that began with its fingerprinting system in 1924.

Notable efforts in the 1990sEdit

Between 1993 and 1996, the FBI increased its counter-terrorism role in the wake of the first 1993 World Trade Center bombing in New York, New York and the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, and the arrest of the Unabomber in 1996. Technological innovation and the skills of FBI Laboratory analysts helped ensure that all three of these cases were successfully prosecuted, but the FBI was also confronted by a public outcry in this period, which still haunts it today.[21] After Congress passed the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act (CALEA, 1994), the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA, 1996), and the Economic Espionage Act (EEA, 1996), the FBI followed suit and underwent a technological upgrade in 1998, just as it did with its CART team in 1991. Computer Investigations and Infrastructure Threat Assessment Center (CITAC) and the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) were created to deal with the increase in Internet-related problems, such as computer viruses, worms, and other malicious programs that might unleash havoc in the US. With these developments, the FBI increased its electronic surveillance in public safety and national security investigations, adapting to how telecommunications advancements changed the nature of such problems.

Post 9-11Edit

Within months of the September 11 attacks in 2001, FBI Director Robert Mueller, who had only been sworn in 1 week before the attacks, called for a re-engineering of FBI structure and operations. In turn, he made countering every federal crime a top priority, including the prevention of terrorism, countering foreign intelligence operations, addressing cyber security threats, other high-tech crimes, protecting civil rights, combating public corruption, organized crime, white-collar crime, and major acts of violent crime.[22]


[7][8]J. Edgar Hoover Building, FBI Headquarters[9][10]FBI Mobile Command Center, Washington Field OfficeThe FBI is headquartered at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., with 56 field offices[23] in major cities across the United States. The FBI also maintains over 400 resident agencies across the United States, as well as over 50 legal attachés at United States embassies and consulates. Many specialized FBI functions are located at facilities in Quantico, Virginia, as well as in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The FBI is in process of moving its Records Management Division, which processes Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, to Winchester, Virginia.[24]

The FBI Laboratory, established with the formation of the BOI,[25] did not appear in the J. Edgar Hoover Building until its completion in 1974. The lab serves as the primary lab for most DNA, biological, and physical work. Public tours of FBI headquarters ran through the FBI laboratory workspace before the move to the J. Edgar Hoover Building. The services the lab conducts include Chemistry, Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), Computer Analysis and Response, DNA Analysis, Evidence Response, Explosives, Firearms and Tool marks, Forensic Audio, Forensic Video, Image Analysis, Forensic Science Research, Forensic Science Training, Hazardous Materials Response, Investigative and Prospective Graphics, Latent Prints, Materials Analysis, Questioned Documents, Racketeering Records, Special Photographic Analysis, Structural Design, and Trace Evidence.[26] The services of the FBI Laboratory are used by many state, local, and international agencies free of charge. The lab also maintains a second lab at the FBI Academy.

The FBI Academy, located in Quantico, Virginia, is home to the communications and computer laboratory the FBI utilizes. It is also where new agents are sent for training to become FBI Special Agents. Going through the twenty-one week course is required for every Special Agent.[27] It was first opened for use in 1972 on 385 acres (1.6 km²) of woodland. The Academy also serves as a classroom for state and local law enforcement agencies who are invited onto the premiere law enforcement training center. The FBI units that reside at Quantico are the Field and Police Training Unit, Firearms Training Unit, Forensic Science Research and Training Center, Technology Services Unit (TSU), Investigative Training Unit, Law Enforcement Communication Unit, Leadership and Management Science Units (LSMU), Physical Training Unit, New Agents' Training Unit (NATU), Practical Applications Unit (PAU), the Investigative Computer Training Unit and the "College of Analytical Studies."

The Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS) Division,[28] located in Clarksburg, West Virginia. It is the youngest division of the FBI only being formed in 1991 and opening in 1995. The complex itself is the length of three football fields. Its purpose is to provide a main repository for information. Under the roof of the CJIS are the programs for the National Crime Information Center (NCIC), Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR), Fingerprint Identification, Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), NCIC 2000, and the National Incident-Based Reporting System (NIBRS). Many state and local agencies use these systems as a source for their own investigations and contribute to the database using secure communications. FBI provides these tools of sophisticated identification and information services to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies.

The FBI often works in conjunction with other Federal agencies, including the U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in seaport and airport security,[29] and the National Transportation Safety Board in investigating airplane crashes and other critical incidents. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is the only other agency with the closest amount of investigative power. In the wake of the September 11 attacks, the FBI maintains a role in most federal criminal investigations. [11][12]FBI agents from the Washington Field Office with a tactical vehicle standing by for the 2009 Presidential InaugurationThe FBI is organized into five functional branches and the Office of the Director, which contains most administrative offices. Each branch is managed by an Executive Assistant Director. Each office and division within the branch is managed by an Assistant Director.

The FBI is organized in the following manner.

  • Office of the Director
    • Office of Congressional Affairs
    • Office of Equal Employment Opportunity Affairs
    • Office of the General Counsel
    • Office of Integrity and Compliance
    • Office of the Ombudsman
    • Office of Professional Responsibility
    • Office of Public Affairs
    • Inspection Division
    • Facilities and Logistics Services Division
    • Finance Division
    • Records Management Division
    • Resource Planning Office
    • Security Division
  • National Security Branch
    • Counterintelligence Division
    • Counterterrorism Division
    • Directorate of Intelligence
    • Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate
  • Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch
    • Criminal Investigative Division
    • Cyber Division
    • Critical Incident Response Group
    • Office of International Operations
    • Office of Law Enforcement Coordination
  • Human Resources Branch
    • Training Division
    • Human Resources Division
  • Science and Technology Branch
    • Criminal Justice Information Services Division
    • Laboratory Division
    • Operational Technology Division
    • Special Technologies and Applications Office
  • Information and Technology Branch
    • Information Technology Operations Division
    • Office of IT Policy & Planning
    • Office of IT Program Management
    • Office of IT Systems Development
    • Office of the Chief Knowledge Officer

BOI and FBI directorsEdit

Main article: Director of the Federal Bureau of InvestigationFBI Directors are appointed by the President of the United States. They must be confirmed by the United States Senate and serve ten-year terms unless they resign or are fired by the President before their term is up. J. Edgar Hoover, appointed by Calvin Coolidge in 1924, was by far the longest-serving FBI Director, serving until his death in 1972. In 1968, Congress passed legislation as part of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act Pub.L. 90-351, June 19, 1968, 82 Stat. 197 that specified a 10-year term limit for future FBI Directors, as well as requiring Senate confirmation of appointees. As the incumbent, this legislation did not apply to Hoover, only to his successors. The current FBI Director is Robert Mueller, who was appointed in 2001 by George W. Bush.

The FBI director is responsible for the day-to-day operations at the FBI. Along with his deputies, the director makes sure cases and operations are handled correctly. The director also is in charge of making sure the leadership in any one of the FBI field offices are manned with qualified agents. Before the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act was passed in the wake of the September 11 attacks, the FBI director would brief the President of the United States on any issues that arise from within the FBI. Since then, the director now reports to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) who in turn reports to the President.The FBI Directors had to make sure the FBI got as much training as needed.

Hiring processEdit

[13][14]Agents in training on the FBI Academy firing rangeIn order to apply to become an FBI agent, an applicant must be between the ages of 23 and 37. The applicant must also hold American citizenship, have a clean record, and hold a four-year bachelors degree. All FBI employees require a Top Secret (TS) security clearance, and in many instances, employees need a higher level, TS/SCI clearance.[30] In order to get a security clearance, all potential FBI personnel must pass a series of Single Scope Background Investigations (SSBI), which are conducted by the Office of Personnel Management.[31] Special Agents candidates also have to pass a Physical Fitness Test (PFT) that includes a 300-meter run, one-minute sit-ups, maximum push-ups, and a 1.5-mile (2.4 km) run. There is also a polygraph test personnel have to pass, with questions including possible drug use.

After potential special agent candidates are cleared with TS clearance and the Form SF-312 non-disclosure agreement is signed, they attend the FBI training facility located on Marine Corps Base Quantico in Virginia. Candidates spend approximately 21 weeks at the FBI Academy, where they receive over 500 classroom hours and over 1,000 simulated law enforcement hours to train. Upon graduation, new FBI Special Agents are placed all around the country and the world, depending on their areas of expertise. Professional support staff works out of one of the many support buildings the FBI maintains. However, any Agent or Support staff member can be transferred to any location for any length of time if their skills are deemed necessary at one of the FBI field offices or one of the 400 resident agencies the FBI maintains.

As of December 31, 2009, the FBI had a total of 33,652 employees. That includes 13,412 special agents and 20,420 support professionals, such as intelligence analysts, language specialists, scientists, information technology specialists, and other professionals.[32]


The FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin is published monthly by the FBI Law Enforcement Communication Unit,[33] with articles of interest to state and local law enforcement personnel. First published in 1932 as Fugitives Wanted by Police,[34] the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin covers topics including law enforcement technology and issues, such as crime mapping and use of force, as well as recent criminal justice research, and Vi-CAP alerts, on wanted suspects and key cases.

The FBI also publishes some reports for both law enforcement personnel as well as regular citizens covering topics including law enforcement, terrorism, cybercrime, white-collar crime, violent crime, and statistics.[35] However, the vast majority of Federal government publications covering these topics are published by the Office of Justice Programs agencies of the United States Department of Justice, and disseminated through the National Criminal Justice Reference Service.

Crime statisticsEdit

[15][16]The badge of an FBI Special AgentIn the 1920s, the FBI began issuing crime reports by gathering numbers from local police departments.[36] Due to limitations of this system found during the 1960s and 1970s—victims often simply did not report crimes to the police in the first place—the Department of Justice developed an alternate method of tallying crime, the victimization survey.[36]

Uniform Crime ReportsEdit

Main article: Uniform Crime ReportsThe Uniform Crime Reports (UCR) compile data from over 17,000 law enforcement agencies across the country. They provide detailed data regarding the volume of crimes to include arrest, clearance (or closing a case), and law enforcement officer information. The UCR focuses its data collection on violent crimes, hate crimes, and property crimes.[35] Created in the 1920s, the UCR system has not proven to be as uniform as its name implies. The UCR data only reflect the most serious offense in the case of connected crimes and has a very restrictive definition of rape. Since about 93% of the data submitted to the FBI is in this format, the UCR stands out as the publication of choice as most states require law enforcement agencies to submit this data.

Preliminary Annual Uniform Crime Report for 2006 was released on June 4, 2006. The report shows violent crime offenses rose 1.3%, but the number of property crime offenses decreased 2.9% compared to 2005.[37]

National Incident Based Reporting SystemEdit

Main article: National Incident Based Reporting SystemThe National Incident Based Reporting System (NIBRS) crime statistics system aims to address limitations inherent in UCR data. The system used by law enforcement agencies in the United States for collecting and reporting data on crimes. Local, state, and federal agencies generate NIBRS data from their records management systems. Data is collected on every incident and arrest in the Group A offense category. The Group A offenses are 46 specific crimes grouped in 22 offense categories. Specific facts about these offenses are gathered and reported in the NIBRS system. In addition to the Group A offenses, eleven Group B offenses are reported with only the arrest information. The NIBRS system is in greater detail than the summary-based UCR system. As of 2004, 5,271 law enforcement agencies submitted NIBRS data. That amount represents 20% of the United States population and 16% of the crime statistics data collected by the FBI.

Media portrayalEdit

Main article: FBI portrayal in the mediaThe FBI has been frequently depicted in popular media since the 1930s. The Bureau has participated to varying degrees, which has ranged from direct involvement in the creative process itself in order to present the FBI in a favorable light, to providing consultation on operations and closed cases.[38]

Controversies and criticismEdit

In March 1971, a Media, Pennsylvania FBI resident office was robbed; the thieves took secret files and distributed them to a range of newspapers including the Harvard Crimson.[39] The files detailed the FBI's extensive COINTELPRO program, which included investigations into lives of ordinary citizens—including a black student group at a Pennsylvania military college and the daughter of Congressman Henry Reuss of Wisconsin.[39] The country was "jolted" by the revelations, and the actions were denounced by members of Congress including House Majority Leader Hale Boggs.[39] The phones of some members of Congress, including Boggs, had allegedly been tapped.[39]

The FBI has endured public criticism and internal conflict in the past decade. As the FBI attempts to modernize technologically to take on a greater counter-terrorism role, there have been times where the FBI is scrutinized.

Most of the recent controversies in the FBI have been involved with "terrorist" organizations or "operational" mishaps. In the early and late 1990s, its role in the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents caused an uproar over the killings. During the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Georgia, the FBI was also criticized for its investigation on the Centennial Olympic Park bombing. It has settled a dispute with Richard Jewell, who was a private security guard at the venue, along with some media organizations,[40] in regards to the leaking of his name during the investigation. In the 1990s, it turned out that the fingerprint unit of the FBI's crime lab had repeatedly done shoddy work. In some cases, the technicians, given evidence that actually cleared a suspect, reported instead that it proved the suspect guilty. Many cases had to be reopened when this pattern of errors was discovered.

In 2000, the FBI began the Trilogy project to upgrade its outdated information technology (IT) infrastructure. This project, originally scheduled to take three years and cost around $380 million, ended up going far over budget and behind schedule.[41] Efforts to deploy modern computers and networking equipment were generally successful, but attempts to develop new investigation software, outsourced to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), were a disaster. Virtual Case File, or VCF, as the software was known, was plagued by poorly defined goals, and repeated changes in management.[42] In January 2005, more than two years after the software was originally planned for completion, the FBI officially abandoned the project. At least $100 million (and much more by some estimates) was spent on the project, which was never operational. The FBI has been forced to continue using its decade-old Automated Case Support system, which is considered woefully inadequate by IT experts. In March 2005, the FBI announced it is beginning a new, more ambitious software project code-named Sentinel expected for completion by 2009.[43]

Carnivore was an electronic evesdropping software system implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation during the Clinton administration that was designed to monitor email and electronic communications. After prolonged negative coverage in the press, the FBI changed the name of its system from "Carnivore" to the more benign-sounding "DCS1000." DCS is reported to stand for "Digital Collection System"; the system has the same functions as before. The Associated Press reported in mid-January 2005 that the FBI essentially abandoned the use of Carnivore in 2001, in favor of commercially available software, such as NarusInsight.

In February 2001, Robert Hanssen was caught selling information to the Russians. It was later learned that Hanssen, who had reached a high position within the FBI, had been selling intelligence since as early as 1979. He pleaded guilty to treason and received a life sentence in 2002, but the incident led many to question the security practices employed by the FBI. There was also a claim that Robert Hanssen might have contributed information that led to the September 11, 2001 attacks.[44]

The 9/11 Commission's final report on July 22, 2004 stated that the FBI and Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were both partially to blame for not pursuing intelligence reports which could have prevented the September 11, 2001 attacks. In its most damning assessment, the report concluded that the country had "not been well served" by either agency and listed numerous recommendations for changes within the FBI.[45] While the FBI has acceded to most of the recommendations, including oversight by the new Director of National Intelligence, some former members of the 9/11 Commission publicly criticized the FBI in October 2005, claiming it was resisting any meaningful changes.[46]

On July 8, 2007 the Washington Post published excerpts from UCLA Professor Amy Zegart's book Spying Blind: The CIA, the FBI, and the Origins of 9/11.[47] The article reported that government documents show the CIA and FBI missed 23 potential chances to disrupt the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. The primary reasons for these failures included: agency cultures resistant to change and new ideas; inappropriate incentives for promotion; and a lack of cooperation between the FBI, CIA and the rest of the United States Intelligence Community. The article went on to also blame the FBI's decentralized structure which prevented effective communication and cooperation between different FBI offices. The article also claimed that the FBI has still not evolved into an effective counterterrorism or counterintelligence agency, due in large part to deeply ingrained cultural resistance to change within the FBI. For example, FBI personnel practices continue to treat all staff other than Special Agents as support staff, categorizing Intelligence Analysts alongside the FBI's auto mechanics and janitors.[48]

A March 2007 report by the inspector general of the Justice Department described the FBI's "widespread and serious misuse" of national security letters, a form of administrative subpoena used to demand records and data pertaining to individuals. The report said that between 2003 and 2005 the FBI had issued more than 140,000 national security letters, many involving people with no obvious connections to terrorism.[49]

Faulty Bullet Lead Analysis Testimony

For over 40 years, the FBI crime lab in Quantico believed lead in bullets had unique chemical signatures, and that by breaking them down and analyzing them, it was possible to match bullets, not only to a single batch of ammunition coming out of a factory, but to a single box of bullets. The National Academy of Sciences conducted an 18-month independent review of comparative bullet lead analysis. In 2003, its National Research Council published a report calling into question 30 years of FBI testimony. It found the model the FBI used for interpreting results was deeply flawed and that the conclusion that bullet fragments could be matched to a box of ammunition so overstated, that it was misleading under the rules of evidence. One year later, the FBI decided to stop doing bullet lead analysis.

Of over 2,500 cases using this analysis, there are potentially hundreds or thousands where FBI lab technicians provided forensic testimony at criminal trials. In each case, the testimony was wrong and misleading. The U.S. Government has a legal obligation to notify defendants about any information that might help prove their innocence, even after they have been convicted. Only the FBI can identify the cases in which bullet lead analysis was performed, yet it has resisted releasing that information.

As a result of the 60 Minutes/Washington Post investigation in November 2007, (two years later) the bureau said it will identify, review, and release all of the pertinent cases, and notify prosecutors about cases in which faulty testimony was given.[50]

FBI knowingly assisted in wrongful conviction of murder

Protecting an informant, the FBI allowed four innocent men to be convicted of murder in March 1965. Three of the men were sentenced to death (which was later reduced to life in prison). The fourth defendant was sentenced to life in prison, where he spent three decades.[51]

In July 2007, U.S. District Judge Nancy Gertner in Boston found the bureau helped convict the four men of the March 1965 gangland murder of Edward "Teddy" Deegan. The U.S. Government was ordered to pay $100 million in damages to the four defendants.[52]

FBI files on specific personsEdit

It is possible to obtain a copy of an FBI file on oneself, on a living person who gives you permission to do so, or on a deceased individual, through the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. The FBI has generated files on numerous celebrities including Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, John Lennon, Jane Fonda, Groucho Marx, Charlie Chaplin, MC5, Lou Costello, Sonny Bono, Bob Dylan, Michael Jackson, Mickey Mantle, and Gene Autry.[53] The FBI also profiled Jack the Ripper in 1988 but his identity still remains unproven today.

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the nation's primary federal investigative service. The mission of the FBI is to uphold and enforce federal criminal laws, aid international, state, and local police and investigative services when appropriate, and to protect the United States against terrorism and threats to national interests.

The FBI employs nearly 30,000 men and women, including 12,000 special agents. The organization, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is field-oriented, maintaining a network of 56 domestic field offices, 45 foreign posts, and 400 satellite offices (resident agencies). The agency relies on both foreign and domestic intelligence information, to aid its anti-terror operations. As a law enforcement authority, the FBI only has jurisdiction in interstate, or federal, crimes.

Origins and Formation of the Fbi

In the nineteenth century, municipal and state governments shouldered the responsibility of law enforcement. State legislatures defined crimes, and criminals were prosecuted in local courts. The development of railroads and automobiles, coupled with advancements in communication technology, introduced a new type of crime that contemporary legal and law enforcement system was unequipped to handle. Criminals were able to evade the law by fleeing over state lines. To combat the growing trend of interstate crime, President Theodore Roosevelt proposed the creation of a federal investigative and law enforcement agency.

In 1908, Roosevelt and his attorney general, Charles Bonaparte, created a force of Special Agents within the Department of Justice. They sought the expertise of accountants, lawyers, Secret Service agents, and detectives to staff the ranks of the new investigative service. The new recruits reported for examination and training on July 26, 1908. This first corps of federal agents was the forerunner of the modern FBI.

When the federal bureau began operations, there were few federal crimes in the legal statutes. Federal agents investigated railroad scams, banking crimes, labor violations, and antitrust cases. The findings of their investigations, however, were usually disclosed to local or state law enforcement officials and courts for prosecution. In 1910, the federal government passed the Mann Act, expanding the jurisdiction of the investigation bureau by outlawing the transport of women over state lines for the purpose of prostitution. Granting federal agents the right to investigate, arrest, and prosecute persons in violation of the Mann Act solidified the interstate authority of federal investigative services.

The Special Agents force also aided border guards, investigating smuggling cases and immigration violations. At the outbreak of the Mexican revolution, bureau agents conducted limited espionage operations, gathering intelligence for the military and the government.

World War I and the Interwar Years

When World War I erupted in Europe, the United States government, under President Woodrow Wilson, proclaimed American neutrality in the conflict. Despite the official declaration of neutrality, the United States increasingly aided Allied nations such as Britain and France with sales of weapons and supplies for the war effort. As a result, rival Germany sent saboteurs and spies into the United States to conduct espionage against United States military instillations and ammunition factories. Several incidents, including an explosion near New York City, at Black Tom Pier, fanned public fear of German spies and saboteurs infiltrating the United States. Federal investigators were charged with investigating acts of terrorism and sabotage, as well as ferreting out potential spies. For this job, Special Agents worked closely with military intelligence, gaining new law enforcement and espionage tradecraft skills.

With the entry of the United States into the European conflict, federal investigators gained jurisdiction over the enforcement of the Espionage, Sabotage, and Selective Service Acts. The bureau investigated alien enemies, and arrested men who dodged conscription.

After World War I ended in 1918, the force of Special Agents became the Bureau of Investigation. The agency gained considerable autonomy from Department of Justice oversight. During the 1920s, federal agents investigated several regional and national crime syndicates. Prohibition, the ban on sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages, prompted a rise in the illegal manufacture, trade, and sale of alcohol. Since the Department of the Treasury had jurisdiction over Prohibition violations, federal investigators worked closely with Treasury agents.

The interwar era was also marked by increased gangsterism. Gangsters posed a unique challenge to the Bureau of Investigation's narrow interstate jurisdiction. Many of the most notorious crime bosses were eventually arrested on charges of racketeering, tax evasion, or war profiteering. With no other means available, within their legal bounds, to bring down the resurgence of the often violent and well-armed Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the Bureau of Investigation targeted the leader of the Louisiana Klan for violations of the Mann Act.

The onset of the Great Depression helped escalate crime rates. The sour economy gave rise to increased labor violations, corruption, swindling, and murder. Two events, however, strengthened and expanded the Bureau of Investigation's jurisdiction. The kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby in 1932 prompted Congress to pass federal kidnapping statutes. Two years later, Congress passed legislation prohibiting the escape of criminals across state lines, providing for interstate extradition of criminals, and granting federal agents the right to investigate and arrest criminals who fled or operated across state lines. Further reforms of federal law enforcement services permitted agents to carry guns.

The structure of the agency changed dramatically in the 1920s and 1930s. J. Edgar Hoover assumed the directorship of the Bureau of Investigation. Hoover expanded the field office network from nine offices to over 30 offices within ten years. Agency personnel policy changed, requiring new agents to complete a rigorous, centralized training course. Promotions within the organization were secured through merit and consistency of service, not seniority. The agency still sought agent-recruits with training in accountancy and law, but expanded their search to include linguists, mathematicians, physicists, chemists, forensics specialists, and medical practitioners.

Technical advancements also changed agency operations. Basic forensic investigation began to be employed in FBI crime scene investigations. The bureau established a fingerprint identification and index system in 1924. The national index assumed fingerprint records from state and local law enforcement agencies, as well as an older Department of Justice fingerprint registry dating back to 1905. The agency opened its first technical laboratory in 1932. The facility quickly expanded to cover a variety of forensic research, aiding investigators by comparing bullets, guns, tire tracks, watermarks, counterfeiting techniques, handwriting samples, and pathology reports.

World War II and the Interwar Years

In 1935, the special task force of agents who formerly worked to combat Prohibition were separated from the agency, and the organization was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). When war again broke out in Europe, FBI agents performed many of the same duties as they had during World War I. Before the United States entered the war in 1941, the FBI concentrated its efforts on locating, infiltrating, and dismantling political organizations sympathetic to German and Italian Fascism, and Soviet Communism, despite the latter nation's wartime alliance with Britain and France. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, and Secretary of State Cordell Hull, pushed for increased power for the FBI to investigate perceived subversives, even if these people were ordinary American citizens. A 1939 presidential directive, followed by the Smith Act of 1940, outlawed public advocacy of over-throwing the government.

When the United States entered the war after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, FBI agents aided national defense efforts by placing trained agents at key military and defense industry sites. Wartime agents received more intense training in counterintelligence measures, and the FBI established special counterintelligence units for covert operations at the government's discretion. FBI agents thwarted German and Japanese attempts at sabotaging national interests, including fuel reserves.

World War II also marked one of the darkest chapters of FBI operations. Despite opposition from FBI director Hoover, government officials declared all Japanese immigrants, and American citizens of Japanese descent, enemy aliens. The Japanese-American population on the West Coast was evicted from their homes and sent to internment camps for the duration of the war. Many lost homes and businesses that they were forced to leave behind. Since internment camps and enemy alien laws fell under federal jurisdiction, the FBI imposed curfews, administered deportations, and arrested those in violation of internment laws.

Conversely, FBI agents were the first federal authority since Reconstruction to enforce desegregation laws. Though segregation remained legal practice during the 1940s, the president appointed the Fair Employment Practices Commission (FEPC) to address concerns of African-American workers. FEPC possessed no enforcement authority, but FBI agents arrested several employers found in violation of the FEPC on the grounds of impeding the war effort.

The Fbi During the Cold War

The early Cold War years. When World War II ended in August 1945, increasingly hostile relations between the United States and the Soviet Union led to the Cold War, a diplomatic and military standoff that lasted over four decades. In the early Cold War years, the American government, and many members of the public, worried about the presence of Communist organizations and spies within the United States. The discovery of Soviet agents operating within government agencies, and the trial of individuals accused of stealing atomic secrets, and the test detonation of the first Soviet atomic bomb in 1949, fanned public anti-Communist hysteria. While the newly formed Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) worked to stop the expansion of the Soviet Union abroad, the FBI gained the past-war responsibility of defeating Communist organizations at home.

In the first fifteen years of the Cold War, the FBI investigations contributed to the McCarthy hearings, as well as high-profile spy cases like that of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. The FBI gained the authority to conduct background checks on potential government employees, and investigate federal employees suspected of disloyal acts or espionage. The 1946 Atomic Energy Act gave the FBI jurisdiction over the secrecy and protection of atomic secrets. Legislation throughout the 1950s expanded the FBI's role to cover the security of atomic facilities, and defense industry sites.

In more routine law enforcement duties, the FBI continued to pursue interstate and federal criminals. In 1950, the agency published its first "Ten Most Wanted List."

The early 1960s and the Civil Rights Movement. Although the Cold War continued, the anti-Communist hysteria faded away in the late 1950s. FBI investigations of anti-government organizations and "subversive individuals" shifted with the political mood of the 1960s. The decade witnessed the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the Vietnam War, and ushered in the Civil Rights Movement, both events signaled new duties and an expanded legal jurisdiction for the FBI.

When President Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas in 1963, the crime was legally a local homicide. No special legal provisions existed for the investigation of the assassination of a government official or the president. President Lyndon B. Johnson called in FBI agents to investigate the murder, setting the precedent for future legislation that designated assassination as a federal crime, and granted the agency jurisdiction in assassination cases.

The FBI was responsible for federal enforcement of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and aiding desegregation efforts by investigating pro-segregation organizations and individuals. The FBI's charge to enforce civil rights legislation often put federal agents in conflict with local law enforcement officials, especially in the South and Midwest. Though the FBI routinely investigated violations of civil rights laws, they did not win the authority to prosecute violators through federal law until after 1966.

The FBI investigated, and helped prosecute criminals, in several high profile civil rights cases. Field agents in Louisiana and Mississippi investigated the murder of three voter registration workers in Philadelphia, Mississippi, before turning the case over to FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. FBI agents conducted crime scene, forensics, and extended investigations of the assassinations of civil rights leaders Martin Luther King, Jr., and Medger Evers. They eventually arrested, aided the prosecution of, and gained convictions for the assassins, although Byron De La Beckwith, who shot Medger Evers, was not found guilty until 1994.

The Vietnam and Watergate era. The United States, in an attempt to stem Soviet influence in Asia, entered the Vietnam War. The war was controversial, with many young people opposing U.S. military intervention in the conflict. The re-institution of the draft further angered anti-war sympathizers. Government officials grew increasingly suspicious of anti-war organizations and the large demonstrations they organized. Though the vast majority of anti-war demonstrators and organizations advocated peaceful protest and civil disobedience, a few militant and extremist groups resorted to acts of violence and sabotage. The actions of these groups prompted the FBI to conduct widespread surveillance of the anti-war movement. Utilizing counterintelligence techniques, the FBI used a myriad of intrusive surveillance, known as "Cointelpro," methods to thwart terrorist action by radicals. However, some criticized the organization of conducting domestic espionage, especially on the peaceful majority of anti-war supporters. Hoover, still director of the FBI, responded by promoting passage of the Omnibus Crime Control Act, which limited the use of wiretaps, listening devices, clandestine photographs, and other surveillance methods. The act defined new operational procedures for FBI agents, and was the first legal compromise between intelligence and privacy interests.

In 1972, public attention shifted from the Vietnam conflict, to the actions of the Nixon administration. On June 17, 1972, five men were arrested while breaking into the Watergate apartment complex that housed the headquarters for the Democratic Party. Subsequent investigations by a special team of federal agents connected the men, most whom were former CIA and FBI agents, to the Office of the President. Despite the implication of a few FBI agents in the extensive cover-up operation that followed the break-in, FBI investigators cooperated with a specially appointed Senate investigatory committee, surrendering all information pertaining to Watergate. The ensuing scandal, known as Watergate, not only forced the resignation of Nixon and most of his administration, but also damaged public faith in the government and its intelligence and security agencies.

The end of the Cold War. A period of Cold War détente in the 1980s allowed the FBI to concentrate on agency reforms and expansion of its domestic intelligence capabilities. In 1982, following a outburst of international terrorism, the director of the FBI, William Webster, made counterintelligence and anti-terrorism operations an agency priority. He established the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, a facility that would conduct sophisticated forensic analysis on crimes. The renewed agency attention to counterintelligence discovered over 30 cases of espionage against the United States government in 1985.

Combating the rise of white-collar financial crimes and the drug trade were other priorities of the FBI during the 1980s. FBI investigations implicated high-ranking government officials in financial fraud and abuse of power scandals, including members of the Congress (ABSCAM), defense industry (ILL WIND), and judiciary (GREYLORD). Federal agents also investigated fraud cases during the savings and loan crisis.

The Rise of Terrorism and the Fbi Today

In 1991, the Soviet Union collapsed. Its formal dissolution on December 25, 1991, marked the end of the Cold War. In the decade that followed, the international political map drastically altered, changing the global balance of power and permitting the rise of new threats to United States national security. In response to the changing international environment, the FBI shifted the priority of its operations. Several key events, including the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center by Islamist, foreign terrorists, and the 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City by a domestic terrorist, prompted the FBI to restructure its counterintelligence and counter-terrorism operations.

To aid its current operations, the FBI embraced the use of several new technologies in its operations. The advent of personal computers and the Internet aided research and processing of investigation information. Searchable databases store information on suspects, crime statistics, fingerprints, and DNA samples. However, their use also created security risks that necessitated the creation of specialized information systems protection task forces. The agency created Computer Analysis and Response Teams (CART) to aid field investigators with the recovery of data from damaged or sabotaged electronic sources. In 1998, the establishment of the National Infrastructure Protection Center (NIPC) permitted the FBI to monitor the dissemination of computer viruses and worms.

Forensic use of DNA radically altered both the legal process and forensic research of FBI investigations. DNA analysis allows specialists to positively identify victims and perpetrators of crimes by comparing particular patterns in individual DNA. FBI forensic specialists created a national DNA databank in 1998 to aid ongoing investigations.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, and subsequent anthrax attacks on national post offices and media outlets, the FBI expanded its counterintelligence and counter-terrorism operations to include anti-bioterror task forces. The FBI, working in conjunction for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), employs agents to aid in the investigation and identification of bioterror agents, and law enforcement in the event of a bioterror attack. FBI analysis and research divisions have compiled massive databases on known biological agents, stockpiles of weapons, and terrorist groups who may possess biological weapons. FBI analysts develop profiles of terrorist groups to better understand their mindsets and possible future actions.

The FBI's focus on the prevention of terrorism failed to thwart the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. However, FBI investigations successfully found and prosecuted the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing and the 1993 attack on the World Trade Center. In its ongoing investigation of the events of September 11, FBI agents have found and arrested several persons suspected of having connections to the al-Qaeda terrorist network and the recent terrorist attacks. The FBI is also designated as the primary agency of enforcement for the Patriot Act.

Although no major FBI operations were assumed into the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the establishment of pending DHS committees to govern intelligence agency cooperation and information sharing will alter the manner in which the FBI relays information to the President and other government officials. Proponents of the DHS hope the agency will streamline communication among intelligence and security agencies. Critics of proposed DHS intelligence reforms charge that agencies, such as the FBI, will lose investigative and operational autonomy. Despite the changing future of the structure of the United States intelligence community, the FBI will undoubtedly play a central role.

Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.