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Federal Bureau of Investigation

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Official FBI Seal

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a Federal police force which is the principal investigative arm of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ). Title 28, United States Code (U.S. Code), Section 533, which authorizes the Attorney General to "appoint officials to detect... crimes against the United States," and other federal statutes give the FBI the authority and responsibility to investigate specific crimes. At present, the FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crimes and thus has the broadest investigative authority of any federal law enforcement agency. The FBI Top Ten Most Wanted Fugitives has been used since 1949 to notify the public of wanted fugitives.



The mission of the FBI is to uphold the law through the investigation of violations of federal criminal law; to protect the United States from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities; to provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state, local, and international agencies; and to perform these responsibilities in a manner that is responsive to the needs of the public and is faithful to the United States Constitution.

Information obtained through an FBI investigation is presented to the appropriate U. S. Attorney or DOJ official, who decides if prosecution, or other action, is warranted. Top priority has been assigned to the five areas that affect society the most: counterterrorism, drugs/organized crime, foreign counterintelligence, violent crimes, and white-collar crimes.

The FBI has had a mixed history, both in upholding the law, and sometimes in breaking it. The force of Special Agents has grown over the years, and now exceeds 11,000 out of a total workforce of 17,000. Many of these Special Agents are stationed in foreign countries, and work in US Embassies as "Legal Attaches", or as they are know in the FBI: LEGATS. Both new and veteran agents are routinely trained at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia. The FBI also maintains a force of 1,000 uniformed Security police officers in the FBI Police for protecting the J. Edgar Hoover Building, FBI Academy at MCB Quantico and the New York Field Office.

The Strategic Information and Operation Center is the FBI command center.

Present mission of the FBI

As of June 2002, the FBI's official top priority is counter-terrorism. The USA PATRIOT Act granted the FBI increased powers, 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 of those it suspected of terrorism, something it had supposedly not done since the 1970s. The bureau 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 DEA in the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act of 1970.

History of the FBI

The FBI originated from a force of Special Agents created on July 26, 1908 by Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte during the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. At first it was named the Bureau of Investigation (BOI) and it did not become the FBI until 1935.

Under J. Edgar Hoover, who became director of the Bureau on May 10, 1924, the agency spent much of its energy on investigating political activists who were not accused of any crime (eg, Albert Einstein as a socialist). When Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president, Hoover had to be reminded that liberalism not only was not a crime, but was the politics of the incumbent president and his administration.

The FBI Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (better known as the FBI Crime Lab ) officially opened on November 24, 1932.

Hoover's investigation of Martin Luther King was also notorious--the FBI found no evidence of any crime, but attempted to use tapes of King involved in sexual activity for blackmail.

In the 1990s, it turned out that 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.

Bureau of Investigation (BOI) Directors (19081935)

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Directors (1936 present)

On July 1, 1932, the Bureau was renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation. One year later, on July 1, 1933 it was linked with the Bureau of Prohibition and became known as the Division of Investigation. Finally, in 1935, the bureau was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). After J. Edgar Hoover's death, the FBI imposed a policy limiting the tenure of future FBI directors to a maximum of ten years.

The FBI Directors from this period on are:

Publications of the FBI

Further reading

  • David Burnham, Above the Law: Secret Deals, Political Fixes, and Other Misadventures of the U.S. Department of Justice, Scribner, ISBN 0-684-80699-1, LoC KF5107.B87 1996
  • Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, Agents of Repression, Updated Edition, The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, Boston: Southend Press 2002
  • Frank J. Donner, The Age of Surveillance: The Aims and Methods of America's Political Intelligence System, Vintage, ISBN 0-194-74771-2, LoC JK468.I6D65 1981
  • Ronald Kessler, The FBI, Pocket Books, 1993, ISBN 0-671-78658-X.
  • Ronald Kessler, The Bureau: The Secret History of the FBI, St. Martin's Press 2002 ISBN 0-312-30402-1
  • Athan G. Theohris, The FBI and American Democracy: A Brief Critical History, University Press of Kansas 2004
  • Watters and Gillers (eds), Investigating the FBI, Ballentine, 1973, ISBN 345-23831-1-195

See also

External links

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