The Federal Bureau of Investigation, also called the FBI, is the main investigative office of the United States Department of Justice. The FBI investigates crimes assigned to it and provides assistance to other law enforcement agencies as needed. The FBI gathers and analyzes intelligence as it performs internal investigations. It also assists partnering agencies that work to fight security threats that occur against the United States.
The FBI was established in 1908 during Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency. Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte sought permission to bypass Congress to form a special squad of agents that would manage the investigative matters of the U.S. attorneys. The agents in this squad were the first agents for the newly formed Bureau of Investigation. In 1932, the bureau was named the U.S. Bureau of Investigation, and it got its current name in 1935.
Notable Past and Present FBI Personnel
J. Edgar Hoover was a Justice Department lawyer who assigned bureau agents to arrest thousands of people who were suspected radical leftists and communists. This event later became known as the “Palmer Raids” after Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer. These raids happened in November 1919 and January 1920. Initially, the raids were called successful, but then the bureau came under fire for violating civil liberties. The next year in 1921, J. Edgar Hoover was named assistant director of the Bureau of Investigation. In May of 1924, Hoover was named the acting director of the Bureau, and he was given the permanent position by the end of that year. Director Hoover focused FBI resources on organized crime and violence, also implementing programs designed to make U.S. law enforcement more professional. He started the FBI’s Technical Laboratory to make it possible to perform forensic analysis on internal investigations as well as for other law enforcement agencies. J. Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972, having led the FBI for 48 years.
Other notable FBI agents who have been involved in high-profile operations or arrests include Melvin Purvis, who was in charge of operations that led to the capture of John Dillinger and “Baby Face” Nelson; Charles Winstead, who was probably the agent who shot John Dillinger; and Joaquin “Jack” Garcia, who infiltrated the famous Gambino crime family for 26 years. More recently, George Piro successfully went undercover to get close to Saddam Hussein while he was being held and interrogated about his actions during the second Gulf War. Hussein grew to trust Piro and told him information about dismantling Iraq’s Weapons of Mass Destruction program.
Budgets, Missions, Priorities
The main mission of the FBI is to protect and defend the United States from terrorists and other foreign threats, to both uphold and enforce laws, and to lead and assist other law enforcement agencies as needed. The FBI headquarters is in Washington, D.C., and 56 field offices are located throughout the country in major cities. International offices and sub-offices are also maintained in 70 foreign countries. The FBI motto is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity,” created by W.H. Drane Lester in 1935. Lester was an FBI inspector, and his motto was devised to describe the high moral standards and the exceptional motivation the FBI expects from its agents and staff members. To plan its annual budget, the FBI monitors and analyzes current and future national security threats and investigative threats. This information is used to predict potential future resource requirements that may be needed during an upcoming year. Although predicting the future perfectly isn’t possible, the FBI can make a reasonable attempt at predicting future adversaries that may become a threat, thereby allocating funds for these potential problems.
FBI Divisions and Methods
The FBI is led by a director, who has a senior staff that consists of a deputy director, an associate deputy director, and a chief of staff. The Office of the Director divides into various divisions and offices, such as the Office of Congressional Affairs, the Office of the General Counsel, and the Office of Public Affairs. The FBI also has a National Security Branch with a Counterterrorism Division, a Terrorist Screening Center, a Criminal Investigative Division, a Cyber Division, a Victim Services Division, and more. The National Security Branch was created to detect, deter, and disrupt all national security threats to the United States. An Intelligence Branch, Science and Technology Branch, Information and Technology Branch, and Human Resources Branch also exist within the FBI. The Intelligence Branch produces and analyzes intelligence needed to protect the United States. The Science and Technology Branch utilize science and technology to support operations and investigations. The Information and Technology Branch provides the latest solutions needed to achieve FBI goals.
Becoming an FBI agent requires at least a bachelor’s degree, but many agents have advanced degrees. The FBI doesn’t designate the field of the degree, but many agents have degrees in political science or criminal justice. Other eligibility requirements for applicants include U.S. citizenship, being between 23 and 36 years of age, and a clean criminal record without any felony convictions. Applicants also have to have at least two years of full-time professional work experience, but those with advanced degrees only need one year of experience. After submitting an application, applicants have to go through several rounds of tests for situational judgment, personality traits, and logic-based reasoning. Rounds of structured interviews are also conducted, and applicants also have to take and pass a drug test, a fitness test, a polygraph test, and an in-depth background check.
Applicants who make it through these rigorous steps and are hired then have to attend a 20-week training course at the FBI Academy located in Quantico, Virginia. This training involves over 800 hours of instruction and field training in firearms, academics, operational skills, and case studies. The new agents learn about law, ethics, forensic science, behavioral science, and more. They learn how to interrogate suspects, conduct interviews, write reports, and investigate. They also learn skills in surveillance, tactical driving, and operations planning. Firearms training involves safety, handling skills, marksmanship, and live fire training. Case exercises combine everything the agents have learned into complicated simulations.