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History of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Politics
Wordcount: 3241 words Published: 12th Oct 2017

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  • Tray Matthews

Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity

“Fidelity, Bravery and Integrity,” that’s the motto of the United State Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI was created under the belief of President Theodore Roosevelt and Attorney General Bonaparte claim that “efficiency and expertise, not political connections, should determine who would best serve the government.” The formation of the FBI is one of the most remarkable things that have transpired through America’s government history. Progressing from the Progressive Era through the Early Years, the New Deal, and both World Wars, Vietnam War, the Watergate Scandal, the Cold War and the transition of FBI Directors to present day. During the 1900’s, our nations constitution was based on the idea of a national government having authority pertaining to issues over the boarders like foreign affairs. So when the Federal Bureau of Investigation was set into place in 1908, the American people were extremely confused. In the past, they were dependent on local cities and counties to fulfill the government responsibly related to them. Now, they have to change their dependency and learn to trust the duty of a new government agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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At the beginning of the 1900’s, the Progressive Era was emerging in the United States and lasted around eighteen years. This Era was the starting point of the idea that government intervention was the key to justice in society. Attorney General Bonaparte shared the conjoint Progressive Philosophy beliefs of himself and President Roosevelt to the Department of Justice. They wanted to create a division that would take the Secret Service Detail completely out of the equation. Mostly due to the fact that the Secret Service was going around Attorney General Bonaparte’s back and reporting to they’re own commander. With Bonaparte acting as Attorney General, this act of disobedience frustrated him to the point of passing a law on May 27, 1908, which prevented any Secret Service agents to be involved in or called upon by the Department of Justice to assist in any investigations. Following this law, Attorney General Bonaparte appointed ten former service members and almost a year later, added 34 additional forces to create a new Division to government services. A year after this law was set into place, Attorney General Bonaparte completed his term and set the standard that the ‘chosen 34’ were a permanent addition to the Justice Department.

During the early days of the Bureau of Investigation, they dealt with very little crimes. They mostly focused on cases dealing with banking or bankruptcy, fraud or naturalization. When the Bureau of Investigation was first formed, three hundred special agents and three hundred supportive employees were the only people backing it. Two years after the formation of this group, they passed a law, the Mann, prohibiting the transportation of women over state lines for illegal reasons. To keep this illegal transportation from happening, most agents are posted around the boarder of Mexico. When Woodrow Wilson came to power in April 1917, he increased the workload of special agents expanding their caseload to involve espionage and Sabotage Acts. As things in the new unit progressed, they began making great strides to make a name for themselves. By the end of the decade, they had established training posts for incoming/newborn agents, set annual field office inspections, and created the National Division of Identification.

January of 1928, Edgar Hoover took over power as the Director of the Bureau of Investigation and changed it for the better. Since Hoover took over power, the Division has grown to six- hundred and fifty employees with four- hundred and forty-one supporting special agents. Division headquarters started popping up all over the United States: New York, Chicago, Baltimore, San Francisco, San Antonio, Atlanta and Cincinnati. Along with the positive changes, there were some negative aspects. He had to let go of some of the agents if they were not properly qualified; he needed to professionalize the organization. While multiple agents did not understand their release, they were aware of the recently added requirements and knew if they could not make protocol, they could not stay. With Hoover in power, there came many achievements. One of the largest achievements was the merging of the fingerprint cards from the police force along with the Bureau of Investigations existing cards into Washington D.C, creating one giant criminal database accessible from either group.

Right when the United States began looking upwards, the unthinkable happened. In 1929, the Stock Market crashed and a Great Depression spread all across the states. President Franklin D. Roosevelt knew he needed to do something to make an impact and give hope to the people of American. Roosevelt decreased crime by expanding the federal jurisdiction for the Bureau of Investigation to include the places with a high crime- rate related to the recent shift in income. Due to the positive outcome of the expansion, field offices increased from nine cities to forty-two cities; there were now six- hundred and fifty- four special agents and a huge increase from six- hundred and fifty to one- thousand one- hundred and forty- one new employee supporters.

So, after the positive impact the Bureau of Investigations has made, it has to be becoming a crucial part of society, right? They have been responsible for closing multiple important cases: The Lindbergh Kidnapping, John Dillinger, Al Capone, and Bonnie and Clyde. Due to the results of these cases, the agency is now looked at as a premiere law enforcement division. In 1932, when they solved the kidnapping of Lindbergh’s baby, the result caused Congress to pass the Kidnapping Statute. In 1934, with the capturing of Dillinger and crossing of state lines, Congress granted agents with the permit to carry a gun and certified them to make arrests.

Like mentioned before, the Bureau of Investigation was becoming a beneficial feature to the government. July 1, 1932 they were formally renamed the ‘United States Bureau of Investigation;’ however, there was an unnerving confusion between the United States Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Prohibition, so Congress had the bright idea to combine both divisions. Thus, the Federal Bureau of Investigation had begun. By 1936, there was a threat to the American democratic lifestyle by the fascist European countries; this was the beginning of World War ll.

Throughout the beginning of the war, United States, Great Britain and France remained neutral due to the signing of the Neutrality Acts. As fascism was coming around more and communist threats were arriving, the FBI had to jump into protection mode, as this was a threat to the United States National Security. President Roosevelt authorized the involvement of the FBI in 1936, but the real impact came in 1940 when Congress passed the Smith Act, allowing the FBI to investigate anything attempting to overthrow the government. War broke out and the Federal Bureau of Investigation were put in the spotlight; given the ultimate power. There were many concerns coming along with this war, which caused the FBI to be on high alert with threats like overthrowing attempts, espionage and sabotage. The FBI was thrown in at full force grabbing agents that were trained in intelligence as well as defensive protection from all forty-two field offices. Because the United States played neutral in this war, they were called in for intelligence collection. One of the major enemy tactics in war is sabotage and there was plenty of it. In 1942, Germany attempted to sabotage on American soil. The FBI take down granted more ‘trust points’ from the Americans to the FBI. Needing more help, the Bureau added almost thirteen thousand more employees and four thousand more agents. Although the FBI had been a major asset during the war, they had other pressing matters to take care of presiding to discrimination and segregation taking place around the war.

Even though Hitler committed suicide, and German surrendered, Congress knew that with Stalin still breathing, the fear that communism would haunt the other countries. The President directed all authorization regarding any part of the investigations that are a threat to national security to be carried out by the FBI, reported to the FBI, and driven by the FBI. Throughout all the postwar years, the Bureau’s rein expanding. They were know able to conduct background searches and were now given access to the Atomic Energy database. The FBI began to extend and assist inner states and local law enforcements decrease the crime in their towns. With all the expansion and additional jurisdiction given to the FBI, it was no surprise when Congress passed new federal laws: civil rights violations and gambling. Along with the additional laws, the FBI was an influential partner in enabling African American rights: to vote, serve on juries, and equal accommodations in public. After Prohibition, most of the mobs took place locally. The involvement of the FBI in these investigations was not prominent because there were no violations within the jurisdiction the Bureau had. By the end of the 19060’s, there were now six thousand seven- hundred and three special agents and nine thousand three hundred twenty supportive employees. The amount of field offices increased from forty- two to fifty- eight. When President Kennedy was assassinated, no federal law could investigate the murder because it was a local crime, so President Johnson demanded the Bureau proceed with an investigation. Due to the tragedy, Congress passed a bill proclaiming that any assassination of a government official was an automatic federal crime and to be dealt with as a federal crime.

Congress never decelerated guidelines or protocols for the FBI when conducting national security investigations. FBI Director Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972. His successor, appointed by President Nixon, was Patrick Gray. Gray’s first act in office was appointing the first women since the 1920’s as a special agent. A couple months after Gray steps into office, there is a break- in at the Democratic National Headquarters; the FBI was called to assistance quickly, but little did they know their own Director had something to do with it. He immediately removed himself from consideration of being a Director and another was soon appointed, William Ruckelshaus. However, a month later Clarence Kelley, twenty-one year FBI agent, was appointed.

After the disaster at the Democratic National Headquarters, Director Kelley’s first act was to regain the trust of the American people in the Federal Bureau and law enforcement in general. He created policy’s that targets the training, the selection of members for both law enforcement and the Bureau, collection of investigation material procedures and prioritizing the criminal database. Another contribution Kelley made was in 1974, he established the Career Review Boards to train and identify potential leaders. Since the Watergate fiasco, the media and Congress have been hounding Kelley trying to figure out if there was a glitch in the self- proclaimed intelligence collection process. On March 10, 1976 the counterintelligence guidelines for FBI foreign investigations went into effect. Created by Attorney General Edward Levi, Congresses suspicion slowly dwindled. “Quality over Quantity” was the name of Kelley’s new management concept. Each field office priority was directed to the types of cases most that express more concern to a certain territory. Through this new concept, three national priorities were established: organized crime, foreign counterintelligence, and white- collar crime. Due to ex- Director Gray’s stance and hiring women, Director Kelley made more of an effort to higher more women to show diversity and ethnic compassion to the public. By the end of the 1970’s, there were nearly eight thousand special agents, eleven thousand support employees and fifty- nine field offices.

At the end of the 1970’s, two interesting things took place. The first, Director Kelley, the most beneficial, improving and innovative Director in the FBI so far resigned. Second, the FBI added laser technology to the Identification Division to detect latent crime scene fingerprints. Former Judge William H. Webster was appointed after Director Kelley’s resignation. Following Kelley’s priorities, Webster added the creation of the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, while expanding on the priorities already in place. The press nicknamed 1985 “the year of the spy” because of the ridiculous amount of espionage cases solved during this time. As time goes on, the jurisdiction of the FBI continues to grow, this time it’s growing to the illegal drug trade route. In 1982, the Attorney General gave the FBI jurisdiction over the DEA. Even though the FBI is expanding rapidly, they still must fulfill duties from when they were a little fish in a small pond. During the 1980’s, the FBI dealt with multiple cases dealing with fraud. By 1981, there was 10 bank failures and progressed to 282 by 1981. Because of the sudden increase in fraud cases, the Financial Institution Reform, Recovery and Enhancement Act were established.

In 1984, the Olympics took Los Angeles. The FBI was put on terrorist and street protection aid right away. There efforts were duly noted and the jurisdiction of the FBI was increased again but this time, it expanded to protecting United States Citizens from outside U.S boundaries. With this increase comes great responsibility. The Bureau was granted the right to arrest terrorists, drug traffickers, and other fugitives without consent of the foreign country. In order to keep up with the new authority, the FBI established the Computer Analysis and Response Team to gain evidence from surrounding computers. May 26, 1987 Judge Webster resigned from the FBI to take over the Director spot at the CIA. Under the acting Director Otto, another national priority was created. The drug protection efforts mentioned during Director Kelley’s triumphing rein was expanded to include drug demand reduction programs. Through these drug programs, the FBI went to multiple local schools sharing their experiences and their thoughts on drugs to educate the youth of America. By 1988, the FBI employed nine thousand six- hundred and sixty- three special agents with the support of thirteen thousand six- hundred and fifty- one employees.

The world was stunned when the Berlin Wall collapsed in November 1989. Foreign countries were scrambling to regain control of their policies and security. The

FBI reacted immediately by sending three hundred agents to investigate. The new Director established a sixth priority: investigation of violent crimes. However, there was a new concept coming, a concept of federal, state and local police force to take on the violent street gangs- Operation Safe Streets. This was also around the time of the identification break through. DNA technology was booming and here was now genetic crime- scene evidence that could make or break the suspects’ future. Along with the increase in technology, the FBI paid more attention to the steadily but rapidly increasing “white- collar crimes,” number three on the national priorities list. Along with the heightened attention on how to protect national security, the FBI’s main focus is keeping America out of reach to communism.

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Two events took place during the 1992- 1993 that affected the FBI policies. The first event was August 1992, the FBI responded to a shooting of a fellow officer, Deputy U.S. Marshal William Degan, while participating in the surveillance of fugitive Randall Weaver. During the course of action trying to detain the shooter, Weaver’s wife was caught in the cross fire and shot by an FBI sniper. Almost a year later, FBI agents were proceeding to end a 51 day standoff, in Texas, with religiously armed sects who had previously taken the lives of four officers who were part of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms. Instead of proceeding in the ending of the standoff, the officers watched as the sects burned down a compound with eight civilians, including three children, whom all died in the blaze. This was center stage for the FBI with the public, the question of the people was, “How will the FBI respond to crisis in the future?”

September 1, 1993 Louis J. Freeh was sworn in as the new Director of the FBI. He had set out with a clear purpose already: respond to the crime problems at home and abroad. To the people around him, this sounded like a good idea, until July 4, 1994 came around. On that day, he announced that the Federal Bureau of Investigation is opening a legal attaché in Moscow, the old throne of Russian Communism. Between the next eight years, the FBI mission expanded to the international nature of crimes. The budget grew by more than $1.30 billion, and kept increasing when the Bureau hired five thousand and twenty- nine more agents accompanied by four thousand more supporters.

United States Attorney Robert S. Mueller, lll was sworn in as FBI newest Director. He had a specific duty once in office: upgrade technology infrastructure, address records, and enhance the foreign counterintelligence analysis of the damage done by former special agent Robert Hanssen. Within days of this venture, the most horrendous day the United States has ever seen happened, September 11. The FBI partnered with local law enforcement in urge to figure out the cause of this disaster. October 26, President Bush signed the Patriot Act, which basically add new provisions if a terrorist attack were to happen in order to protect the American people. In order to satisfy the change in mission statements, Director Mueller restructured the operations for the Bureau hoping to prevent any further attacks. It strengthened its support to federal, and international law enforcement and created more complex technological structures that take more to crack.

As we take a look back through the years, all we can see if improvement and room for more improvement. The FBI stands today to dedicate itself to ensure it carries out its mission: protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats; uphold and enforce criminal laws of the United States and provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state and international partners.


“Brief History of the FBI.” FBI. FBI, 21 May 2010. Web. 08 Nov. 2014.

Muller, Robert. “Testimony.” Federal Bureau of Investigation. May 16, 2013. Accessed October 7, 2014. http://www.fbi.gov/news/testimony/fbi-budget-request-for-fiscal-year-2014.

Shafritz, Jay M., E.W. Russell, Christopher P. Borick. Introducing Public Administration, Eighth Edition. (Boston: Pearson, 2013)

“Today’s FBI Facts and Figures 2013-2014. “FBI. March 14, 2013. Accessed October 7, 2014.


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