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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is a federally funded intelligence agency, and is the prime source of investigative resources for the U.S. Its motto is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”Its headquarters are in Washington, D.C.The bureau's birthIn 1908, the bureau was born as a force of special agents, which was created by Attorney General Charles Bonaparte during Theodore Roosevelt's presidency. At its outset, the Bureau of Investigation predominantly recruited men who had prior experience in law enforcement.Federal crimes were not a major problem in the country when the bureau was initiated. Most common violations that received the bureau's attention involved national banking fraud, land fraud, various forms of enslavement, and extortion.In June 1910, the Mann ("White Slave") Act became an important tool for the bureau. The Bureau of Investigation also used the Mann Act to bring Louisiana's Ku Klux Klan "Imperial Kleagle" to justice. In 1912, former Special Examiner, Bruce Bielaski, became the bureau's new chief.From 1912 to 1914, the Bureau of Investigation employed some 300 special agents assigned to various federal crimes, as well as more than 300 other office personnel offering support and logistics to field agents. Although those outposts were primarily placed in larger cities, the demand for a presence near the Mexican border soon became evident, and compelled the placement of outposts in smaller border towns to investigate various instances of illegal smuggling.From 1921 to 1933, the bureau was often at odds with a frustrated public. During what were called the "lawless years," many Americans resisted the establishment of Prohibition, while others were involved in extremist politics. Raids of speakeasies (nightclubs serving alcohol) and the use of decoy speakeasies brought about the arrests of many bootleggers (alcohol smugglers) during Prohibition.Such lawlessness had its roots in Organized Crime, and the bureau was deeply involved in rooting it out. The capture of such criminals as "Machine Gun" Kelly, bank robber John Dillinger, and "Baby Face" Nelson became urgent priorities and the bureau gained public respect in their part in taking those thugs down.The Hoover yearsOn May 10, 1924, 26-year-old J. Edgar Hoover became the bureau's director. He established a special agent training academy, with a minimum entry age of between 25 and 35 years of age, and by the end of the Twenties, he had fused the coordination of all field offices with centralized files containing fingerprint cards.Further, Hoover officially opened the FBI Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory (a.k.a. The bureau also trains state and local crime laboratory and law enforcement personnel from all over the country, at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia.Beginning in the Forties, the bureau tackled cases of espionage in the U.S. targets were taken "downtown" by FBI agents. The FBI employed many such counterintelligence programs, beginning in the 1950s.¹Since 1949, the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list has been at the disposal of agents to work with other law enforcement agencies and the general public, to help capture dangerous fugitives.The FBI formed “COINTELPRO” (an acronym for counterintelligence services) to "neutralize" political dissidents in the United States between 1956 and 1971. When COINTELPRO was exposed in 1971, the bureau discontinued its operations.Over his several decades as director, Hoover unfortunately spent much of the agency's resources investigating innocent socialists and other assorted political activists — frequently amassing huge files on individuals in the process. Such notable Americans as Eleanor Roosevelt, who had the thickest personal file, and Martin Luther King Jr., were the objects of the director's scrutiny.After HooverOrganized crime continued to feel the FBI's relentless pressure. A former driver and hired killer for Al Capone’s successor, Frank “The Enforcer” Nitti, Giancana was believed to have been one of those gangsters recruited by the CIA to assassinate Cuban President Fidel Castro. Owing to his high-profile lifestyle and intense surveillance by the FBI, Giancana was dethroned by the Mafia and later assassinated in his Illinois home in June 1975 upon his return from exile in Mexico. A flurry of other FBI investigations during the 1970s and 1980s somewhat blunted the Mafia's power.In a 51-day standoff outside Waco, Texas, in 1993, the FBI, ATF (Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms), and Texas Rangers unsuccessfully attempted to rescue Branch Davidians thought to be held hostage by their leader, David Koresh in their compound called Mount Carmel. The FBI employed their Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) and Special Agent in Charge (SAC) from the San Antonio office to carry out counter-terrorist tactics on Koresh. attorney general Janet Reno approved the use of chlorobenzylidene malononitrile (CS) gas to neutralize the compound's defenders. The ATF and FBI were later accused of excessive force in what began as an investigation into Koresh’s "gun business," and ended in an ungulfing fire and the deaths of most adherents inside the compound.The FBI has confronted turncoats. The alleged spy was reportedly exposed by a mole²-hunting team.On February 24, 1994, Aldrich Ames, a 31-year veteran of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), was apprehended by the FBI in Arlington, Virginia, on espionage charges. Ames had been spying for the Russians since 1985.The 21st century and the events of September 11, 2001, brought to the fore another breed of violence directed towards America, and the FBI has had to adapt and modify its counterterrorism techniques to handle such threats. Originating from the George W. Bush administration, the new act allows special agents to monitor possible terrorism cells or activities through wiretapping as well as internet activity, among other provisions.Directors since HooverThe FBI has had a long succession of directors since Hoover’s death in 1973, each making contributions to the bureau. Modernizing the bureau, Kelley also curbed arbitrary investigations and began to allow more women and minorities to join the special-agent ranks.Kelley presided over the bureau until 1978, when William H. Sessions also implemented policies to increase the number of women and minorities in the bureau.In 1993, President Bill Clinton dismissed Sessions amid allegations of unethical conduct. Mueller, III.ConclusionThrough the years, the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been involved in the investigation and capture of many of the most treacherous criminals in American history. The FBI remains an evolving federal bureau with the widest authority and jurisdiction of any federal law enforcement agency.
¹ A trusted person who works in a position with classified information, who has been hired by a foreign espionage agency.
² See Julius and Ethel Rosenberg.