Federal Bureau of Investigation

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Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the principal investigative arm of the United States Department of Justice. As a federal law enforcement agency it investigates alleged violations of federal criminal laws governing banking, gambling, white collar fraud, public corruption, civil rights, interstate transportation of stolen property, and elections. The FBI's investigative authority can be found in Title 28, Section 533 of the US Code. Additionally, there are other statutes, such as the Congressional Assassination, Kidnapping, and Assault Act (Title 18, US Code, Section 351), which give the FBI responsibility to investigate specific crimes.



The mission of the FBI 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.


  • Protect the United States from terrorist attack.
  • Protect the United States against foreign intelligence operations and espionage.
  • Protect the United States against cyber-based attacks and high-technology crimes.
  • Combat public corruption at all levels.
  • Protect civil rights.
  • Combat transnational and national criminal organizations and enterprises.
  • Combat major white-collar crime.
  • Combat significant violent crime.
  • Support federal, state, county, municipal, and international partners.
  • Upgrade technology to successfully perform the FBI's mission.[1]

Crimes under FBI jurisdiction

National Security priorities

  • Counterterrorism
International Terrorism
Domestic Terrorism
Weapons of Mass Destruction
  • Counterintelligence
Economic Espionage
  • Cyber Crime
Computer Intrusions
Online Predators
Piracy/Intellectual Property Theft
Internet Fraud

Criminal Priorities

  • Public Corruption
Government Fraud
Election Fraud
Foreign Corrupt Practices
  • Civil Rights
Hate Crime
Human Trafficking
Color of Law
Freedom of Access to Clinics
  • White-Collar Crime
Bankruptcy Fraud
Corporate/Securities Fraud
Health Care Fraud
Identity Theft
Insurance Fraud
Money Laundering
Mortgage Fraud
Telemarketing Fraud
More White-Collar Frauds
  • Organized Crime
Italian Mafia/LCN
Middle Eastern
Sports Bribery
  • Major Thefts/Violent Crime
Art Theft
Bank Robberies
Cargo Theft
Crimes Against Children
Cruise Ship Crime
Indian Country Crime
Jewelry and Gems Theft
Murder for Hire
Retail Theft
Vehicle Theft
Violent Gangs

The Director

The FBI is headed by a Director who is appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate. On October 15, 1976, in reaction to the extraordinary 48-year term of J. Edgar Hoover, Congress passed Public Law 94-503, which limits the term of each FBI Director to ten years.

The current Director, Robert S. Mueller, III, was confirmed as Director of the FBI by the Senate on August 2, 2001. He took the oath of office on September 4, 2001. Director Mueller previously served as US Attorney for the Districts of Northern California and Massachusetts and as Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice's Criminal Division. Director Mueller has experience in the private practice of law and is a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. For three years, he also served as an officer in the United States Marine Corps. Director Mueller holds a bachelor of arts degree from Princeton University, a master's degree in international relations from New York University, and a law degree from the University of Virginia.


FBI Headquarters is currently located in the J. Edgar Hoover Building on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, DC. The Special Agents and support personnel who work at Headquarters organize and coordinate FBI activities around the world. Headquarters personnel determine investigative priorities, oversee major cases, and manage the organization's resources, technology, and personnel. Headquarters also has a role in gathering and distributing information. If a Special Agent in Boise, Idaho, has some information that would help an Agent in New York City solve a case, Headquarters is responsible for making sure the information gets from Boise to New York.

Headquarters plays a key role in fighting terrorism. It is the focal point for intelligence, not only from around the country, but from the CIA and various countries overseas. Headquarters takes the intelligence information it collects, analyzes it, and sends it to field offices, state and municipal police departments, and other federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security.

In the late 1990s, the FBI put a professional scientist in charge of the Laboratory and instituted reforms to improve evidence handling and optimize research. As the FBI has grown, some Headquarters functions have been moved to other locations. The Criminal Justice Information Services Division is located in Clarksburg, West Virginia. The Laboratory and Investigative Technologies Divisions are located in Quantico, Virginia. Other specialized facilities, such as high-tech computer forensics centers, are at various locations across the country.


In fiscal year (FY) 2003, the FBI received a total of $4.298 billion, including $540.281 million in net program increases to enhance Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, Cybercrime, Information Technology, Security, Forensics, Training, and Criminal Programs.

Field Offices

The nuts and bolts work of the FBI is done in its 56 field offices and their 400 satellite offices, known as resident agencies. It is the Special Agent in the field who looks for clues, tracks down leads, and works with local law enforcement to catch and arrest criminals. A Special Agent in Charge oversees each field office, except for the largest field offices, in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, and New York City, which are headed by an Assistant Director.

International Offices

In addition to its field offices across the United States, the FBI has 45 offices known as Legal Attachés or "Legats" located around the world. Legats are our first line of defense beyond our borders. Their goals are simple-to stop foreign crime as far from American shores as possible and to help solve international crimes that do occur as quickly as possible.

To accomplish these goals, each Legat works with law enforcement and security agencies in their host country to coordinate investigations of interest to both countries. Some Legats are responsible for coordination with law enforcement personnel in several countries. The purpose of these Legats is strictly coordination; they do not conduct foreign intelligence gathering or counterintelligence investigations. The rules for joint activities and information-sharing are generally spelled out in formal agreements between the United States and the Legat's host country. The entire worldwide Legat program is overseen by a Special Agent in Charge located at FBI Headquarters.

National Security Branch

The National Security Branch (NSB) was established on September 12, 2005, in response to a presidential directive to establish a “National Security Service” that combines the missions, capabilities, and resources of the counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and intelligence elements of the FBI under the leadership of a senior FBI official. In July 2006, the Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate was created within the NSB to integrate WMD components previously spread throughout the FBI.


In the FBI, learning is a lifelong process for both Special Agents and support personnel. New Agents' Training incorporates counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and cyber investigation matters into basic investigative courses so Agents are better able to recognize and address these intertwined threats. For example, training in financial crimes shows Agents how certain acts should be closely reviewed for possible money laundering activities by terrorist groups.

FBI support personnel enjoy a variety of training opportunities throughout their careers, including in-service training on counterterrorism, counterintelligence, cybecrime, and other matters; language training; distance learning via satellite; and courses offered through the FBI's "Virtual Academy."

College of Analytical Studies

The FBI's College of Analytical Studies provides training for intelligence analysts using state-of-the-art computer tools. A variety of courses are offered to FBI personnel, members of Joint Terrorism Task Forces around the country, and Department of Justice analysts.

National Academy

Since 1935, the FBI has offered the National Academy program to experienced law enforcement managers nominated by their agency heads because of their leadership qualities.

The 11-week multidisciplinary program emphasizes leadership development. The University of Virginia accredits its academic courses. Courses offered include management science, law, behavioral science, law enforcement communication, and forensic science. More than 36,000 police managers have graduated from the FBI National Academy.

Field Police Training

A Special Agent at each FBI field office coordinates training programs for state and local law enforcement and public safety employees within that office's territory. Course topics include hostage negotiation, computer crime, death investigations, violent crimes, criminal psychology, and forensics. In FY 2002, the field police training programs trained 48,021 law enforcement and public safety employees.

Leadership and Management Science Programs

The FBI conducts three five-day National Executive Institute seminars for heads of large law enforcement agencies each year. Since the program began in 1976, more than 800 top police managers have completed the seminar. In FY 2000, 59 police managers from mid-sized law enforcement agencies completed the FBI's two-week Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar (LEEDS). The FBI also offers 18 Regional Mini-LEEDS/Command Colleges each year for the heads of small law enforcement agencies.

International Training and Assistance

In FY 2002, the FBI provided training to more than 8,050 police officers and executives representing 118 countries through courses offered at FBI facilities and at on-site in-country seminars. Courses were offered in Major Case Management and Terrorist Crime Scenes Investigation, among others. The FBI also administers an International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary, and supports a second Academy in Bangkok, Thailand. The curricula at both International Academies are based on the FBI National Academy model.


Bureau of Investigation

On July 26, 1908, Attorney General (AG) Charles J. Bonaparte ordered a small force of permanent investigators (organized a month earlier) to report to the Department of Justice's Chief Examiner, Stanley Finch. AG Bonaparte declared that these investigators would handle all Department of Justice (DOJ) investigative matters, except certain bank frauds. At first, little seemed to come of AG Bonaparte's reorganization.

In 1909, this investigator force was named the Bureau of Investigation (BOI). At this time, it investigated antitrust matters, land fraud, copyright violations, peonage (involuntary slavery), and twenty other matters. Over the next decade, federal criminal authority and Bureau jurisdiction were extended by laws like the 1910 "White-Slave Traffic" Act that put responsibility for interstate prostitution under the Bureau for a time and the 1919 Dyer Act that did the same for interstate auto-theft. US entry into World War I in April 1917 led to further increases in the Bureau's jurisdiction. Congress and President Wilson assigned the BOI's three hundred employees responsibility for espionage, sabotage, sedition, and selective service matters.

The Gangster Era

The 1920's brought Prohibition, the automobile, and an increase in criminal activity. Bank robbers, bootleggers, and kidnappers took advantage of jurisdictional boundaries by crossing state lines to elude capture. A criminal culture marked by violent gangsters flourished, but no federal law gave the BOI authority to tackle their crimes and other law enforcement efforts were fragmented. The Bureau addressed these matters as its jurisdiction permitted throughout the 1920's.

In 1924, Attorney General Harlan Stone appointed John Edgar Hoover as Director. Director Hoover (1924-1972) implemented a number of reforms to clean up what had become a politicized Bureau under the leadership of William J. Burns (1921-1924). Hoover reinstated merit hiring, introduced professional training of new Agents, demanded regular inspections of all Bureau operations, and required strict professionalism in the Bureau's work.

Notorious John Dillinger and his gang terrorized the Midwest from September 1933 until July 1934, killing 10 men, wounding 7 others, robbing banks and police arsenals, and staging 3 jail breaks. On July 22, 1934, Dillinger was shot and killed by FBI Agents outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago.

Under Hoover, the Bureau also began to emphasize service to other law enforcement agencies. The Identification Division was created in 1924 to provide US police a means to identify criminals across jurisdictional boundaries. The Technical Crime Laboratory, created in 1932, provided forensic analysis and research for law enforcement, and the FBI National Academy, opened in 1935, provided standardized professional training for America's law enforcement communities.

In answer to the violent crime of the 1930's, Congress began to assign and expand new authorities to the Bureau. The kidnapping and murder of Charles Lindbergh's baby son in 1932 led to the passage of the Federal Kidnapping Act, which allowed the Bureau to investigate interstate kidnappings. The 1933 Kansas City Massacre spurred the passage of the 1934 May/June Crime Bills. These laws gave the Bureau authority to act in many new areas, to make arrests, and to carry weapons. Renamed "Federal Bureau of Investigation" in 1935, the FBI dealt with gangsters severely, earning its anonymous agents the nickname "G-Men."

World War II

As the gangster threat subsided, a threat of a different nature emerged. In 1936, President Roosevelt directed the FBI to investigate potential subversion by Nazi and Communist organizations. In 1940, he tasked the Bureau with responsibility for foreign intelligence in the western hemisphere and domestic security in the United States. In response, the Bureau created a Special Intelligence Service (SIS) Division in June 1940. The SIS sent undercover FBI Agents throughout the Western Hemisphere. These Agents successfully identified some 1,300 Axis intelligence agents (about 10% of whom were prosecuted). When President Truman ordered the program's end in 1947, several former SIS offices became the backbone of the FBI's foreign liaison efforts, now serving as Legal Attaché Offices. FBI efforts also thwarted many espionage, sabotage, and propaganda attempts on the home front, including Frederick Duquesne's spy ring in 1941 and George Dasch's band of saboteurs in 1942.

Cold War

When Germany and Japan surrendered in 1945, concern about the threat of foreign intelligence did not end. Revelations that year from former Soviet intelligence agents like Igor Guzenko and Elizabeth Bentley, information gleaned from FBI investigations during and after the war, and decrypted/decoded Soviet cable traffic called "Venona" (available to the Bureau from 1947), convinced the FBI of the seriousness of the Soviet intelligence threat long before Senator Joseph McCarthy made his 1950 speech about communist "moles." Under the Hatch Act (1940) and Executive Orders issued in 1947 and 1951, the Bureau exercised responsibility for ensuring the loyalty of those who sought to work in the government. The FBI played a critical role in US handling of the Cold War.

Political activism

In the 1950's, civil rights violations and organized crime became matters of increasing concern. As in the past, lack of jurisdiction hindered the Bureau from effectively responding to these problems when they first emerged as national issues. It was under the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act that the Bureau received legislative authority to investigate many of the wrongs done to African Americans in the South and elsewhere. Under existing laws, the Bureau's efforts against organized crime also started slowly. Then, with the 1968 Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act and the 1970 Organized Crime Control Act, Congress gave the Bureau effective weapons with which to attack organized criminal enterprises, Title III warrants for wiretaps and the Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).

During the 1960's, subversion remained a central focus of Bureau efforts. The counter-cultural revolution turned the Bureau's attention towards violent student movements, as criminal groups like the Weather Underground and the Black Panthers engaged in both legitimate political action and illegal crime. The Bureau responded to the threat of subversion with Counterintelligence Programs (COINTELPRO) first against the Communist Party (1956), later against other violent/subversive groups like the Black Panthers and the Ku Klux Klan (1960's). These programs resulted in the Bureau, at times, effectively stepping out of its proper role as a law enforcement agency.

During the 1970's, Bureau actions, which were publicly revealed through a strengthened Freedom of Information Act (1966, amended in 1974), resulted in congressional investigations like the Church Committee and the Pike Committee hearings in 1975. In response to criticisms emerging from these revelations, the Bureau worked with Attorney General Levi to develop guidelines for its domestic counterintelligence investigations.

After Hoover

J. Edgar Hoover served as FBI Director for almost 50 years. In the wake of Director Hoover's death in May 1972, Director Clarence M. Kelley (1973-1977) refocused FBI investigative priorities to place less emphasis on having a high number of cases and to focus more on the quality of cases handled. Working with the Bureau and Congress in 1976, Attorney General Edward Levi issued a set of investigative guidelines to address the concerns of Bureau critics and to give the FBI the confidence of having public, legal authority behind its use of irreplaceable investigative techniques like wiretaps, informants, and undercover agents. These investigative techniques were used to great effect in cases like ABSCAM (1980), GREYLORD (1984), and UNIRAC (1978). In 1983, as concerns about terrorist acts grew, Attorney General William French Smith revised the Levi Guidelines to adjust the Bureau's ability to prevent violent radical acts.

Director William H. Webster (1977-1987) built upon Director Kelley's emphasis on investigative "quality" cases by focusing Bureau efforts on three Priority Programs: White Collar Crime, Organized Crime, and Foreign Counterintelligence. Later, Illegal Drugs (1982), Counterterrorism (1982), and Violent Crimes (1989) were also identified as priority programs. This concentration of resources brought great success against Soviet and East Bloc intelligence as more than 40 spies were arrested between 1977 and 1985. The FBI also made breakthroughs against white-collar crime in investigations like ILLWIND (1988) and LOST TRUST (1990), and in organized crime cases like BRILAB (1981) and the PIZZA CONNECTION (1985).

During the 1990's, criminal and security threats to the United States evolved as new technology and the fall of communism in the Soviet bloc changed the geopolitical world. The 1993 bombing of the World Trade Centers and the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building highlighted the potentially catastrophic threat of both international and domestic terrorism. The FBI responded to the emerging international face of crime by aggressively building bridges between US and foreign law enforcement. Under the leadership of Director Louis J. Freeh (1993-2001), the Bureau dramatically expanded its Legat Program (39 offices by fall 2000); provided professional law enforcement education to foreign nationals through the International Law Enforcement Academy (ILEA) in Budapest (opened in 1994) and other international education efforts; and created working groups and other structured liaisons with foreign law enforcement.

The Bureau also strengthened its domestic agenda. Responding to criticism of its actions in the 1993 standoffs at Waco, Texas, and Ruby Ridge, Idaho, the Bureau revamped its crisis response efforts. The FBI's commitment to law enforcement service was strengthened by the computerization of its massive fingerprint collection database, enhancements in the National Crime Information Center, and by the revitalization of the FBI Laboratory. In 1997, the Bureau hired its first professional scientist to head the Lab. The Lab tightened its protocols for evidence control, instituted organizational changes to optimize research specialization, and earned national accreditation.

September 11, 2001

On September 4, 2001, former US Attorney Robert S. Mueller, III, (2001 to present) was sworn in as Director with a mandate to address a number of tough challenges: upgrading the Bureau's information technology infrastructure; addressing records management issues; and enhancing FBI foreign counterintelligence analysis and security in the wake of the damage done by former Special Agent and convicted spy Robert S. Hanssen.

Then within days of his entering on duty, the September 11 terrorist attacks were launched against New York and Washington. Director Mueller led the FBI's massive investigative efforts in partnership with all US law enforcement, the federal government, and our allies overseas. On October 26, 2001, the President signed into law the US Patriot Act, which granted new provisions to address the threat of terrorism, and Director Mueller accordingly accepted on behalf of the Bureau responsibility for protecting the American people against future terrorist attacks. On May 29, 2002, the Attorney General issued revised investigative guidelines to assist the Bureau's counterterrorism efforts.

To support the Bureau's change in mission and to meet newly articulated strategic priorities, Director Mueller called for a reengineering of FBI structure and operations that will closely focus the Bureau on prevention of terrorist attacks, on countering foreign intelligence operations against the US, and on addressing cyber-based attacks and other high technology crimes. In addition, the Bureau remains dedicated to protecting civil rights, and to combating public corruption, organized crime, white-collar crime, and major acts of violent crime. It is also strengthening its support to federal, county, municipal, and international law enforcement partners. And it is upgrading its technological infrastructure to successfully meet each of its priorities.

At the start of the new millennium, the FBI stands dedicated to its core values and ethical standards. Commitment to these values and standards ensures that the FBI effectively carries out its mission.



  1. Facts and Figures
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