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Old Friday, December 09, 2005
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Default Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),

Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI),


Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), chief investigative agency of the United States federal government and a division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The FBI is charged with investigating violations of most federal criminal laws and with protecting the United States from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities. It also provides services to other law enforcement agencies, including fingerprint identification, laboratory analysis of criminal evidence, police training, and access to a centralized crime information database. Because of its broad mandate, the FBI is one of the most powerful and controversial agencies in the government. The bureau traces its origins to 1908, when the attorney general appointed a small group of investigators within the Department of Justice.


The FBI has its headquarters in Washington, D.C. The agency is led by the FBI director, who reports to the attorney general of the United States. The director is nominated by the president of the United States and confirmed by the United States Senate. The director may serve a maximum term of ten years. By tradition, the director of the FBI is not replaced when a new president takes office.

The FBI has 56 field offices located in major U.S. cities and one field office in Puerto Rico. The field offices, in turn, oversee approximately 400 satellite offices in smaller cities and towns known as resident agencies. Outside the United States, the FBI has 44 foreign liaison offices, also called legal attaché offices, or legats for short.

The FBI has about 28,000 employees. Nearly 12,000 are special agents, who have the authority to make arrests and use firearms. The rest are professional support personnel, a category that includes chemists, psychologists, language specialists, computer specialists, attorneys, clerical workers, and many other types of employees. The FBI’s annual budget is approximately $3 billion dollars and is appropriated by the Congress of the United States.

FBI headquarters comprises 13 divisions: the Administrative Services Division, the Counterintelligence Division, the Counterterrorism Division, the Criminal Investigative Division, the Criminal Justice Information Services Division, the Cyber crime Division, the Finance Division, the Information Resources Division, the Investigative Technologies Division, the Laboratory Division, the Records Management Division, the Security Division, and the Training Division. An assistant director heads each division, and four executive assistant directors supervise groups of divisions. The headquarters also includes a number of offices, including the Office of Public and Congressional Affairs, the Office of Professional Responsibility, the Office of the General Counsel, and the Office of Equal Employment Opportunity.


The FBI has the broadest jurisdiction (investigative authority) of all federal law enforcement agencies. It is authorized to investigate all federal criminal violations that the United States Congress has not specifically assigned to other federal agencies. It may investigate other matters at the request of the president or attorney general of the United States, or if authorized under a law passed by Congress. This mandate stands in contrast to other federal law enforcement agencies, which have narrower missions. For example, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) enforces federal drug laws, and the Secret Service investigates counterfeiting and protects the president and vice president and their families.

The FBI investigates hundreds of different federal crimes, including organized crime, drug trafficking, espionage, terrorism, bank robbery, extortion, racketeering, and kidnapping. The agency is responsible for investigating federal civil rights violations, such as police brutality, housing discrimination, and racial violence. The FBI also investigates so-called white-collar crimes, such as money laundering, bank fraud and embezzlement, corruption in local and state government, election-law violations, environmental crimes, and computer-related crimes. Additionally, it handles cases involving threats or actual violence against the president, vice president, and members of Congress. In all cases, the FBI presents the results of its investigations to federal prosecutors in the Justice Department, who decide whether to prosecute suspects in the federal courts.

In conducting investigations, the FBI frequently works with local, state, federal, and international law enforcement organizations. For example, the FBI works with the Central Intelligence Agency to prevent foreign spies from obtaining U.S. national security secrets. It also works with the DEA in drug cases and with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives in certain cases involving bombs, arson, or firearms violations. Criminal activities often cross state and country borders. As a national law enforcement agency, the FBI is best equipped to investigate them. It investigates interstate criminal activity and can arrest fugitives who cross state lines to avoid prosecution. Although the FBI is not usually authorized to make arrests in foreign countries, the agency works with law enforcement agencies abroad to apprehend suspects wanted for crimes in U.S. jurisdictions.

The FBI also conducts non-criminal inquiries. It researches the backgrounds of U.S. Supreme Court nominees, Cabinet nominees, and other presidential appointees to help the U.S. Senate decide if these candidates should be confirmed. It also conducts background checks on people who apply for employment at the FBI, Justice Department, White House, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and certain other government agencies. Finally, the FBI may collect evidence in civil suits involving the United States government.

Among functions specifically excluded from the jurisdiction of the FBI are investigations of counterfeiting, which are handled by the Secret Service, and violations of customs and revenue laws, which are handled by the United States Customs Service. Violations of postal laws, which are under the jurisdiction of the United States Postal Service, are also excluded from the jurisdiction of the FBI. Intelligence activities aimed at foreign countries, related to the national security of the United States, are generally carried out by the CIA. However, the FBI does investigate terrorism outside of the United States when directed against U.S. citizens or interests, such as U.S. embassies.


FBI special agents are responsible for conducting investigations. They perform their duties mainly from the field offices located around the country, guided by supervisors in the field offices and at headquarters. Agents are responsible for gathering information and evidence about possible criminal activity that may be used by federal prosecutors in court.

To carry out their duties, FBI agents are entrusted with extremely broad powers. They are authorized to carry weapons and, under some circumstances, to shoot to kill. They can place suspects under arrest. With permission of the courts, they can eavesdrop on private phone conversations, videotape what goes on in people’s homes, open mailboxes and read mail, and obtain telephone bills, income tax returns, and other confidential documents. They can also subpoena witnesses to testify before a grand jury. While pursuing suspects, they are authorized to break traffic laws. By showing their credentials, FBI agents can bypass airport security and take weapons onto airplanes. If necessary, they can request help from the CIA, the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol), and foreign governments. But unless agents are on bureau business and have proper authorization, they have no more power than any other citizens.

Special FBI units sometimes assist agents in especially dangerous or unusual situations. The Critical Incident Response Group is deployed during terrorist incidents, hostage situations, and major crimes that require emergency action. The Hostage Rescue Team develops and executes tactical plans to rescue hostages, negotiate with barricaded individuals, and assist in high-risk arrests and raids.

People seeking employment as special agents must be U.S. citizens at least 23 years old but no older than 36. To qualify for training, applicants must have a four-year degree from a college or university. The agency prefers those with law or accounting degrees because they can more easily understand federal criminal laws and financial crimes, respectively. It also admits applicants with expertise in languages and those with a bachelor’s degree and at least three years of relevant work experience. All prospective agents must have a valid driver’s license and pass a polygraph examination, a drug test, a vision test, a hearing test, and a comprehensive background check. Applicants must also be in excellent physical condition. New agents undergo 16 weeks of intensive training at the FBI Academy in Quantico, Virginia, where they learn about federal law, crime investigation, firearms use, defensive tactics, and other subjects. Periodically, agents return to the academy for in-service training on the latest techniques in law enforcement.


As the largest law enforcement agency in the United States, the FBI plays a central and indispensable role in assisting local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies. This assistance includes fingerprint identification, laboratory analysis of criminal evidence, criminal profiling, police training, maintenance of a central crime information database, and publication of crime statistics.

A) Fingerprint Identification

Every person has a unique set of fingerprints, a fact that allows police officers to identify suspected criminals from fingerprints found at a crime scene. The FBI serves as the central repository for fingerprint records in the United States. It has on file more than 234 million sets of fingerprints representing about 81 million people (both criminal and civilian), the largest collection in the world. The FBI’s Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS) stores fingerprints in digital form. Using this system, law enforcement agencies submit fingerprint images electronically; IAFIS searches its huge database for a match and responds with identification if one exists. The identification process takes less than two hours, instead of the weeks required under the previous semi automated system.

In addition to conducting fingerprint identification for law enforcement, the FBI processes requests from other organizations when required by law. For example, FBI fingerprint checks may be required of people applying for employment as a teacher, child-care provider, or government worker. About half of all fingerprint checks are non-criminal.

The FBI’s fingerprint collection began in 1924 with about 810,000 sets of arrest fingerprints. These were consolidated from the Justice Department’s fingerprint collection, maintained at a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kansas, and from the collection of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. In the following years, as local and state law enforcement agencies forwarded fingerprint records to the FBI, its criminal identification data increased greatly. In 1932 the FBI began exchanging identification data with the law enforcement agencies of more than 80 foreign countries and with agencies in U.S. territories.

B) FBI Laboratory

The FBI Laboratory, founded in 1932, analyzes physical evidence submitted by FBI agents and by other law enforcement agencies to help solve crimes. It uses the most sophisticated investigative tools and methods known to law enforcement, many of which it pioneered. The laboratory employs specialists trained in many branches of science and in methods of scientific crime detection. They examine bullets, weapons, bloodstains, human and animal hair and skin, textile fibers, soils, rocks, metals, and many other forms of evidence. These specialists often serve as expert witnesses in trials, explaining the methodology and results of their analysis.

FBI Laboratory technicians use chemicals, powders, lasers, and special light sources to find and enhance fingerprints, tire impressions, shoeprints, and other characteristic marks that can link suspects to crime scenes. Other specialists identify forged letters and documents by analyzing handwriting, identifying impressions in the surface of paper, and determining the origins of a document’s ink and paper. The FBI Laboratory also analyzes photographs, financial records, firearms, and explosives and their residues.

Another important laboratory function is the analysis of dioxyribonucleic acid (DNA) in bodily fluids and tissues, a procedure called DNA fingerprinting. By identifying the DNA profile of blood, semen, saliva, or hair found at the crime scene and comparing it to the DNA profile of the suspect, laboratory scientists can determine with a high degree of likelihood whether the suspect was at the crime scene. The FBI Laboratory’s National DNA Index System allows U.S. crime laboratories to electronically compare DNA profiles with those from convicted criminals and from biological evidence in unsolved cases.

C) Criminal Profiling

The FBI’s profiling unit, part of its National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, advises law enforcement officers, most often local police investigators, in cases of unsolved serial and violent crimes. These crimes may include serial murders and rapes, individual homicides, child abductions, arsons, bombings, product tamperings, and vicious or unusual crimes. By using behavioral science research and computer models, profilers can often predict the characteristics and behavior of an unknown criminal suspect. For example, a profiler may infer that the person who committed a murder is probably between the ages of 25 and 35, lives within a few blocks of the victim, likes to hunt and fish, and drives a sport utility vehicle. This technique, portrayed in the movie The Silence of the Lambs (1991), has led to the apprehension of hundreds of serial killers and rapists. Profilers at the center also conduct research on criminal thought processes, motivations, and behaviors.

D) Police Training

The FBI National Academy, founded in 1935 and located at the same facility as the FBI Academy, offers advanced training to selected mid- and executive-level officers from local, state, and foreign police departments. An 11-week course covers leadership and management skills, law, communications, forensic science, and health and fitness. At the FBI Academy and at police schools across the country, the FBI offers hundreds of specialized courses on hostage negotiation, firearms, fingerprints, criminal psychology, computer crime, arson, and other topics.

The FBI serves as the lead agency in directing activities at the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary, opened in 1995. Instructors from a wide range of U.S. and international law enforcement agencies train police officers from emerging democracies in Russia, Ukraine, the Baltic states, and other parts of Eastern Europe. Courses focus on police professionalism, ethics, criminal investigation, and the rule of law. FBI instructors also participate in the International Law Enforcement Academy in Bangkok, Thailand, launched in 1999 for police officers from Southeast Asia and China. Training focuses on illicit drug trafficking, financial crimes, smuggling of illegal aliens, and transnational investigations.

The FBI publishes FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin for law enforcement agencies in the United States. The monthly magazine, founded in 1932, features information on the latest issues in law enforcement operations and administration.

E) National Crime Information Center

The National Crime Information Center (NCIC), located in Clarksburg, West Virginia, is a computerized database of information on crime and criminals. It serves as the nucleus of a vast communications network that includes local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the United States. Designed to complement metropolitan and statewide electronic systems, it makes available in a few seconds data essential for effective law enforcement. The NCIC database contains information on criminal histories, missing persons, fugitives and wanted persons, stolen vehicles and license plates, stolen guns, and other data. It also contains mugshots, images of stolen property, and prints of right index fingers. Most patrol officers can access NCIC data directly via computer terminals in their squad cars. The NCIC system handles about 2 million inquiries per day, 99 percent of which are initiated by local, state, and federal agencies other than the FBI. The FBI also operates the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS), which interfaces with the NCIC. The NICS performs background checks on people seeking to purchase firearms. These checks are intended to prevent the sale of firearms to felons, fugitives, illegal aliens, and certain other people.

In addition to maintaining fugitive information in the NCIC, the FBI has since 1950 widely publicized its “Ten Most Wanted Fugitives,” a list of particularly dangerous fugitives. The bureau publicizes these and other fugitives on its Web site, on the radio, and on the television program America’s Most Wanted. The FBI has captured many fugitives as a result of this publicity.

F) Crime Statistics

Since 1930, the FBI has served as a national clearinghouse for crime statistics through its Uniform Crime Reporting (UCR) program. Law enforcement agencies throughout the United States forward data monthly and annually to the FBI on the following crimes: murder and nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary, larceny-theft, motor vehicle theft, and arson. Agencies also report hate crimes, the overall number of people arrested, and the characteristics of those arrested.

The FBI publishes the statistics annually in the Uniform Crime Reports Bulletin. Although the Bulletin was created as a service for law enforcement agencies, it is now used by sociologists, legislators, city planners, and the media as an indicator of the crime rate.


A) Founding and Early Years

The agency that eventually became the FBI was founded on July 26, 1908, when U.S. attorney general Charles J. Bonaparte appointed Stanley W. Finch to head a new, unnamed investigative division within the Department of Justice. The division started with 34 special agents, 10 of whom were former Secret Service employees. It was named the Bureau of Investigation in 1909. The agency took its present name, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, in 1935.

In its early years, the agency’s jurisdiction was limited because most crimes were handled by local law enforcement agencies. Its investigative responsibilities included antitrust violations, bankruptcy fraud, postal fraud, violation of federal banking laws, destruction of government property, and certain crimes on Native American reservations. In 1910 Congress expanded the bureau’s jurisdiction by passing the White Slave Traffic Act (Mann Act), which made it a federal crime to transport girls or women across state lines for prostitution or other immoral purposes. The Motor Vehicle Theft Act (Dyer Act) of 1919 empowered the bureau to investigate whenever stolen automobiles were taken across state lines. These laws gave the bureau additional ways to combat organized crime and to investigate criminals who eluded local police by crossing state lines.

During World War I (1914-1918), Congress charged the bureau with investigating sabotage, espionage, and violations of draft laws and with conducting wartime counterintelligence efforts against the Central Powers. After the war, heightened concerns about foreign sabotage and internal security led to the “Red Scare” of 1919 and 1920. In 1919 Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer created the General Intelligence Division (GID) to investigate American radicals. Led by a Justice Department attorney named J. Edgar Hoover, the GID targeted anarchists, Communists, trade union activists, civil rights activists, and foreign resident agitators. In the so-called Palmer Raids of January 2 and 6, 1920, special agents and local police arrested thousands of Communists and suspected sympathizers across the country. However, the bureau came under sharp criticism when an independent review uncovered a range of abuses during the raids, including illegal searches and seizures, warrantless arrests, denial of legal counsel, and poor detainment conditions.

B) Hoover’s Reforms

In 1924 Hoover, by then assistant director of the FBI, was named director, and he instituted a series of reforms to restore professionalism and public support for the agency. By firing employees he considered unqualified and carefully choosing replacements, Hoover built a cadre of quality agents. He instituted many innovations in law enforcement, such as extensive training for agents and systematized reporting and filing of information. He also pioneered the use of scientific analysis as a tool of law enforcement, establishing the Technical Laboratory (now called the FBI Laboratory) in 1932. Hoover required agents to advise suspects of their rights when they were arrested, long before the Supreme Court’s 1966 decision in the Miranda v. Arizona case imposed the same requirement upon other American law enforcement agencies. During Hoover’s early years as director, the bureau’s agents developed a reputation for accuracy, honesty, and tenacity

In the 1930s Congress made a number of crimes federal offenses, significantly expanding the bureau’s authority. In response to the kidnapping of the infant son of famed aviator Charles Lindbergh, Congress in 1932 passed the so-called Lindbergh Act, which made kidnapping a federal crime if the victim was transported across state lines. The law allowed the bureau to take control of the investigation and, eventually, to capture the kidnapper. After a series of highly publicized gangster crimes, in 1934 Congress made federal crimes of bank robbery, extortion, interstate racketeering, assault or murder of federal officials, transportation of stolen property across state lines, and interstate flight of felons. It also empowered special agents to execute warrants, carry firearms, and make arrests (previously agents had to rely on federal marshals or local police to make arrests). During 1934, federal agents tracked down and killed three notorious gangsters: John Dillinger, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and Lester Gillis (aka “Baby Face” Nelson). Hoover’s “G-men,” as agents were often called, became American folk heroes. The term G-man, an abbreviation for “government man,” was allegedly coined by gangster George “Machine Gun” Kelly, who was wanted by the bureau for kidnapping Charles F. Urschel, a wealthy oil executive, in 1933. When apprehended by special agents, Kelly reportedly exclaimed, “Don’t shoot, G-men! Don’t shoot!” and gave himself up. Whether or not the story is true, the term soon entered the language of popular culture.

C) World War II and Postwar Era

With the rise of fascist movements in Europe during the late 1930s and the continuing Great Depression in the United States, many policy makers feared the spread of fascism and Communism in the United States. In 1936 President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, with the cooperation of the State Department, secretly directed Hoover to investigate “subversive” movements in the United States. Three years later Roosevelt issued another secret directive giving the FBI the authority to investigate espionage, counterespionage, and related activities. The Smith Act of 1940, which outlawed the advocacy of the violent overthrow of the American government, also expanded the range of activities investigated by the FBI. During World War II (1939-1945), FBI agents tracked suspected spies, investigated sabotage, and pursued draft violators and military deserters. The FBI Laboratory cooperated with other federal agencies to decipher coded messages sent by enemy forces and governments abroad.

After the end of World War II, many American leaders believed that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and Communism posed the greatest threat to American interests. As the United States and the Soviet Union entered the Cold War, the FBI shifted its focus to domestic security, escalating its counterintelligence activities and its monitoring of Communist groups and sympathizers. It arrested many leaders of the U.S. Communist Party, who were then prosecuted under the Smith Act. The FBI investigated allegations of disloyalty among federal employees in response to executive orders from Presidents Harry S. Truman and Dwight Eisenhower. By leaking information in confidential FBI files, the agency also provided covert assistance to the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) in the late 1940s and later to Senator Joseph McCarthy, who charged that Communists had infiltrated the U.S. government. Throughout this period, the FBI monitored suspected Soviet agents and worked to thwart their efforts to recruit Americans as spies. Its most famous spy case involved Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who were arrested by the FBI in 1950 for espionage. The two were convicted of passing to the Soviet Union secret information about the design of atomic weapons, and they were executed in 1953.

Many critics believe the FBI’s heavy emphasis on counterintelligence operations during World War II and the Cold War came at the expense of criminal investigations. The FBI spent much of its time recovering stolen cars, apprehending military deserters, and chasing down minor government thieves so Hoover could show Congress that the agency was making a high number of arrests. At the same time, the FBI virtually ignored more serious threats, such as organized crime, corruption involving public officials, financial crime, and terrorism. Hoover shied away from undercover investigations and drug trafficking inquiries, fearing they might invite controversy. “Don’t embarrass the bureau” was his constant dictum and often led to cover-ups within the FBI.

D) Antiradical Activities

In 1956 Hoover authorized the first in a series of secret FBI operations, code-named COINTELPRO (a contraction of the term counterintelligence program), aimed at disrupting the activities of a variety of political groups in the United States. The first COINTELPRO program targeted the U.S. Communist Party and suspected sympathizers. During the 1960s Hoover authorized more COINTELPRO programs to discredit and disrupt other organizations and movements, including black nationalist groups and civil rights organizations, socialist organizations, white supremacist groups, and New Left groups opposed to the Vietnam War (1959-1975). Under these programs and others, the FBI illegally broke into homes and businesses, engaged in wiretapping without proper authorization, collected derogatory information for political reasons, leaked unfavorable information to the media, and sent anonymous mailings to promote dissension within a group or between rival groups. Hoover also ordered aggressive surveillance of civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and tried to discredit King by disseminating derogatory information about him to the media, Congress, and others.

Despite these abuses, in the mid-1960s the FBI became more aggressive in pursuing civil rights violations and terrorism against civil rights workers. The FBI brought to justice the murderers of three civil rights workers in Mississippi in 1964. It also professionally investigated King’s assassination in 1968. The FBI found the fingerprint of James Earl Ray on the rifle that killed King. That allowed the FBI to identify Ray as the killer and apprehend him.

During the 1960s, Hoover increasingly used the resources of the FBI to preserve his own power. He kept detailed files on prominent politicians, including presidents and members of Congress. Hoover engaged in implicit blackmail by letting them know the bureau was aware of their sexual indiscretions and their other improprieties. Hoover also used the FBI for his own personal benefit. FBI employees added a front portico and a rear deck to Hoover’s home in Washington, D.C. They also painted his house each year, maintained his yard, built a fish pond, and constructed shelves and other conveniences for him. FBI employees reset Hoover’s clocks and prepared his tax returns. Today, a director who used taxpayer funds to maintain his home would be prosecuted. But no one dared to criticize Hoover or question whether he had outlived his usefulness.

E) Scandal and Reform After Hoover

Hoover died in 1972, almost 48 years after he first became director of the FBI. (A 1968 law limited the terms of future FBI directors to 10 years.) The Senate’s Watergate investigations of 1973 and 1974 revealed President Richard Nixon’s misuse of the FBI for his own political purposes. For example, Nixon had had the FBI wiretap prominent news reporters, White House aides, and other government officials, and he asked the agency to collect damaging information on his critics. In addition, Nixon’s chosen successor for Hoover, acting FBI director L. Patrick Gray, admitted in 1973 that he destroyed Watergate-related evidence and that he regularly showed White House counsel John Dean FBI files on the Watergate investigation; Gray subsequently resigned. Other revelations of FBI misconduct surfaced at around the same time, including COINTELPRO, Hoover’s vendetta against Martin Luther King, Jr., and the fact that Hoover had maintained a secret office file containing damaging personal information on presidents, cabinet officials, members of Congress, and other prominent Americans. The disclosures of abuses hurt the FBI’s image as a highly professional agency. Whereas 84 percent of the public had a “highly favorable” opinion of the FBI in 1966, by 1975 this figure had fallen to only 37 percent.

In response to the reports of misconduct, the U.S. Senate and House in 1975 each established special committees to investigate abuses in the FBI, CIA, and other American intelligence agencies. The committees detailed the FBI’s abuses of power and illegal investigative techniques, criticized its lack of oversight, and recommended reforms, many of which were carried out. Among other reforms, the FBI implemented guidelines that limited the agency to investigating criminal conduct rather than divergent political beliefs. Acknowledging that some of the bureau’s activities had been “clearly wrong and quite indefensible,” Clarence M. Kelley, who became FBI director in 1973, said that the FBI should never again occupy the “unique position that permitted improper activity without accountability.” Thereafter, Congress supervised the agency more closely; both the Senate and House established permanent intelligence committees to monitor the FBI’s activity.

William H. Webster, a former federal judge and prosecutor, became FBI director in 1978. Under Webster the agency conducted complex investigations of espionage, organized crime, and white-collar crime. For example, in the late 1970s, in an undercover operation code-named ABSCAM, FBI agents uncovered political corruption of members of Congress, resulting in the convictions of six U.S. representatives, one U.S. senator, and many local officials. Webster complied with many of the reforms that were instituted following the congressional probes, but he was criticized for authorizing the investigation of a left-wing group, the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES), that raised money in the United States for humanitarian aid to El Salvador. Although the FBI’s investigation of the group was not illegal, it improperly delved into political activities that fell outside of the jurisdiction of the FBI.

Congress expanded the responsibilities of the FBI throughout the 1980s. After President Ronald Reagan made a “war on drugs” a policy priority, Congress granted the FBI concurrent jurisdiction with the Drug Enforcement Administration to investigate narcotics violations in the United States. After a number of terrorist acts killed Americans traveling or working abroad, Congress expanded the FBI’s jurisdiction in 1986 to include terrorist acts against American citizens conducted outside of United States territory. During the savings and loan crisis of the 1980s, the FBI investigated hundreds of bank failures and uncovered evidence of widespread fraud.

F) Ruby Ridge and Waco Incidents

In the early 1990s the FBI’s involvement in two violent standoffs—the Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents—raised new questions about its operations and use of deadly force. In the Ruby Ridge incident, federal marshals traveled to a remote mountain cabin near Ruby Ridge, Idaho, in August 1992 to arrest white separatist and anti-government activist Randall (Randy) Weaver, who was wanted on a weapons charge. A shootout ensued in which a federal marshal and Weaver’s son were killed. The next day, FBI sharpshooters surrounded Weaver’s cabin, with authorization to “shoot on sight” any armed adult in the vicinity of the cabin. One of the sharpshooters shot and killed Weaver’s unarmed wife and wounded Weaver and a friend. Weaver was later acquitted of all major weapons charges and received a government settlement of $3.1 million, in which the government admitted no wrongdoing. Investigations by the Justice Department and Congress condemned the agency’s use of excessive force and resulted in disciplinary actions against FBI officials.

In the Waco incident in 1993, agents from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) launched a raid on the compound of the Branch Davidian religious sect in Waco, Texas, whose members were suspected of purchasing illegal weapons. During an ensuing gunfight, four ATF agents were killed, 16 agents were wounded, and a number of Branch Davidians were killed or wounded, although it is not known for certain how many. On April 19, 1993, following a 51-day standoff with the sect, FBI agents launched a tear-gas assault on the compound to force the Branch Davidians out. A fire soon engulfed the compound, resulting in the deaths of more than 80 Branch Davidians, including many children. Although the FBI was severely criticized in the aftermath of the tragedy, a federal judge and a special counsel concluded in 2000 that the Branch Davidians had deliberately started the fire and that federal agents were not responsible for their deaths. Critics maintained, however, that the FBI could have been more patient in ending the standoff.

The Ruby Ridge and Waco incidents led the FBI to institute several reforms. The agency revised its policy on deadly force to permit such force “only in the face of imminent death or serious physical injury to the officer or another person.” It also revised its procedures for reviewing shooting incidents to ensure an impartial investigation, and it changed its policies for managing crisis situations.

G) The FBI Under Freeh

In January 1993 the FBI suffered another scandal when allegations surfaced that William S. Sessions, who had become FBI director in 1987, had committed numerous ethics violations while in office. According to the allegations, later confirmed by a Justice Department investigation, Sessions took personal trips in the bureau’s plane, used FBI resources to construct a security fence around his home, and allowed his wife improper access to FBI headquarters. President Bill Clinton fired Sessions in July 1993 after he refused to resign. Louis J. Freeh, a former prosecutor, judge, and FBI agent, was appointed FBI director in 1993 following Sessions’s ouster. Freeh focused on expanding the bureau’s international presence and increasing the number of overseas offices.

The FBI also confronted new threats from terrorism. The FBI successfully investigated the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, ultimately resulting in the conviction of six Islamic radicals for the bombing and ten other Islamic radicals for conspiring to blow up New York City landmarks. The FBI quickly solved the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, arresting antigovernment activists Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols. The bombing killed 168 people. In 1996 the agency identified Theodore Kaczynski as the so-called Unabomber, the man responsible for killing 3 people and injuring 23 others in a 17-year bombing campaign against industry, academia, and the airlines. In 1998 bombs were detonated at the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 223 people and injuring thousands. The FBI’s investigation traced the bombings to a conspiracy by Islamic radicals to kill American citizens outside the United States. These bombings, combined with the earlier bombings on United States soil, increased the agency’s emphasis on domestic and international counterterrorism programs.

Alongside its successes, the FBI came under attack for its practices at the FBI Laboratory. In 1995 an FBI Laboratory chemist, Frederic Whitehurst, alleged that laboratory staff engaged in sloppy practices, fabricated evidence, and bent their findings to benefit prosecutions. A Justice Department investigation of laboratory practices, completed in 1997, failed to substantiate most of Whitehurst’s charges, but the investigation faulted laboratory examiners for substandard work, scientifically flawed reports, and misleading trial testimony, some of which tended to incriminate defendants. The FBI ordered reforms in report preparation, evidence handling, management, and other areas.

The FBI was also heavily criticized for its investigation of a bombing at the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. During the course of the inquiry, FBI agents identified an Atlanta security guard, Richard Jewell, as the prime suspect in the bombing. The security guard was never charged with a crime and was ultimately cleared of wrongdoing. But Freeh and the FBI were criticized for allegedly leaking the suspect’s name to the media and for conducting initial questioning of the security guard under false pretenses.

The FBI’s counterespionage operations came under renewed scrutiny in a series of highly publicized spy cases. In 1984 Richard W. Miller became the first FBI agent arrested (and later convicted) for espionage. In 1994 the FBI arrested Aldrich H. Ames, a veteran CIA official, for selling secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia. The agency was criticized for not acting earlier to apprehend Ames. In 1996 another FBI agent, Earl E. Pitts, was arrested for selling classified FBI counterintelligence information to Russia; he was convicted in 1997. In 1999 the FBI arrested and jailed Wen Ho Lee, a scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory, on charges of illegally copying nuclear weapons design secrets from Los Alamos computers. When the government agreed to drop all but one of its charges against Lee, critics assailed the FBI and director Freeh for presuming Lee guilty of spying despite weak evidence. In 2001 the FBI arrested Robert P. Hanssen, a veteran FBI counterintelligence agent, on charges that he had sold national security secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia for 15 years. The FBI ordered an independent review of how Hanssen escaped detection and said it would administer polygraph tests to agents in key national security positions

Freeh retired as FBI director in 2001, two years before the end of his ten-year term. President George W. Bush appointed Robert S. Mueller III, a longtime federal prosecutor, as the new director. Mueller was unanimously confirmed by the Senate.

H) September 11 Attacks

On September 11, 2001, just over a month into Mueller’s tenure, a team of airplane hijackers carried out the deadliest terrorist attack in United States history, completely destroying the World Trade Center and severely damaging the Pentagon, the U.S. military headquarters outside of Washington, D.C. More than 3,000 people died in the attacks. The FBI launched the largest investigation in its history and soon determined that the hijackers were linked to al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic group led by Saudi exile Osama bin Laden (see September 11 Attacks). Later that year, the agency investigated the mailing of several letters containing potentially lethal anthrax bacteria to media companies and political offices, but it was unable to identify any suspects.

In 2003 a congressional inquiry into the September 11 attacks issued a report that criticized the FBI and CIA for failing to share critical pieces of intelligence with each other and for overlooking important clues to the terrorist plot. For example, the inquiry found that FBI headquarters failed to heed warnings from its Phoenix office about terrorist suspects seeking to enroll in flight training schools or to act properly on a request from its Minneapolis office to conduct a search of an alleged conspirator in the terrorist attacks. In response to the report, Mueller noted that the FBI was already a “changed organization” that had restructured to make prevention of terrorist attacks its highest priority and that had improved coordination with the CIA and state and local law enforcement.

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