- Federal Bureau Of Investigation
- (FBI)The FBI began in 1908 as a corps of special agents within the Department of Justice to investigate crime at a federal level. In 1909, it was named the Bureau of Investigation. Following U.S. entry into World War I, the bureau became responsible for investigating violations of the Selective Service Acts, Espionage Act, and Sabotage Act. The Justice Department widened its brief with the creation of a General Intelligence Division headed by J. Edgar Hoover. The Federal Bureau was created in 1924 to investigate violations of federal law with Hoover as its head, a position he held until his death in 1972.During the 1930s, the FBI grew in national prominence following the implementation of an anticrime program to combat the apparent rise in gangsterism publicized by such people as John Dillinger, George “Machine Gun” Kelly, Charles “Pretty Boy” Floyd, and Bonnie and Clyde (Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow), criminals who were often seen as “Robin Hood” figures by the public. Justice Department media campaigns showed FBI agents (“G-men”), including Hoover, in action against “public enemies.” By the end of the decade the bureau had more than 750 agents and offices in 42 cities and a budget that had doubled to more than $6 million. In 1935, it was officially named the Federal Bureau of Investigation.With the rise of Nazism in Europe and the approach of World War II, the powers of the bureau were extended to provide surveillance of subversive organizations and after 1941 to safeguard against acts of espionage and sabotage. The FBI was responsible for the apprehension of eight Nazi saboteurs who landed in 1942, and they were also involved in the internment of Japanese Americans, a policy Hoover disagreed with.During the Cold War, the bureau was involved in the investigation of communist subversion at home, including the breaking and entering into the offices of the journal Amerasia. Agents arrested six people in 1945, providing material for the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings and later for Joseph McCarthy and in the trials of Whittaker Chambers, Alger Hiss, and Ethel and Julius Rosenberg. The concern for security led to the agency’s expansion, and by 1952 the FBI had a force of more than 7,000 agents.In later years, the FBI was involved in surveillance of civil rights leaders, including Martin Luther King Jr.; antiwar demonstrators and their supporters during the war in Vietnam; and organized crime. The agency’s reputation was increasingly tarnished by revelations of illegal activities, institutional racism, and conservatism, and in the mid-1970s it was increasingly subjected to congressional oversight. It was further damaged following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City on 11 September 2001, and the subsequent discovery that the bureau had failed to coordinate with other agencies or follow up on reports from its own field agents of suspicious activities that might have prevented the attacks. Nonetheless, at the start of the 21st century it remains the most important federal domestic investigative branch of the Department of Justice, with a staff of more than 10,000 agents and a budget of almost $3 billion.
Historical Dictionary of the Roosevelt–Truman Era . Neil A. Wynn . 2015.