Case Analysis

History of the FBI: 1930-2000s

Contributor Mimic has provided us with an interesting collection of articles about the very employer of Mulder, Scully, Doggett, and Reyes, the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

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World War II and Post-War America - 1930's to 1960's

With a war building in Europe, the role of the FBI expanded once again. More Agents were trained in general intelligence work, and one Special Agent at each of the 42 field offices received training in defense plant protection. Subversion, sabotage, and espionage were investigated using leads developed through intelligence networks. Fascist and Communist groups were scrutinized throughout the late 1930's as the US tried to maintain the neutrality acts which were passed a few years previously. When Congress reestablished the draft in 1940, the Bureau was put in charge of locating draft dodgers and deserters. The FBI Technical Laboratory played a key role in intelligence collection for the United States. As the years built up toward America's involvement in the war, the FBI investigated sabotage attempts, successfully preventing one attempt and spending two years uncovering a German espionage ring. These successes helped to increase public faith in the Bureau.

When Pearl Harbor was attacked on December 7, 1941, the FBI office in Washington and all field offices were placed on 24-hour war mode. People who had previously been identified as national security threats were arrested. National Academy graduates completed an abbreviated course before joining the ranks of the FBI, increasing the numbers of Bureau employees from 7400 to over 13,000, including about 4000 agents by the end of 1943. Most personnel continued their usual war-time investigations, except for a special group of agents attached to the Special Intelligence Service. Based in Latin America, their job was to destroy the Axis intelligence and propaganda networks. Despite the fact that hundreds of thousands of Germans and Japanese lived in South America, the SIS was so successful that by 1944 support for the Axis became intolerable or impractical.

The end of World War II brought increased fears about the possible spread of Communism in the United States, and therefore expanded duties for the FBI. Presidents Truman and Eisenhower both extended further authority to the Bureau for conducting background checks and investigating allegations of disloyalty among federal employees. While the agency requesting an FBI investigation was responsible for making a final determination, the Bureau's work was seen as vital to cracking espionage cases. Increases in jurisdiction allowed agents to assist state and local law enforcement. New laws declaring racketeering and gambling to be federal offenses once again expanded the FBI's responsibilities. The Supreme Court's interpretation of existing civil rights laws was so narrow, even some of the most horrible crimes didn't fall under the Bureau's umbrella of investigation. The Civil Rights Act of 1960 allowed the FBI to investigate civil rights violations as federal crimes. By the end of the 1960's, Bureau personnel included 6703 Special Agents and 9320 support employees in 58 field offices across the country.

The Vietnam War Era and the Rise of International Crime - 1960's to 1980's

Another expansion of FBI jurisdiction occurred at the beginning of the 1960's when President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. At that time, no federal law covered the assassination of a president; it was considered a local crime. Nevertheless, acting President Lyndon Johnson requested that the Bureau investigate the matter and Congress set about enacting legislation which made any future acts of violence against the Commander in Chief a federal crime.

The sixties and early seventies saw an increase in urban crime. Objections to the military action in Viet Nam resulted in letters to Congress and peaceful demonstrations, but in 1970 alone, the country also experienced some 3000 bombings and 50,000 bomb threats. This plethora of crime, violence, civil rights issues and national security issues kept the FBI extremely busy. In 1970, they investigated the shooting of four college students by National Guardsmen at Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, followed a few months later by the bombing of the Army Math Research Center at the University of Wisconsin which killed one student and injured three others. Things seemed to settle down a bit after that, the majority of anti-war protestors preferring peaceful means to loss of life.

J. Edgar Hoover died on May 2, 1972 at the age of 77, with nearly 48 years as Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The next day, L. Patrick Gray was chosen as Acting Director. He quickly set about appointing the first female Special Agents since the 1920's. (Hoover had always believed that federal law enforcement was no career for a woman.) Gray might have remained in place for a full term if the Watergate scandal hadn't occurred within months of his appointment. As the White House attempted to cover up its role, the FBI's Acting Director was inadvertently drawn in as well. When Gray's involvement came to light, he redrew his name from the Senate's consideration for Director. Hours later, he was replaced by William Ruckleshaus, who was then replaced three months later by Clarence Kelley in July 1973. Following the resignation of both President Nixon and Vice-President Agnew in 1974, Kelley worked to restore public trust in the Bureau. His administration made a concerted effort to add more women and minorities to the ranks of Special Agents. He encouraged field offices to develop priorities based on the types of cases most important in their region, establishing the concept of "Quality over Quantity." As a whole, the FBI defined three national priorities: Foreign counterintelligence, organized crime and white-collar crime. They also increased the use of undercover operations for the investigation of major cases.

William H. Webster replaced Clarence Kelley in 1978, bringing with him a mandate to make counterterrorism a fourth national priority in response to a rapid increase of terrorism worldwide beginning in the early 1980's. In an effort to also expand the previous priorities under Director Kelley, Webster created the National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime. The FBI received authority to work concurrently with the Drug Enforcement Agency, resulting in the arrests of major drug suppliers, the dismantling of drug rings and confiscation of millions of dollars in narcotics. Investigation of white-collar crime was increased, including the wide-spread failure of savings and loans which began with ten bank failures in 1981 and reached 282 failures by 1987. The FBI unveiled their new Hostage Rescue Team in 1984 -- a force capable of responding to domestic terrorism incidents. In 1986, FBI jurisdiction was expanded to cover terrorist acts against US citizens in foreign countries.

In May of 1987, Webster was replaced by John E. Otto for only a few months, but still long enough for Otto to make drug investigations the FBI's fifth national priority. Otto was replaced in November of '87 by former federal judge William Steele Sessions. During his administration, previously established crime prevention efforts were expanded to include a drug reduction program that helped educate young people about the dangers of drug use. A larger workforce was needed to implement the new initiatives, resulting in 9663 Special Agents and 13,651 support personnel by the end of 1988.

After the End of the Cold War - 1989 to the present

With the dismantling of the Berlin Wall at the end of 1989, the Bureau redirected some 300 Special Agents from foreign counterintelligence to cover what Director Sessions had designated as the FBI's sixth national priority, violent crime investigations. Response to white collar crimes was strengthened, with further resources being redirected to insider bank fraud, financial crimes, and health care fraud. The earlier focus on containment of communism and protecting against the threat of nuclear war shifted to curtailing improper collection of trade secrets, protecting US intelligence information, and various types of weapons threats. As the end of the decade moved into the '90's, the FBI helped to change the face of criminal investigations with the development of DNA markers as a far more inclusive means of identification than fingerprints. The acceptance of DNA by the courts led to the creation of a national database similar to the one used for indexing fingerprints.

Two stand-offs in the early 1990's, one at Ruby Ridge, Idaho, and another at a compound outside Waco, Texas, resulted in the deaths of five Federal Agents as well as one civilian in Idaho and 80 in Texas. Public outcry was followed by congressional hearings on the FBI's ability to handle crisis situations. In 1993, President Clinton replaced William Sessions as Director of the FBI and appointed Floyd I. Clark as Acting Director. Clinton did note, however, that Sessions had made an important contribution to the Bureau by increasing the ranks of personnel to include more women and minorities. Just a few months later, Louis J. Freeh was sworn in as the new Director of the FBI.

Internationally, the '90's saw a further expanding of the Bureau's influence, beginning with Director Freeh leading a group of US diplomats and law enforcement personnel to a meeting with senior officials of eleven European nations to discuss international crime. Appropriately, July 4, 1994, witnessed the opening of an FBI attaché office in Moscow, Russia, the former seat of Communism. The Bureau intensified training of international police and, in 1995, unveiled the International Law Enforcement Academy in Budapest, Hungary.

At home, focus on specific areas of crime resulted in successful investigations involving the World Trade Center Bombing in 1993, the bombing in Oklahoma of the Murrah Federal Building in 1995, and the arrest of UNABOMBER Ted Kaczinsky in 1996. The aftermath of the Ruby Ridge and Waco hearings led to the creation of the Critical Incident Response Group to deal with crisis situations. With computers becoming more common in homes, divisions were created within the Bureau to handle cyber crime, including computer viruses and malicious software, as well as pedophilia crimes fueled by access to child pornography online.

In 2001, Director Freeh was replaced by Robert S. Mueller III, who continues to serve in that position. One week after being sworn, the World Trade Center was attacked again, this time with more devastating results which extended to the Pentagon and a plane crash in Pennsylvania. Along with other law enforcement, the FBI was thrown into the investigation of the attacks. Revised investigative guidelines were issued which resulted in Mueller calling for a restructuring of the Bureau's operations to focus on prevention of terrorist attacks. In addition to their new mandate, the FBI remains committed to protecting civil rights, fighting organized and white collar crimes, and investigating acts of violent crime. They have also strengthened their support of other law enforcement, both domestic and international, and remain committed to their core value of conducting all Bureau business to the highest ethical standards.

Federal Bureau of Investigation: Official Site
Wikipedia: FBI History