Date Founded: July 26, 1908
Mission When Founded: To act as the investigative arm of the Attorney General's Office
Mission During the War: The FBI enforced federal law, and conducted intelligence gathering and counter-intelligence operations both in the United States and the rest of the Western hemisphere.
Jurisdiction: Anywhere within the borders of the United States; Western Hemisphere.
Headquarters: United States Department of Justice Building, Washington DC
# of Personnel: 7,420 (1941 - during the war years the Bureau expanded rapidly; by 1943 this figure had risen to 13,317)
Annual Budget: ?
History/Profile: The FBI was originally conceived of as a special Corp of agents within the Department of Justice, and was comprised chiefly of ex-detectives and secret service men. Initially without a name, the original 34 agents were made a permanent part of the Department of Justice on March 16, 1909, and christened the Bureau of Investigation.
Agents received no training, and so previous law-enforcement experience was considered desirable. The Bureau's role was entirely investigative at this stage, and tended to focus on financial crimes, on account of the fact few Federal crimes existed. As the scope of Federal law increased however, so too did the Bureau's. Field Offices were established in major cities and around the Mexican Border, each under a Special Agent in Charge. As a consequence of the August 1917 entry of the United States into the First World War, the Bureau was handed responsibility for domestic counter-intelligence work.
By the early twenties, the Bureau had acquired a not undeserved reputation for corruption. Budgetary incompetence was rife, many appointments to the Bureau were political in nature, and there were strong concerns that the Bureau's General Intelligence Division was spying on US citizens under the guise of anti-subversion operations and selling the information for political and/or financial gain.
Then, in 1924, J Edgar Hoover was appointed director of the Bureau. When Hoover took over, he was told by Attorney General Harlan Stone that he was to both cut staff and drastically reduce his operating costs. Stone also made it clear that the Bureau was to stop collecting political and personal information on US Citizens and instead focus its efforts on investigating crime.
Hoover promptly fired the agents he considered unqualified or unprofessional. Those that remained were retrained, with an emphasis not just on policework, but on new Bureau procedures and a behaviour code. Hoover established a strict promotion on merit system, and introduced uniform performance appraisals. New Agents were to be between 25 and 35 years old, and have had some kind of formal legal or accountancy training. In 1928 he introduced a formal training course for new agents; by 1932 the FBI had it's own technical laboratory, and in 1935 the FBI National Academy was opened to police officials from all over the United States.
By the 1930's the Bureau had for the most part shrugged off its corrupt, bully-boy image. New legislation expanded the Bureau's law enforcement powers and responsibilities. In 1932, Congress passed a federal kidnapping statute in response to the Lindbergh baby affair, giving the FBI jurisdiction over kidnapping cases. Then in May and June 1934, it passed a number of federal crime laws that significantly enhanced the Bureau's jurisdiction by giving them ultimate authority in matters concerning interstate criminal activity. Congress also gave Bureau Agents statutory authority to carry guns and make arrests. The Bureau of Investigation was renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation on July 1, 1932, then again in 1935 as the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It was around this time that Bureau Agents began to be referred to as 'G-men'.
In August 1936 Hoover was called to a meeting at the White House with President Roosevelt. With war looming in Europe, Roosevelt wanted to discuss the issue of "subversive activities in the United States, particularly Fascism and Communism". He asked Hoover to discreetly provide him with a "broad picture" of both movements. Hoover took this as his que to resurrect the work of the General Intelligence Division, and to resume domestic surveillance activities against citizens of the United States. A 1939 Directive from Roosevelt further strengthened the Bureau's authority to investigate subversive activity in the US, and Congress reinforced it by passing the Smith Act a year later, which outlawed advocacy of violent overthrow of the government. By 1941, Hoover considered the Bureau ready for war.
The Bureau's chief concern during wartime was counter-intelligence, although they continued their other activities as well. Their effectiveness in this area, however, was questionable. High-profile arrests such as the eight German saboteurs turned in by one of their own landed in Hoover's lap through luck rather than the effort of any of his agents, and several major German spy-rings successfully evaded detection. Hoover also disliked working with British Intelligence because he felt they were loyal to his rival William Donovan, whilst the British considered Hoover to be a good policeman, but a poor director of counter-intelligence.
The Bureau was also responsible for intelligence-gathering; it ran intelligence and counter-intelligence operations in Central and South America through the medium of the Secret Intelligence Service (SIS), established by President Roosevelt in 1940. The SIS enjoyed some significant successes during the war, and with the surrender of Germany and Japan in 1945, Hoover hoped that on the basis of those activities, he would be allowed to establish the Bureau as a world wide intelligence organisation. He was, however, unsuccessful.
Most controversially of all, the Bureau was behind the wartime internment of subversives and aliens considered a risk to national security. The Bureau drafted the Custodial Detention List of individuals who should be rounded up in case of war as early as 1939 and then later implemented it. The large-scale internment of Japanese Nationals and American-Japanese civilians living on the West Coast was particularly galling in retrospect, although Hoover later claimed that he had considered these arrests unnecessary, and had only proceeded under orders from the President and Attorney General. The Bureau were also responsible for the apprehension of draft dodgers once the Draft act was re-established in late 1940.
FBI Special Agent (G-man): Bargain, Fast Talk, Law, Listen, Handgun, Persuade, Spot Hidden, plus three of the following as personal specialities: Drive Auto, Accounting, Library Use, Psychology, Martial arts, Shotgun, Rifle
FBI forensics expert: Biology, Chemistry, Forensics, Law, Medicine, Pharmacy, Physics, Spot Hidden
SIS Agent: Conceal, Credit Rating, Fast Talk, Listen, Other Language, Psychology, Spot Hidden plus any three of the following as personal specialities: Locksmith, Bargain, Handgun, Martial arts, Persuade, Photography, Sneak, Law, Accounting
Sample CharacterDick Liddell, age 28
Written by Nick Brownlow
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