Federal Bureau of Investigation

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Federal Bureau of Investigation

(FBI), division of the U.S. Dept. of JusticeJustice, United States Department of,
federal executive department established in 1870 and charged with providing the means for enforcing federal laws, furnishing legal counsel in federal cases, and construing the laws under which other federal executive departments act.
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 charged with investigating all violations of federal laws except those assigned to some other federal agency. The FBI has jurisdiction over some 185 investigative matters, among them espionage, sabotage, and other subversive activities; kidnapping; extortion; bank robbery; interstate transportation of stolen property; civil-rights matters; interstate gambling violations; and fraud against the government. Created (1908) as the Bureau of Investigation, it originally conducted investigations only for the Justice Dept. After J. Edgar HooverHoover, J. Edgar
(John Edgar Hoover), 1895–1972, American administrator, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), b. Washington, D.C. Shortly after he was admitted to the bar, he entered (1917) the Dept.
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 became (1924) director of the Bureau of Investigation, Congress gradually added one duty after another to the jurisdiction of the bureau and reorganized (1933) it with wider powers as the Division of Investigation in the Dept. of Justice. In 1935 it was designated the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI played an important role in raising the standards of local police units through its FBI Academy. Under Hoover's direction, it battled against such roving outlaws as John DillingerDillinger, John
, 1902–34, American bank robber, probably b. Indianapolis. Paroled after serving a prison term for attempted robbery, Dillinger organized a gang and terrorized the Midwest in 1933.
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 and "Pretty Boy" Floyd as well as against the organized crime of the prohibitionprohibition,
legal prevention of the manufacture, transportation, and sale of alcoholic beverages, the extreme of the regulatory liquor laws. The modern movement for prohibition had its main growth in the United States and developed largely as a result of the agitation of
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 era. From World War I on, the agency also was active in intelligence work, investigating anarchists such as Emma GoldmanGoldman, Emma,
1869–1940, American anarchist, b. Lithuania. She emigrated to Rochester, N.Y., in 1886 and worked there in clothing factories. After 1889 she was active in the anarchist movement, and her speeches attracted attention throughout the United States.
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 and other political radicals, socialists, and Communists, Nazi saboteurs, and terrorists such as Osama bin Ladenbin Laden, Osama or Usama
, 1957?–2011, Saudi-born leader of Al Qaeda, a terrorist organization devoted to uniting all Muslims and establishing a transnational, strict-fundamentalist Islamic state.
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.

During Hoover's final years as director (he served until his death in 1972), the bureau became highly controversial and was the frequent target of attack from a wide variety of liberal groups. During the Watergate affairWatergate affair,
in U.S. history, series of scandals involving the administration of President Richard M. Nixon; more specifically, the burglarizing of the Democratic party national headquarters in the Watergate apartment complex in Washington, D.C.
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 it was revealed that the FBI had yielded to pressure from top White House officials, acting on behalf of President Richard M. Nixon, to halt their investigation of the Watergate break-in. The FBI subsequently cooperated with the White House "inquiry" into the break-in, which was actually attempting a cover-up, and FBI Acting Director L. Patrick Gray destroyed files belonging to one of the convicted Watergate conspirators, E. Howard Hunt. Gray resigned (Apr., 1973) after his role became public. In June, 1973, Clarence M. Kelley was named director. He was followed by William H. Webster (1978–87), William S. Sessions (1987–93), Louis J. Freeh (1993–2001), and Robert S. Mueller 3d (2001–).

Bibliography

See H. A. Overstreet, The FBI in Our Open Society (1969); W. W. Turner, Hoover's FBI (1970); R. O. Wright, ed., Whose FBI? (1974); J. T. Elliff, The Reform of the FBI Intelligence Activities (1979); F. M. Sorrentino, Ideological Warfare: The F.B.I.'s Path toward Power (1985); B. Burrough, Public Enemies: America's Greatest Crime Wave and the Birth of the FBI: 1933–34 (2004); T. Weiner, Enemies: A History of the F.B.I. (2012).

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