The agency now known as the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) was founded in 1908 when Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte appointed an unnamed force of Special Agents to be the investigative force of the Department of Justice (DOJ). Prior to that time, DOJ borrowed Agents from the U.S. Secret Service to investigate violations of federal criminal laws within its jurisdiction.
By order of Attorney General George W. Wickersham, the Special Agent force was named the Bureau of Investigation in 1909. Following a series of changes in name, the Federal Bureau of Investigation officially received its present title in 1935.
During the early period of the FBI’s history, its Agents investigated violations of some of the comparatively few existing federal criminal violations, such as bankruptcy, frauds, antitrust crime, and neutrality violations. The first major expansion of the Bureau’s jurisdiction came in 1910 when the Mann Act (White Slave) was passed. It provided a tool by which the federal government could investigate criminals who evaded state laws but had no other federal violations. During World War I, the Bureau was given responsibility for espionage, sabotage, sedition, and draft violations. Passage of the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act in 1919 further broadened the Bureau’s jurisdiction.
The Gangster Era began after passage of Prohibition in 1920. A number of highly visible criminals engaged in kidnapping and bank robbery, which were not federal crimes at that time. This changed in 1932 with passage of a federal kidnapping statute. In 1934, many additional federal criminal statutes were passed, and Congress gave Special Agents the authority to make arrests and to carry firearms.
The FBI’s size and jurisdiction during World War II increased greatly and included intelligence matters in South America. With the end of that war and the advent of the Atomic Age, the FBI began conducting background security investigations for the White House and other government agencies, as well as probes into internal security matters for the Executive Branch.
Civil rights violations and organized crime became major concerns of the FBI in the 1960’s, as did counterterrorism, white-collar crime, drugs, and violent crimes during 1970’s and 1980’s.
The 1990’s brought even more investigative responsibilities to the Bureau–like computer crimes, health care fraud, economic espionage, and threats from weapons of mass destruction.
The FBI is the principal investigative arm of the United States Department of Justice. Title 28, United States Code, Section 533, which authorizes the Attorney General to appoint officials to detect…crimes against the United States, and other federal statutes give the FBI the authority and responsibility to investigate specific crimes. At present, the FBI has investigative jurisdiction over violations of more than 200 categories of federal crimes.
The Bureau is also authorized to investigate matters where no prosecution is contemplated. For example, under the authority of several Executive Orders, the FBI conducts background security checks concerning nominees to sensitive government positions. In addition, the FBI has been directed or authorized by Presidential statements or directives to obtain information about activities jeopardizing the security of the nation.
Information obtained through a FBI investigation is presented to the appropriate U.S. Attorney or DOJ official, who decides if prosecution, or other action, is warranted.
Top priority has been assigned to the five areas that affect society the most: counterterrorism, drugs/organized crime, foreign counterintelligence, violent crimes, and white-collar crimes.
The FBI also is authorized to provide other law enforcement agencies with cooperative services, such as fingerprint identification, laboratory examinations, and police training; to publish annual Uniform Crime Reports; and to administer the National Crime Information Center.
The FBI is a field-oriented organization in which eleven divisions and four offices at FBI Headquarters (FBIHQ) in Washington, D.C., provide program direction and support services to 56 field offices, approximately 400 satellite offices known as resident agencies, four specialized field installations, and 35 foreign liaison posts. The foreign liaison offices, each of which is headed by a Legal Attache or Legal Liaison Officer, work abroad with American and local authorities on criminal matters within FBI jurisdiction.
The FBI has approximately 11,400 Special Agents and over 16,400 other employees who perform professional, administrative, technical, clerical, craft, trade, or maintenance operations. About 9,800 employees are assigned to FBIHQ; nearly 18,000 are assigned to field installations.
The FBI’s total annual funding for all operations, salaries, and expenses is approximately three billion dollars.
The Mission of the FBI is to uphold the law through the investigation of violations of federal criminal law; to protect the United States from foreign intelligence and terrorist activities; to provide leadership and law enforcement assistance to federal, state, local, and international agencies; and to perform these responsibilities in a manner that is responsive to the needs of the public and is faithful to the Constitution of the United States.
To carry out its mission, the FBI needs men and women who can fill a variety of demanding positions. To qualify for training as a FBI Special Agent, you must be a U.S. citizen, or a citizen of the Northern Mariana Islands, at least 23 and not have reached your 37th birthday on appointment. Candidates must be completely available for assignment anywhere in the FBI’s jurisdiction, have uncorrected vision not worse than 20/200 and corrected 20/20 in one eye and not worse than 20/40 in the other eye. All candidates must pass a color vision test.
Special Agent applicants also must meet hearing standards by audiometer test. No applicant will be considered who exceeds the following: a) average hearing loss of 25 decibels (ANSI) at 1000, 2000, and 3000 Hertz; b) single reading of 35 decibels at 1000, 2000, and 3000 Hertz; c) single reading of 35 decibels at 500 Hertz; and d) single reading of 45 decibels at 4000 Hertz.
Candidates must possess a valid driver’s license, and be in excellent physical condition with no defects that would interfere in firearm use, raids, or defensive tactics.
All Special Agent candidates must hold a degree obtained in a four-year resident program at a college or university that is accredited by one of the six regional accredited bodies of the Commission on Institutions for Higher Education.
There are four entry programs: Law, Accounting, Language, and Diversified.
Law: To qualify under the Law Program, you must have a JD degree from a resident law school.
Accounting: To qualify under the Accounting Program, you must have a BS degree with a major in accounting or a related discipline, and be eligible to take the CPA examination. Candidates who have not passed the CPA exam will also be required to pass the FBI’s Accounting test.
Language: To qualify under the Language Program, you must have a BS or BA degree in any discipline and be proficient in a language that meets the needs of the FBI. Candidates will be expected to pass a Language Proficiency Test.
Diversified: To qualify under the Diversified Program, you must have a BS or BA degree in any discipline, plus three years of full-time work experience, or an advanced degree accompanied by two years of full-time work experience.
The FBI expects to hire approximately 500 Special Agents in fiscal year 2000.
The first step in becoming a Special Agent is the completion of four forms; Application Checklist for the Special Agent Position, Preliminary Special Agent Application, Applicant Background Survey, and Special Agent Qualifications. These forms can be obtained at any FBI field office. If you meet entry-level criteria and are competitive with other candidates applying for the position, you will be considered for further processing, including applicant testing. You may be competitive for testing purposes if you possess a special skill needed by the FBI, an advanced degree, professional certifications or licenses, supervisory experience, and/or complex work experience.
Competitive candidates will be required to complete a battery of written tests and, in some cases, specialized testing in their field of expertise. If you pass these tests, you may be eligible for an interview based upon your overall qualifications, your competitiveness with other candidates, and the needs of the FBI.
Successful completion of the written test and an interview will be followed by a thorough background investigation that will include: credit and arrest checks; interviews of associates; contacts with personal and business references, past employers and neighbors; and verification of educational achievements.
Certain factors will disqualify a candidate from selection as a Special Agent. These factors include conviction of a felony or major misdemeanor; use of illegal drugs; or failure to pass a drug-screening test. All candidates will be given a polygraph examination to determine the veracity of information provided in their application for employment, to include the extent of any illegal drug usage and issues surrounding security concerns.
All candidates must meet a standardized weight to height ratio and/or body fat requirement to be qualified for appointment. A medical examination must be passed to determine physical suitability for the Special Agent position. You are expected to be physically fit to participate in the demanding physical training conducted at the FBI Academy, and upon graduation, to execute the duties of a law enforcement officer.
Upon being hired, the FBI offers a variety of benefits. Annual leave is granted for vacations, rest, and other personal reasons. Sick leave is available for use when an employee or employee’s family member is ill or need to visit a doctor, dentist, or other health care provider for examination or treatment. Leave is also permitted for military and voting purposes as well as for jury service and witness duty under certain conditions. Annual leave accumulates to an employee’s credit on a graduated basis according to the length of his or her federal government service (civilian or military). Sick leave allows full-time employees to earn sick leave at the rate of four hours every two weeks. There are also ten paid holidays recognized by the federal government along with other types of leave such as; family and medical, maternity, paternity, and family friendly leave.
Another major benefit of FBI employment is the opportunity to enroll in the federal health and life insurance benefits programs. Not only do employees contribute to these programs, but as the employer, the federal government also pays a significant share.
And last but not least is retirement. All employees hired into the executive branch service after 1983 are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). FERS is a three-tiered plan consisting of a basic annuity benefit, the Thrift Savings Plan, and Social Security.
Once an employee has worked for the federal government for five years, he or she becomes eligible for retirement benefits (an annuity to be paid monthly upon eligibility). To retire the employee must have worked for a certain number of years and have reached a certain age. Service and age requirements vary. Upon completion of five years of civilian service, any prior military service can be counted towards the service requirements.
Newly hired Special Agents are eligible to retire when they reach 50 years of age and have 20 years of federal civilian law enforcement officer service or at any age with 25 years of federal civilian law enforcement officer service. Agents must retire no later than the end of the month in which they become age 57, provided they have at least 20 years of law enforcement service. The Director of the FBI has the authority to grant exceptions to mandatory retirement.
Salary varies depending on level of entrance. However, the benefits and mission of all FBI agents are the same. The FBI holds many respectful positions but the possibility of being relocated is always there. Nevertheless the FBI is a prestigious agency and I hope to someday be a part of it.