The Federal Bureau of Investigation is one of the most crucial elements of law enforcement and combating of criminal activity in the United States. It works both in domestic crime, and lawlessness abroad, as well. Without it, our country wouldnt be nearly as safe as we consider it to be. The FBI did not just start out as the juggernaut of crime fighting that is today, however. It began very humbly not that long ago, at the turn of the 20th century, when the need arose for a higher power in law enforcement.
The FBI originated from a force of Special Agents created in 1908 by Attorney General Charles Bonaparte during the Presidency of Theodore Roosevelt. The two men first met when they both spoke at a meeting of the Baltimore Civil Service Reform Association. Roosevelt, then Civil Service Commissioner, boasted of his reforms in federal law enforcement. It was 1892, a time when law enforcement was often political rather than professional. Roosevelt and Bonaparte both were "Progressives." They shared the conviction that efficiency and expertise, not political connections, should determine who could best
serve in government. Theodore Roosevelt became President of the United States in 1901; four years later, he appointed Bonaparte to be Attorney General. In 1908, Bonaparte applied that Progressive philosophy to the Department of Justice by creating a corps of Special Agents. It had neither a name nor an officially designated leader other than the Attorney General. Yet, these former detectives and Secret Service men were the forerunners of the FBI.1907, the Department of Justice most frequently called upon Secret Service "operatives" to conduct investigations. These men were well-trained, dedicated -- and expensive. Moreover, they reported not to the Attorney General, but to the Chief of the Secret Service. This situation frustrated Bonaparte, who wanted complete control of investigations under his jurisdiction. Congress provided the impetus for Bonaparte to acquire his own force. On May 27, 1908, it enacted a law preventing the Department of Justice from engaging Secret Service operatives. The following month, Attorney General Bonaparte appointed a force of Special Agents within the Department of Justice. Accordingly, ten former Secret Service employees and a number of Department of Justice peonage (i.e.,compulsory servitude) investigators became Special Agents of the Department of Justice. On July 26, 1908, Bonaparte ordered them to report to Chief Examiner Stanley W. Finch. This action is celebrated as the beginning of the FBI. Attorney General Bonaparte and President Theodore Roosevelt, who completed their terms in March 1909, recommended that the force
of 34 Agents become a permanent part of the Department of Justice. Attorney General George Wickersham, Bonaparte's successor, named the force the Bureau of Investigation on March 16, 1909. At that time, the title of Chief Examiner was changed to Chief of the Bureau of Investigation.
When the Bureau was established, there were few federal crimes. The Bureau of Investigation primarily investigated violations of laws involving national banking, bankruptcy, naturalization, antitrust, peonage, and land fraud. Because the early Bureau provided no formal training, previous law enforcement experience or a background in the law was considered desirable. Over the next few years, the number of Special Agents grew to more than 300, and these individuals were complemented by another 300 support employees. Field offices existed from the Bureau's inception. Each field operation was controlled by a Special Agent in Charge who was responsible to Washington. Most field offices were located in major cities. However, several were located near the Mexican border where they concentrated on smuggling, neutrality violations, and intelligence collection, often in connection with the Mexican revolution.
Attacking crimes that were federal in scope but local in jurisdiction called for creative solutions. The Bureau of Investigation had limited success using its narrow jurisdiction to investigate some of the criminals of "the gangster era." For example, it investigated Al Capone as a "fugitive federal witness." Federal investigation of a resurgent white supremacy movement also required creativity. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK), dormant since the late 1800s, was revived in part to counteract the economic gains made by African Americans during World War I. The Bureau of Investigation used the Mann Act to bring
Louisiana's philandering KKK "Imperial Kleagle" to justice. Through