of FBI History
A Sundry Civil Service Bill declared that Secret Service employees
accepting assignments by any department other than Treasury (except
in counterfeiting cases) would be suspended for two years. The
provision became effective July 1. It prevented the practice of
agencies like the Department of Justice (DOJ) from borrowing investigators
for specific cases.
General Charles J. Bonaparte ordered the creation
of a special agent force in the DOJ. His order
reassigned twenty-three investigators already
employed by the Department and permanently hired
eight more agents from the Treasury Department.
General Bonaparte ordered the special agent force
to report to Chief Examiner Stanley W. Finch.
This order is considered the formal beginning
of the agency that became the FBI in 1935. In
March 1909, Attorney General George W. Wickersham
named this force the Bureau of Investigation
passed the White Slave Traffic Act, also known as
the Mann Act. The new law significantly increased
the BOI's jurisdiction over interstate crime.
April 30, 1912
Examiner A. Bruce Bielaski, Chief
Finch's assistant since 1909, was
appointed Chief of the BOI.
War I began in Europe, placing
additional responsibilities on
the BOI. On April 6, 1917, Congress
declared war on Germany and President
Woodrow Wilson authorized the BOI
to detain enemy aliens.
June 15, 1917
Congress passed the Espionage Act of 1917. The act forbade espionage,
interference with the draft, or attempts to discourage loyalty. It
greatly increased the BOI's ability to deal with espionage and subversion
during the war, but a lack of personnel hampered Bureau efforts in
enforcing the law.
June 30, 1919
General Palmer directed that the BOI be placed under the Assistant
Attorney General's direction. William E. Flynn, former Chief of
the Secret Service, was named Director of the BOI.
October 28, 1919
Congress passed the National Motor Vehicle Theft Act, also known
as the Dyer Act. This act authorized the Bureau to investigate auto
thefts that crossed state lines. Prior to the passage of this act,
jurisdictional boundaries between states hampered the ability of
law enforcement officials to thwart interstate auto theft rings.
J. Burns, the head of a famous private detective
agency, became Director of the BOI. Twenty-six year
old J. Edgar Hoover was named Assistant Director.
May 10, 1924
Attorney General Harlan Fiske Stone designated J. Edgar Hoover Acting
Director of the BOI. By the end of the year Stone appointed him Director.
July 1, 1924
BOI set up an Identification
Division after Congress authorized "the
exchange of identification
records with officers of the
cities, counties, and states." The
Bureau established its fingerprint
files in Washington, D.C.,
by consolidating collections
from the former Bureau of Criminal
Identification at Leavenworth,
Kansas and those of the International
Association of Chiefs of Police
formerly housed in Chicago.
October 11, 1925
Auto thief Martin James Durkin shot and killed Special Agent Edwin
C. Shanahan while Shanahan tried to arrest him. Agent Shanahan was
the first BOI agent killed in the line of duty.
January 1, 1928
BOI instituted a theoretical
and practical training course
for new Special Agents. During
a two-month assignment to the
Washington Field Office, New
Agents were instructed in Bureau
rules and procedures, provided
with practical exercises in
crime investigation, and evaluated
by experienced Agents as to
their qualities and potential.
April 1, 1928
The BOI prepared a Manual of Rules and Regulations for all investigative
Congress authorized the BOI's National Division of Identification
and Information to collect and compile uniform crime statistics for
the entire United States. Previously, this program was handled by
the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
March 1, 1932
Bureau initiated the international
exchange of fingerprint data
with friendly foreign governments.
Due to the rise of tension
in Europe, this program was
halted in the late 1930's.
It was not re-instituted until
well after World War II.
June 22, 1932
In response to the Lindbergh kidnapping case and other high profile
kidnappings, Congress passed the Federal Kidnaping Act. The act gave
the BOI authority to investigate kidnappings that were perpetrated
across state borders.
July 1, 1932
The BOI became United States BOI or USBOI. Within a year it was named
the Division of Investigation (DOI) when the Bureau of Prohibition
was placed under the supervision of Director Hoover. The Prohibition
Bureau was quickly phased out over the next several years; it was
not merged into the USBOI.
November 24, 1932 The
BOI established a Technical Laboratory in the Southern Railway Building
at 13th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, Washington, DC
It provided services to the FBI and other federal, state, local,
and even foreign law enforcement agencies.
Gangster "Machine Gun" Kelly reputedly coined the nickname "G-Men" for
FBI Agents while being interrogated by DOI agents. The legend that
Kelly shouted "Don't Shoot G-men, Don't Shoot," while he was being
arrested is doubtful. The heroic "G-Man," short for Government Man,
quickly became synonymous with FBI Special Agents in the public's
June 18, 1934
Congress enacted a series of anti-crime legislation over the months
of May and June 1934 in response to crimes like the September 1933
Kansas City Massacre where gangsters killed DOI Agent Raymond Caffrey,
Jr. and other law enforcement officials. These May/June Crime Bills
gave Special Agents the power of arrest and the authority to carry
firearms. Previously, Special Agents could only make a "citizen's
arrest," otherwise the agent had to call on a U.S. Marshal or local
police officer to take custody of a suspect.
July 22, 1934
John Herbert Dillinger, one of the most notorious gangsters of his
day, resisted arrest outside the Biograph Theater in Chicago and
was killed by Special Agents.
October 1934 The
Department of Justice Building at 9th and Pennsylvania Ave was dedicated.
FBI Headquarters occupied space in the building until the 1970's.
July 1, 1935
The DOI officially became the Federal Bureau of Investigation at
the beginning of Fiscal Year 1936.
July 29, 1935
The FBI established a national police training program, the forerunner
of the FBI National Academy, when it welcomed a class of 23 police
officers for a 12-week course of instruction in scientific and practical
law enforcement methods.
May 24, 1936
President Roosevelt called Director Hoover to a morning meeting to
discuss his concerns about subversive activity in the United States.
He asked Hoover to report on the activities of Nazi and communist
groups. After receiving approval from the Attorney General and authority
from the Secretary of State to conduct the investigation, Hoover
notified his Special Agents in Charge of the assignment.
President Roosevelt assigned responsibility for investigating espionage,
sabotage and other subversive activities jointly to the FBI, the
Military Intelligence Service of the War Department (MID), and the
Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI).
The FBI established a Special Intelligence Service (SIS) at President
Roosevelt's request. In connection with the SIS, the Bureau dispatched
Agents to countries throughout the Western Hemisphere (except Panama).
FBI Agents in South and Central America gathered intelligence information
and worked to prevent Axis espionage, sabotage, and propaganda
efforts aimed against the US and its allies. Special Agents assigned
to posts in Europe, Canada and Latin America began acting in an
official liaison capacity. After President Truman closed the SIS
in 1946 these Agent liaisons formed the basis of the FBI's Legal
Attaché (Legat) Program.
August 31, 1940
The FBI created a Disaster Squad to assist civilian authorities
in identifying persons who died in a Virginia plane crash. FBI
personnel were among the victims.
January 1, 1941
The FBI seal, as currently depicted, came into limited use at this
time. The prior seal had been the DOJ seal with an extra band for
the FBI and its motto.
June 28, 1941
Special Agents arrested German spy Frederick Joubert "Fritz" Duquesne
and 32 other German agents following a two-year investigation.
Agents successfully filmed members of Duquesne's ring as they provided
information to William Sebold, a confidential FBI informant.
December 7, 1941
The Japanese bombed the US naval facility at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
In response, the United States entered World War II. J. Edgar Hoover
ordered existing FBI war plans put into effect and Attorney General
Francis Biddle authorized the Bureau to act against dangerous enemy
aliens. Within 72 hours, the FBI was working on a twenty-four hour
a day basis and had taken 3,846 enemy aliens into custody. Seized
contraband included short-wave radios, dynamite, weapons, and ammunition.
June 12, 1942
Four German saboteurs led by George John Dasch landed from a U-boat
on the beach near Amagansett, Long Island, New York. Five days
later, a second team of 4 German saboteurs, led by Edward Kerling,
landed at Ponte Vedra Beach in Florida. Dasch turned himself in
at the New York Field Office two days after landing. Within two
weeks, the FBI captured all 8 saboteurs.
May 30, 1945
Between January 1940 and May 1945, the Bureau investigated 19,299
alleged cases of sabotage. Sabotage in some form was found in 2,282
incidences, primarily acts of spite, carelessness, malicious mischief,
and the like. During World War II, not a single act of enemy-directed
sabotage was discovered in the United States.
Congress passed the Atomic Energy Act making the FBI responsible
for investigating persons having access to restricted nuclear data.
The FBI was also responsible for investigation of criminal violations
of this act.
March 21, 1947
Executive Order 9835 established the Federal Employees Loyalty
Program. Upon agency request, the FBI investigated when derogatory
information was found regarding government employees.
December 15, 1948
A New York grand jury indicted former State Department employee
Alger Hiss for perjury. The charge stemmed from a congressional
investigation of Communist subversion and espionage in the government.
British security agents arrested Klaus Fuchs after an investigation
based on an FBI tip derived from Soviet telegrams decrypted and
decoded by the Army Signals Agency with FBI investigative assistance;
these decrypted, decoded cables are known collectively under the
March 14, 1950
The FBI initiated the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives Program in order
to draw national attention to dangerous criminals who have avoided
March 6, 1951
The trial of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, David Greenglass, and
Morton Sobell began in US District Court, New York City. All four
were convicted of conspiracy to commit espionage and sentenced
on April 5.
The US Supreme Court upheld the 1949 convictions of top communist
leaders prosecuted under the Smith Act. Four of the eleven convicts
jumped bail and hid in the communist underground for several years.
October 27, 1955
FBI Director Hoover, with the concurrence of the Attorney General,
authorized official cooperation with reporter Don Whitehead as
he wrote a history of the FBI entitled The FBI Story. The
book became a bestseller and was made into a 1959 movie starring
Jimmy Stewart as an FBI Agent
November 1, 1955
A United Airlines DC-6B exploded near Longmont, Colorado, killing
all 39 passengers and 5 crew members. The FBI provided assistance
from its Disaster Squad in identifying the deceased.
June 21, 1957
The FBI arrested Colonel Rudolf Ivanovich Abel, a Soviet espionage
November 14, 1957
New York State Trooper Edgar Croswell uncovered a conference of
crime bosses who had gathered from across the country on the estate
of Joseph Barbara in Apalachin, New York. In response to the exposure
of a nationwide criminal syndicate, Director Hoover instituted
the Top Hoodlum program to develop information about prominent
criminal leaders and their activities.
President John F.
Kennedy signed National Security Action Memorandum
177. This memorandum enhanced the government's
foreign police-training program. In connection
with this program, Director Hoover agreed to
accept up to 20 foreign police officers into
each session of the FBI National Academy.
June 12, 1963
Medgar Evers, Mississippi Field Secretary of the National Association
for the Advancement of Colored People, was killed because of
his civil rights advocacy. The FBI arrested Byron De La Beckwith
for the crime. He was indicted and tried twice in state court.
The jury did not reach a verdict on either occasion. On December
18, 1990, a grand jury indicted De La Beckwith again. He was
extradited from Tennessee to Mississippi and tried in 1993. The
jury found him guilty.
November 22, 1963
Lee Harvey Oswald assassinated President John F. Kennedy in Dallas,
Texas. President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the FBI to investigate
the murder. At that time the FBI had no statutory authority to
investigate presidential assassinations. Jurisdictional conflict
between federal, state and local authorities created confusion
in the investigation of the case.
Civil rights workers James E. Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael
Schwerner were murdered near Philadelphia, Mississippi. Following
the FBI's MIBURN investigation, eight men, including Deputy Sheriff
Cecil Price and Sam Holloway Bowers, Jr., the Imperial Wizard of
the White Knights of the KKK of Mississippi, were convicted and
sentenced to imprisonment under the federal civil rights statutes
for the crime.
July 4, 1966
President Johnson signed the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
FBI records eventually became subject to the FOIA.
January 1, 1967
The FBI's National Crime Information Center (NCIC) became operational.
Law enforcement officials from across the country could tap this
electronic database of criminal histories and other information
to identify suspects and learn more about persons arrested.
April 4, 1968
James Earl Ray assassinated Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in Memphis,
Tennessee. The FBI opened a special investigation based on the
violation of Dr. King's civil rights so that federal jurisdiction
in the matter could be established.
June 1, 1968
Congress enacted Public Law 90351 providing for the appointment
of the FBI Director by the President with the advice and consent
of the Senate to a 10 year term. The act was to take effect after
Director Hoover's tenure.
Congress approved the Organized Crime Control Act of 1970. This
law contained a section known as the Racketeer Influenced and
Corrupt Organization Act or RICO. RICO has become a very effective
tool in convicting members of organized criminal enterprises.
J. Edgar Hoover died in his sleep at the age of 77. President Richard
M. Nixon appointed L. Patrick Gray III to be Acting Director.
May 8, 1972
The FBI Academy opened a new training facility on the US Marine
Corps Base at Quantico, Virginia.
April 27, 1973
William D. Ruckelshaus was appointed Acting Director of the FBI
by President Nixon following the resignation of L. Patrick Gray
July 9, 1973
Clarence M. Kelley was sworn in as Director of the FBI. Kelley
was a former FBI agent and had served as the Chief of Police of
Kansas City, Missouri for many years before this appointment.
June 26, 1975
Special Agents Jack R. Coler and Ronald A. Williams were murdered
while conducting an investigation on an Indian reservation near
Pine Ridge, South Dakota. American Indian Movement leader Leonard
Peltier was convicted of committing the murders.
September 30, 1975
The J. Edgar Hoover F.B.I. Building was formally dedicated. FBI
Headquarters units had begun moving into the new building the previous
Attorney General Edward H. Levi issued guidelines for FBI intelligence
activities. In April 1976 he issued guidelines for FBI domestic
security activities. These Guidelines were issued in response to
congressional concerns raised by the Church and Pike Committees.
October 4, 1976
The FBI established an Office of Professional Responsibility to
investigate charges of malfeasance against Bureau employees.
February 23, 1978
William H. Webster took the oath of office as FBI Director. Director
Webster continued Director Kelley's emphasis on "quality" investigations.
April 3, 1978
The FBI Laboratory Division pioneered the use of laser technology
to detect latent "crime scene" fingerprints. This date marks the
first successful use of lasers to detect latent prints on case
June 7, 1978
A federal grand jury in Miami indicted 22 labor union officials
and shipping executives for kickbacks, embezzlement, and other
illegal activities, surfacing the UNIRAC undercover investigation.
Eventually more than 110 convictions were recorded, including Anthony
M. Scotto, longshoreman union leader and organized crime figure.
Attorney General Guidelines were issued concerning FBI undercover
Agents involving the investigation of bribery of public officials.
The FBI's successful ABSCAM investigation had raised concerns that
undercover efforts might lead to entrapment. This was not the case
in the ABSCAM investigation. The courts upheld the convictions.
January 28, 1982
At the direction of Attorney General William French Smith, the
Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began
reporting to the Director of the FBI. The FBI and DEA were given
concurrent jurisdiction over narcotics violations and have worked
together on these matters since this time.
Hostage Rescue Team (HRT) became fully operational.
HRTs act in hostage situations throughout the
country and are trained to handle negotiations
as well as hostage rescue should those negotiations
March 15, 1984
FBI's GREYLORD investigation into judicial misconduct
in Cook County Illinois yielded its first conviction,
a former Deputy Traffic Court Clerk. Other convictions
followed. Eighty-two judges, lawyers, clerks,
and police officers pled guilty or were convicted
April 9, 1984
DOJ announced charges in the "Pizza Connection" case. FBI Agents
and Italian law enforcement officials documented international
connections between American and Italian organized crime groups
in a large heroin distribution ring. Eighteen men were convicted
including five organized crime family leaders.
July 10, 1984
The National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC) was
established at the FBI Academy at Quantico, Virginia. Initially
focusing on unsolved murders, the NCAVC used sophisticated behavioral
science techniques and a complex computer system to assist state
and local authorities to identify suspects and predict criminal
A series of high profile espionage arrests characterized 1985, "the
Year of the Spy." In May, the John Walker Spy Ring was arrested.
Former Navy personnel John Walker, Jerry Whitworth, Arthur Walker,
and Michael Walker were convicted of or plead guilty to passing
classified material to the Soviet Union. On November 21, Jonathan
Jay Pollard, a Navy intelligence analyst, was arrested for spying
for Israel. On November 23, Larry Wu Tai Chin, a former CIA analyst,
was arrested on charges of spying for the People's Republic of
China since 1952. On November 25, a third major spy, former National
Security Agency employee William Pelton, was arrested and charged
with selling military secrets to the Soviets.
September 13, 1987
Fawaz Younis became the first suspected foreign terrorist arrested
by the Bureau for a crime perpetrated against Americans on foreign
soil. In March 1989, a US District Court sentenced Younis to 30
years for the hijacking of a Jordanian plane carrying two Americans.
November 2, 1987
Steele Sessions took the oath of office as Director
of the FBI.
February 7, 1988
Fox Television Network premiered "America's Most
Wanted," a program that featured dramatizations
of crimes committed by federal and state fugitives.
June 14, 1988
ILLWIND, an FBI investigation into widespread corruption in Department
of Defense procurement, led to indictments of government officials
and private contractors for fraud and bribery in twelve states
and the District of Columbia.
December 21, 1988
A Pan American 747 flight carrying 259 people exploded over Lockerbie,
Scotland, killing all on board and 11 people on the ground. An
extensive investigation by the FBI, US, and foreign police authorities
The FBI's Computer Analysis and Response Team, or CART, became
operational in the FBI Laboratory. CART provides timely and accurate
examinations of computers and computer disks as a support to investigations
March 11, 1992
The FBI established a Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS)
Division. CJIS consolidated existing FBI services provided to law
enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The Division incorporated
the FBI's NCIC Program, the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification
System (IAFIS), and the Uniform Crime Reports Program.
The FBI Laboratory installed DRUGFIRE, a database that stores and
links specific, unique markings left on bullets and shell casings
after a gun is fired. Facts on spent ammunition recovered at drug-related
shootings are stored in DRUGFIRE and used to link crimes committed
with the same gun.
February 26, 1993
A bomb exploded under the World Trade Center in New York City leaving
a 5-story crater, killing six persons, and injuring over 1,000
others. The FBI, other federal agencies, and police authorities
in New York worked together on this investigation.
February 28, 1993
Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Agents raided a compound of the
Branch Davidian cult, led by David Koresh. Known as the Mt. Carmel
Church, the facility was located nine miles from Waco, Texas. The
resulting confrontation resulted in the deaths of four ATF Agents
and six Branch Davidians.
September 1, 1993
Louis J. Freeh was sworn in as FBI Director. As an Assistant US
Attorney in the Southern District of New York, he was instrumental
in the Pizza Connection prosecutions.
February 21, 1994
FBI Agents arrested Aldrich Hazen Ames, a 30-year Central Intelligence
Agency (CIA) veteran, and his wife, Maria del Rosario Casas Ames
on espionage charges. Ames' crimes began in April 1985, and resulted
in at least ten Soviet sources of the CIA and FBI being killed.
Other sources were imprisoned and more than 100 intelligence operations
were compromised. Ames provided thousands of classified documents
to the Soviet Union and later, the Russian Republic.
April 19, 1995
On the second anniversary of the Waco tragedy a truck bomb exploded
at the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma,
killing 169 people and destroying the 9-story building. President
Clinton designated the FBI as lead law enforcement agency in the
case. The US Marshals Service, the Treasury Department, and many
other state and local agencies contributed to the investigation.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency also coordinated its efforts
with the FBI, as did the armed forces, federal community mental
health experts, and the General Services Administration.
June 16, 1995
The International Law Enforcement Academy graduated its first class
of 33 law enforcement officials from former East Bloc nations.
December 8, 1997
The FBI announced its new National DNA Index System (NDIS). NDIS
allows forensic science laboratories to link serial violent crimes
to each other and to known sex offenders through the electronic
exchange of DNA profiles. This same day, the FBI Laboratory announced
its success in extracting a DNA profile using mitochondrial DNA
(mDNA). mDNA analysis allows extraction of DNA from minute quantities
of physical evidence like a strand of human hair.
August 7, 1998
Terrorist bombing attacks on US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es
Salaam killed hundreds of US, Kenyan, and Tanzanian citizens. A
Joint Terrorist Task Force, composed of the FBI and other federal,
state, and local authorities cooperated in the investigation.
April 1 , 1999
Four Pillars Enterprises became the first foreign
company convicted of economic espionage under
the Economic Espionage Act of 1996. This landmark
investigation was conducted by the Cleveland
April 5, 1999
Top Ten" fugitives
Abdel Basset Ali
Al-Megrahi and Lamen
Khalifa Fhimah were
surrendered to Dutch
authorities to be
tried before a Scottish
court for charges
in connection with
the 12/21/98 bombing
of Pan Am Flight
103, which exploded
over Lockerbie, Scotland.
June 7, 1999
Usama bin Laden was added to the FBI's "Ten Most Wanted Fugitives" list.
Bin Laden was charged in connection with the U.S. Embassy bombings
in East Africa.
June 23, 1999
FBI personnel traveled to Kosovo to assist in the collection of
evidence and the examination of forensic materials in support of
the prosecution of Slobodan Milosevic and others before the International
Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
The U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York announced
indictments of Mokhtar Haouari and Abdel Ghani Meskini in the "Borderbom" investigation.
The two were charged with collaborating with Ahmed Ressam and others
in a wide-ranging terrorist conspiracy to bomb American sites during
the January 1, 2000, millennium celebrations. The FBI/New York
Police Department Joint Terrorist Task Force, Royal Canadian Mounted
Police, the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service, and Canada's
Department of Justice assisted in the investigation.
August 15, 2000
Director Freeh revised the FBI disciplinary system to create a
single system for all FBI employees, including those in the Senior
FBI investigators and other personnel were dispatched to Aden,
Yemen, to assist in the investigation of the bombing of the U.S.S.
November 8, 2000
Senator Danforth, conducting an independent review
of FBI actions in the Waco tragedy, released
his final report exonerating the FBI of wrongdoing.
In October, the Government Operations Committee
had reached a similar conclusion.
January 5, 2001
The FBI publicly announced the National InfraGuard program in the
FBI's National Infrastructure Protection Center. The program centers
on securely sharing information about computer intrusions and intrusion
threats between business and law enforcement so that the confidentiality
of potentially affected businesses is protected.
February 18, 2001
FBI Agent Robert Philip Hanssen was arrested for conspiracy to
commit espionage. The affidavit in support of an arrest warrant
for Hanssen charged that he had engaged in a lengthy relationship
with the KGB and its agencies.
June 2, 2001
Louis J. Freeh retired as Director of the FBI.
September 4, 2001
U. S. Attorney Robert S. Mueller, III, took the
oath of office as FBI Director. He had been nominated
by President George W. Bush in June 2001 and
unanimously confirmed by the Senate on August
September 11, 2001
the massive terrorist attacks against New York
and Washington, the FBI dedicated 7,000 of its
11,000 Special Agents and thousands of FBI support
personnel to the PENTTBOM investigation. "PENTTBOM" is
short for Pentagon, Twin Towers Bombing.
Mueller ordered all FBI Field Offices to create
joint terrorism task forces/regional terrorism
task forces to coordinate counterterrorism efforts
across the United States. The first such task
force, in New York, was formally created in 1982.
October 18, 2001
conjunction with the U. S. Post Office, the FBI
offered a reward of $1,000,000 for information
leading to the arrest of the person who mailed
letters contaminated with Anthrax to media organizations
and congressional offices.
October 26, 2001
Bush signed the USA Patriot Act. This anti-terrorism
law provided the FBI with additional resources
to hire new agents and critical support personnel,
employ court approved wiretaps against potential
terrorists more easily, seek additional information
about potential terrorists more easily, share
criminal investigative information with counterterrorism
investigators in other government officials,
and work with other government agencies to secure
our borders and attack international money laundering.