Federal Bureau of Investigation

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United StatesUnited States Federal Bureau of Investigation
- FBI -
FBI logo
State level United States Federal Agency
Position of the authority Federal police investigative authority
Supervisory authority (s) United States Department of Justice
Consist since July 26, 1908
Headquarters J. Edgar Hoover Building ,
935 Pennsylvania Ave
Washington, DC
DC, 20535
household $ 9.5 billion (2020)
Authority management D / FBI:
Christopher A. Wray
DD / FBI: David Bowdich
Employee 36,000
Website www.fbi.gov

The Federal Bureau of Investigation ( FBI , German  "Federal Office of Determination" ) is the central security authority of the United States . It combines both the law enforcement agency and the domestic intelligence service of the US federal government . As a criminal investigation department , it is responsible for the prosecution and prevention of federal criminal offenses, unless other law enforcement authorities, such as the ATF or the DEA , have special jurisdiction . As an intelligence service, the FBI conducts preliminary investigations into possible threats regardless of specific suspicions. It also provides technical support for other investigative authorities by way of administrative assistance .

As a result of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001 , the " National Security Branch " (NSB) was created on the basis of a directive of the US President of June 28, 2005 . In it, the previously separate departments of the FBI for counterterrorism, counterintelligence and the fight against weapons of mass destruction were brought together and reported directly to a deputy director of the FBI. As a result of this and an enormous increase in personnel and material commitment, the FBI is the largest civil authority for combating terrorism today.

The FBI is under the US Department of Justice and is headquartered in the J. Edgar Hoover FBI Building in Washington, DC


FBI badge and Glock service pistol

The agency was established as the Bureau of Investigation, subordinate to the US Attorney General, on July 26, 1908 with 34 so-called agents by Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte , the great-nephew of Napoleon Bonaparte , founded. The first staff consisted of Justice Department employees and former Secret Service employees . In July 1932, it was renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation , only to become part of the Division of Investigation established by the Justice Department a year later as the Bureau of Investigation together with the Bureau of Prohibition . In July 1935 the BOI got its old independent status again and with the addition "Federal" its current name: FBI.

In the early 20th century, the BOI came under fire for its involvement in the Palmer Raids in 1920 and the Daugherty Burns scandal in 1924. On May 10, 1924 J. Edgar Hoover became director of the agency and initiated a strict professionalization inward and an expansion of the authority, areas of responsibility and capabilities of the agency to the outside. It was not until 1934 that the carrying of firearms was officially allowed and the agents were given direct police powers for the first time. For almost half a century, Hoover headed the agency as a quasi-autonomous institution and shaped the image of the FBI in the eras of Prohibition , the gangsters of the 1930s, the Cold War and the McCarthy era until the New Left . In the course of the civil rights movement , allegations have been made against the FBI since the 1960s that it was systematically abusing its powers to infiltrate and discredit political movements. Later, the COINTELPRO program and others became known. The break-in of the self-proclaimed Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI into an FBI office in Philadelphia in 1971 resulted in a large number of documents, according to which the FBI only dealt with criminal investigations to a small extent, but monitored almost exclusively left and liberal political groups . Hoover's 1972 death roughly coincided with the first publications, followed by Congress investigations into the abuse of all intelligence services in the mid-1970s. Due to the uncovered abuse of power and the instrumentalization of the “office” for political purposes, the reputation of the Bureau of Investigation suffered deep scratches. Until then, it was held in high regard by the US population.

On March 14, 1950, the agency published a list of the ten most wanted fugitives ( "10 Most Wanted Fugitives" ) for the first time .

In addition to its role as a criminal investigation agency, the FBI has increasingly grown into the role of a foreign secret service since the First World War . In the period during and shortly after the Second World War , in particular , the FBI maintained the Special Intelligence Service, the most important foreign intelligence service in the USA (with special responsibility for South America). Only with the conversion of the OSS or the CIG into the CIA in 1947 were these tasks transferred to another authority and the FBI became a strict domestic secret service. Since then, the relationship between the FBI and the CIA has been known and legendary as tense and conflictual. In 1978, the investigation of were due Church Committee in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act , the powers of the FBI as domestic intelligence service and its control by standing committees of the Congress ( Select Committee on Intelligence in the Senate and House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence in the House of Representatives re-regulated).

In 2015, hackers published the names of 20,000 FBI and 9,000 DHS agents. As a result, a 16-year-old British man was arrested in early 2016 on suspicion of being responsible for the hack.


The FBI is responsible for violating all federal laws and for crimes that cross state borders within the United States. His main focus is on maintaining law and order, protection against terrorist activities, and support and monitoring of subordinate authorities and organizations. In total, the field of activity covers more than 200 types of crime. Combating and prosecuting terrorism , drug trafficking , violent and economic crimes is a top priority.

The main traditional duties of the FBI include solving and prosecuting espionage against the United States, so the FBI is not only a police and law enforcement agency, but also a part of the US intelligence community . With the task of counter-espionage , the FBI corresponds to the German constitution protection offices, which, however, lack their own police powers. Since the 9/11 attacks , the fight against terrorism by Islamists has been of paramount importance to the FBI. Critics inside and outside the FBI point out that this focus has led to other areas of activity being neglected. According to former FBI agent Mike German, who has worked for the Brennan Center for Justice since 2009, on the one hand this had an impact on the inadequate monitoring of right-wing extremist terrorism and led to a situation in which white-collar crime was hardly observed or prosecuted in the run-up to the global financial crisis .


The J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, DC, FBI headquarters.

The headquarters of the FBI has been located in the J. Edgar Hoover Building since 1975, which is in the immediate vicinity of the Capitol in downtown Washington DC. The FBI director, who reports directly to the Attorney General , is appointed by the US President for a typically ten-year term. As a rule, he meets with him once a week for the so-called Monday round to discuss the state of the nation.

The FBI has 56 large field offices , 380 resident agencies and 64 overseas offices . Each field office has its own SWAT team for special situations . For extreme situations, the special and particularly well-equipped hostage rescue team HRT is located on the FBI Academy site in Quantico .

The motto of the federal agency is: Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity ("Loyalty, Courage, Righteousness"). In fiscal 2020, the Authority's budget amounted to 9.5 billion US dollars .

Foreign offices

The FBI has operated foreign offices worldwide since 1945. The agency has posted officials at US embassies in many countries. There are currently 64 branch offices in operation and more than a dozen smaller foreign locations. The FBI thus covers more than 200 countries, territories and islands. The offices were set up with the consent of the host countries. In Germany, Switzerland and Austria, the FBI officers are stationed in the US embassies.

Technical departments

Part of the role of the FBI is to assist crime-fighting organizations in the United States. This contract is also carried out through technical support, for example through DNA databases ( Combined DNA Index System, CODIS ), Fusion Centers ( FBI Data Centers , Data Integration and Visualization System, DIVS ), data collection points ( Digital Collection ), information platforms for counter-terrorism ( Guardian , formerly FTTS ), fingerprint recognition ( Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System, IAFIS ), data distribution ( Law Enforcement National Data Exchange Program, NDEx; National Crime Information Center, NCIC ), information networks ( Law Enforcement Online , LEO ), filing systems for checking suspects ( National Instant Criminal Background Check System, NICS ), identification systems ( Next Generation Identification, NGI ), technical update services ( Prevention of Information Technology Obsolescence, PITO ), case management systems, systems for terrorist screening ( Terrorist Screening System, TSS ), networks for high security communication on ( Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information Operational Network, SCION ).

Recruitment and training

The FBI maintains the FBI Academy for the training of its employees , which is located on the property of Marine Corps Base Quantico , Virginia . The recruitment requirements are: Applicants must be US citizens between the ages of 23 and 37, have completed at least four years of university education and have three years of professional experience in the relevant field. During the multi-day selection process in which u. a. Health, drug and lie detector tests have to be passed, agents of the respective field offices conduct neighbor surveys about the applicants. This controversial but also successful method was also practiced by the German police and the Federal Intelligence Service until the 1980s . For the 5 percent of applicants who pass the selection test, 17 weeks of military-style basic training awaits, which is subject to strict rules:

  • No alcohol in the two-bed rooms
  • Exit ban in the beginning
  • Ban on going out in case of poor performance
  • uniform clothing to be paid for and
  • Consent with constant observation.

The Academy has, among other things, state-of-the-art classrooms, one of the largest law and crime libraries, spacious sports facilities, shooting ranges and a realistic “practice town”. Sport is practiced daily. From the film The Silence of the Lambs , for example, the demanding ten kilometer “Yellow Brick Run” is known (including 5 kilometers over an obstacle course run by the US Marines ).

Throughout the entire process of recruiting and training, participants are referred to as New Agent in Training (NAT for short).

After several written and oral final exams, the official handover of the badge takes place on the “Graduation Day”. The “Special Agents” then come to one of the field offices, where they have to go through a 20-month trial phase. Then they can choose a career such as an investigator , special agent or undercover agent .

In contrast to the free economy, the starting annual salary of 45,000 dollars is relatively low, but the "agents" achieve full pension entitlement after 20 years and only have to work up to the age of 55 years.

At the FBI Academy are among other facilities as well



The 1986 Miami shooting , in which two agents were killed and five others were injured, some of them life-threatening, deficiencies in training and armament were found, which among other things led to the uniform introduction of semi-automatic pistols for FBI agents. Edmundo Mireles , who was involved in the shooting, was also the first agent ever to be honored with the FBI's Medal of Bravery and was named Police Officer of the Year.

In 2007, the FBI came under criticism when, according to an audit report by the responsible inspector general of the US Department of Justice, in around 20 percent of cases in the previous three years in which documents about emails, financial transactions and telephone calls were requested from US citizens, these cases were not listed in mandatory reports to the US Congress.

Criticism is repeatedly directed against the FBI's Forensic Science Research and Training Center. In this central office for forensic technology in the USA, processes are examined, further developed and taught. It is becoming increasingly clear that there are insufficient scientific bases for important forensic science methods, so that they are either completely useless or only reliable within narrow parameters.

In 2012, The Washington Post criticized that the FBI had trained a total of 600–1000 local investigators with backward hair analysis methods by the year 2000, although in retrospect the optical hair comparison method used was partially inconclusive. But it was only after investigations - including by the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) - that the Department of Justice and the FBI finally admitted errors, the Post reported on April 19, 2015. According to the latest studies, more than 95 percent of 268 cases examined so far have shown that the hair analyzes were flawed. “The wrong analyzes would have each favored the arguments of the prosecution, it said. There were also 32 death sentences in the trials concerned , and 14 convicts have either been executed or died in prison since then. "


The director of the FBI is appointed by the president and the Senate must approve the appointment. The director is regularly appointed for ten years, but in the past almost no one has reached this period of service. Comey's predecessor, Robert Mueller , was the director with the second longest tenure after J. Edgar Hoover. In 2011, at the end of the regular ten years, he was confirmed in office by the Senate for a further two years. James B. Comey was sacked by US President Donald Trump on May 9, 2017, with immediate effect . Trump wrote that he was dismissing him on the advice of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and his deputy Rod Rosenstein.

See also


Individual evidence

  1. FBI - Quick Facts (accessed January 11, 2013)
  2. ^ What we investigate. Federal Bureau of Investigation, accessed June 4, 2015 . (English)
  3. ^ FBI Office of Public Affairs: National Security Branch review. Bureau of Investigation, September 2006, accessed June 4, 2015 . (English) (PDF 557 kB)
  4. Both the Bureau of Investigation and the immigration authority, which existed between 1903 and 1933 as the Bureau of Immigration , were sometimes abbreviated to "BI", sometimes "BOI" or "BoI" in official documents. Most recently, the unofficial distinction was established: the immigration authority as “BI” and the investigative authority as “BOI”.
  5. ^ Federal Bureau of Investigation: Brief History
  6. ↑ From a formal point of view, the entire Bureau of Investigation was renamed the "Division of Investigation" during this time and the former Bureau of Prohibition was subordinated to the Department of Investigation - the BOI - as an "Alcohol Beverage Unit". J. Edgar Hoover - although he placed great moral value in his private and professional life that his employees strictly adhered to the prohibition laws - was however very dissatisfied with the fact that the prohibition authority was now part of the BOI. Since practically every US citizen was in conflict with the prohibition laws at the time, the agency was very unpopular, which now fell back on the entire Division of Investigation. The agents, who were actually investigating for completely different offenses, soon found out that many contact persons and witnesses behaved very uncooperatively because they feared being prosecuted for violations of prohibition. Hoover therefore enforced a de facto division of the Division of Investigation, which did not correspond to the formal administrative structure: Under the name "Bureau of Investigation" he created a new subdivision of the Division of Investigation, although, strictly speaking, this was just the renamed BOI, and separates the former Bureau of Prohibition as a completely independent department of the division from the general criminal investigation. So he gave the public the impression that the entire BOI had been placed unchanged under a newly created Division of Investigation, although in reality the old BOI had been expanded. During this time, Hoover led an intensive publicity campaign in which he particularly urged journalists to strictly separate the two subdivisions of his authority from each other.
  7. Article A Brief History of the FBI on fbi.gov , accessed January 13, 2013.
  8. Federal Bureau of Investigation: The FBI - A Centennial History ( January 11, 2011 memento on the Internet Archive ), page 24, accessed October 31, 2010
  9. ^ "Bayerns Polizei" magazine, issue 4/2008, p. 18
  10. FBI: Ten Most Wanted Fugitives; 60th Anniversary (accessed March 13, 2010)
  11. ^ Mark Riebling, Wedge. The Secret War Between the FBI and CIA, New York 1994.
  12. Motherboard: Teen Allegedly Behind CIA, FBI Breaches: 'They're Trying to Ruin My Life' , Motherboard / vice.com , February 12, 2016
  13. Brennan Center for Justice: Michael German (accessed November 23, 2019)
  14. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: "The aim is to monitor people indefinitely," October 27, 2019
  15. fbi.gov: Field Offices , accessed October 2, 2016
  16. fbi.gov: Overseas Offices , accessed October 2, 2016
  17. www.fbi.gov Seal and Motto (accessed February 27, 2011)
  18. Mission & Priorities. Retrieved June 26, 2020 (American English).
  19. ^ List of FBI technical databases on the DOJ website , accessed March 5, 2014.
  20. ^ FBI: National Academy
  21. All facts in the section after: Journal "Bayerns Polizei", No. 4/2008, p. 19
  22. Handelsblatt : FBI article out of control
  23. Spiegel Online from December 23, 2012: Controversial hair analyzes: US investigators relied on questionable evidence for years
  24. Die Welt : Did Wrong FBI Hair Analysis Lead to Death Penalties? , April 20, 2015
  25. ^ The New York Times : Article Senate Extends Term of FBI Director
  26. Donald Trump dismisses FBI boss Comey. In: welt.de , May 9, 2017.
  27. Why Trump fired FBI boss Comey. In: Sueddeutsche.de , May 10, 2017.

Web links

Commons : Federal Bureau of Investigation  - Collection of Images, Videos, and Audio Files
Wiktionary: FBI  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Coordinates: 38 ° 53 ′ 40 "  N , 77 ° 1 ′ 28"  W.