Kidnapping, hijacking, organized crime. These are just a few of the more than two-hundred-fifty kinds of federal cases investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Bureau is the main investigating agency of the Department of Justice. It provides information about threats to national security. It provides evidence in legal actions involving the federal government. And, it searches for fleeing criminals when asked by state and local officials.
More than twenty-eight-thousand men and women serve in the Bureau. They work in fifty-six offices in the United States and in about thirteen offices in foreign countries. More than eleven-thousand men and women serve as special agents. They investigate crimes like bank robbery and spying. They also deal with crimes involving computers, the environment and international terrorism.In recent years the Bureau has won praise for a number of investigations. For example, agents helped catch the men who bombed the World Trade Center in New York City in Nineteen-Ninety-Three. The FBI also found the bomber of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, in Nineteen-Ninety-Five. However, some Bureau activities have been criticized. About seven years ago, the Bureau raided the heavily armed headquarters of an extremist religious group in Waco, Texas. A fire started. Seventy-six people died, including many children. Critics said FBI agents caused the fire. However, an investigation of the raid showed that the extremists started the fire themselves.
((MUSIC BRIDGE))The present FBI developed from an agency that did not deal with many violent cases. This agency was called the Bureau of Investigation. It started in Nineteen-Oh-Eight with fewer than thirty-five employees. At that time, President Theodore Roosevelt wanted to stop illegal activities by big businesses and by companies that bought and sold land in the American West.
The Department of Justice had power to enforce the nation's laws. But it did not have enough people to investigate violations. So President Roosevelt told the Justice Department to open an investigations office.
At first, the new Bureau investigated cases only for the Department of Justice. But Congress gave the Bureau other duties. For example, during World War One the Bureau of Investigation was ordered to look for enemy spies in the United States.A Justice Department lawyer, J. Edgar Hoover, was named director of the Bureau of Investigation in Nineteen-Twenty-Four. He served as director for almost forty-eight years, until his death in Nineteen-Seventy-Two.
At the time Mr. Hoover became its leader, the agency was said to be disorganized and dishonest. Mr. Hoover reformed the Bureau. He appointed good people. He praised their performances and gave them better jobs. The agency was named the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Nineteen-Thirty-Five.
During the Nineteen-Thirties, there were many kidnappings, murders, robberies and other violent crimes in America. Congress gave new powers to the Bureau to fight these crimes. Agents dealt with many well-known criminals. They included Al Capone, "Pretty Boy" Floyd and "Machine Gun" Kelly.World War Two began in Nineteen-Thirty-Nine. President Franklin Roosevelt directed the Bureau to investigate threats to national security. FBI agents broke up enemy spy groups during the war. During the Nineteen-Fifties and Nineteen-Sixties, agents arrested people who spied and stole nuclear secrets for enemies of the United States. Over the years the agency won praise for its strength and effectiveness in controlling both crime and national security threats.However, people have criticized some of the Bureau's security investigations in the Nineteen Sixties and early Nineteen Seventies. These cases were connected to civil rights and Vietnam War protests. In Nineteen-Seventy-Five, a Senate committee reported that FBI officials acted wrongly or illegally a number of times. The committee said the Bureau spied on some American citizens.
The Senate committee also said J. Edgar Hoover had provided some American presidents with damaging personal information about their political opponents. The next year, Congress limited the term of the FBI director to ten years. The agency could never again have a director who served almost fifty years, as J. Edgar Hoover did.In recent years, FBI agents have co-operated with law enforcement agencies from other countries on major terrorism cases. For example, the Bureau helped investigate the bombing of an American military center in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, in Nineteen-Ninety-Six. Agents also are continuing efforts to find all those responsible for the bombing of the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in Nineteen-Ninety-Eight.
The Bureau provides scientific help to foreign law enforcement officials. Agencies around the world get information from the famous FBI collection of fingerprints. Foreign law enforcement officials also get help from the National Crime Information Center. The Center uses computers to communicate quickly with other agencies.
((MUSIC BRIDGE))People can learn about the work of the FBI by visiting its headquarters in Washington, DC. Each year, guides take almost five-hundred-thousand people through the huge FBI building. It is on Pennsylvania Avenue, not far from the White House. Visitors see equipment used to examine many substances, including blood, hair and clothing material. They see where scientists examine genetic material from crime victims and suspects.The guide also shows visitors stolen goods taken from criminals. For example, a motorcycle and diamonds shine from behind glass. Watching over them is a huge stuffed bear seized from a member of an illegal drug group.
Visitors also can see some of the Bureau's more than five-thousand guns. They can watch a special agent fire a gun at a paper target. The target is shaped like a person. Soon it is full of holes. Special agents are tested four times a year for their ability to shoot a weapon.The guide also shows pictures of suspected criminals that the FBI is trying to find and arrest. The pictures are on the famous FBI list of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives. Some of the people on the list have ties to organized crime and terrorism. Others are suspected of several murders or crimes linked to drugs. The names and pictures are published so the public can provide information about them. The Ten Most Wanted list began after a news reporter asked the FBI for the names and descriptions of people it wanted to capture. This first list appeared in many newspapers in Nineteen-Forty-Nine.Today, a popular television program is called "America's Most Wanted: America Fights Back." It helps the public recognize people being sought for serious crimes. This has resulted in the arrests of more than one-hundred-thirty people.
Another popular television program has caused the FBI to receive many questions about creatures from outer space. The program is called "The X-Files." An actor and actress play FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully. They bravely seek the truth about forms of life from other planets.
"The X-Files" is meant to create suspense and to frighten viewers. The television program does not tell true stories. But visitors to the Bureau often ask, "Where does the FBI keep the space creatures?"
((THEME FROM "THE X-FILES" INSTEAD OF CLOSING THEME))This VOA Special English program was written by Jerilyn Watson and George Grow. It was produced by Caty Weaver. Our studio engineer was Bob Phillips. I'm Shirley Griffith.And I'm Sarah Long. Join us again next week for another report about life in the United States on the VOA Special English program, THIS IS AMERICA.