The agency now known as the Federal Bureau of
Investigation was founded in 1908 when Attorney General Charles
J. Bonaparte appointed an unnamed force of Special Agents to be
the investigative force of DOJ. Prior to that time, DOJ borrowed
Agents from the U.S. Secret Service to investigate violations
of federal criminal laws within its jurisdiction.
During the early period of the FBIs history, its Agents investigated violations of some of the comparatively few existing federal criminal violations, such as bankruptcy frauds, antitrust crime, and neutrality 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 Bureaus jurisdiction.
The Gangster Era began after passage of Prohibition in 1920. Criminals engaged in kidnapping and bank robbery, which were not federal crimes at that time. This changed in 1932 with the passage of a federal kidnapping statute. In 1934, numerous other federal criminal statutes were passed, and Congress gave Special Agents the authority to make arrests and to carry firearms.
The FBIs 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 and organized crime became major concerns of the FBI in the 1960s, as did counterterrorism, financial crime, drugs, and violent crimes, during the 1970s and 1980s.
In additional to its five priority programs, the FBI also concentrates significant investigative resources into applicant and civil rights matters.
|No specific name assigned; referred to as Special Agent Force||July 26, 1908|
|Bureau of Investigation||March 16, 1909|
|United States Bureau Of Investigation||July 1, 1932|
|Division of Investigation (The Division also inculded the Bureau of Prohibition.)||August 10, 1933|
|Federal Bureau of Investigation||July 1, 1935|
Leaders of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Predecessor Agencies
|Leader||Date Assumed Office|
Stanley W. Finch
(After March 16, 1909, when AG Wickersham erected the BOI, Finch took the title Chief of the BOI.)
|July 26, 1908|
|Alexander Bruce Bielaski||April 30, 1912|
|William E. Allen (Acting)||February 10, 1919|
|William J. Flynn||July 1, 1919|
|William J. Burns||August 22, 1921|
|J. Edgar Hoover (Mr. Hoover was designated Acting Director on May 10, and permanent Director on December 10, 1924.)||May 10, 1924|
|L. Patrick Gray (Acting)||May 3, 1972|
|William D. Ruckelshaus (Acting)||April 27, 1973|
|Clarence M. Kelley||July 9, 1973|
|William H. Webster||Febraury 23, 1978|
|John E. Otto (Acting)||May 26, 1987|
|William S. Sessions||November 2, 1987|
|Floyd I. Clarke (Acting)||July 19, 1993|
|Louis J. Freeh||September 1, 1993|