Federal Bureau of Investigation  

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  • August 29, 1943 - André Breton is questioned by agents of the FBI. According to Julien Green : "On lui aurait mis sous les yeux des textes prouvant qu'il est contre la société capitaliste, contre la religion, etc."

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence and security service of the United States, which simultaneously serves as the nation's prime federal law enforcement agency.

J. Edgar Hoover as director

J. Edgar Hoover served as Director from 1924 to 1972, a combined 48 years with the BOI, DOI, and FBI. He was chiefly responsible for creating the Scientific Crime Detection Laboratory, or the FBI Laboratory, which officially opened in 1932, as part of his work to professionalize investigations by the government. Hoover was substantially involved in most major cases and projects that the FBI handled during his tenure. After Hoover's death, Congress passed legislation that limited the tenure of future FBI Directors to ten years.

During the "War on Crime" of the 1930s, FBI agents apprehended or killed a number of notorious criminals who carried out kidnappings, robberies, and murders throughout the nation, including John Dillinger, "Baby Face" Nelson, Kate "Ma" Barker, Alvin "Creepy" Karpis, and George "Machine Gun" Kelly.

Other activities of its early decades included a decisive role in reducing the scope and influence of the Ku Klux Klan. Additionally, through the work of Edwin Atherton, the FBI claimed success in apprehending an entire army of Mexican neo-revolutionaries along the California border in the 1920s.

Hoover began using wiretapping in the 1920s during Prohibition to arrest bootleggers. In the 1927 case Olmstead v. United States, in which a bootlegger was caught through telephone tapping, the United States Supreme Court ruled that FBI wiretaps did not violate the Fourth Amendment as unlawful search and seizure, as long as the FBI did not break into a person's home to complete the tapping. After Prohibition's repeal, Congress passed the Communications Act of 1934, which outlawed non-consensual phone tapping, but allowed bugging. In the 1939 case Nardone v. United States, the court ruled that due to the 1934 law, evidence the FBI obtained by phone tapping was inadmissible in court. After the 1967 case Katz v. United States overturned the 1927 case that had allowed bugging, Congress passed the Omnibus Crime Control Act, allowing public authorities to tap telephones during investigations as long as they obtain a warrant beforehand.

Civil rights movement

During the 1950s and 1960s, FBI officials became increasingly concerned about the influence of civil rights leaders, whom they believed either had communist ties or were unduly influenced by communists or "fellow travellers." In 1956, for example, Hoover sent an open letter denouncing Dr. T. R. M. Howard, a civil rights leader, surgeon, and wealthy entrepreneur in Mississippi who had criticized FBI inaction in solving recent murders of George W. Lee, Emmett Till, and other blacks in the South. The FBI carried out controversial domestic surveillance in an operation it called the COINTELPRO, from "COunter-INTELligence PROgram." It was to investigate and disrupt the activities of dissident political organizations within the United States, including both militant and non-violent organizations. Among its targets was the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, a leading civil rights organization whose clergy leadership included the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who is addressed in more detail below.

The FBI frequently investigated Martin Luther King, Jr. In the mid-1960s, King began publicly criticizing the Bureau for giving insufficient attention to the use of terrorism by white supremacists. Hoover responded by publicly calling King the most "notorious liar" in the United States. In his 1991 memoir, Washington Post journalist Carl Rowan asserted that the FBI had sent at least one anonymous letter to King encouraging him to commit suicide. Historian Taylor Branch documents an anonymous November 1964 "suicide package" sent by the Bureau that combined a letter to the civil rights leader telling him "You are done. There is only one way out for you..." with audio recordings of King's sexual indiscretions.

In March 1971, the residential office of an FBI agent in Media, Pennsylvania was burgled by a group calling itself the Citizens' Commission to Investigate the FBI. Numerous files were taken and distributed to a range of newspapers, including The Harvard Crimson. The files detailed the FBI's extensive COINTELPRO program, which included investigations into lives of ordinary citizens—including a black student group at a Pennsylvania military college and the daughter of Congressman Henry Reuss of Wisconsin. The country was "jolted" by the revelations, which included assassinations of political activists, and the actions were denounced by members of the Congress, including House Majority Leader Hale Boggs. The phones of some members of the Congress, including Boggs, had allegedly been tapped.




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Federal Bureau of Investigation" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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