The federal bureau of investigation (FBI) is a body that operates under the umbrella of the United States Department of Justice. Its primary role is to investigate crimes that are classified as a federal crime; additionally, the FBI also functions as an intelligence agency.
The FBI’s main offices are housed in the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington DC; in addition to this, there are fifty-six field offices that serve the major American cities. The smaller cities are not left out; and are served by resident agencies that total to about four hundred. ‘Legal attachés’ is the name assigned to operatives located on foreign soil and based in the American embassies all over the world.
The FBI defines its core values as follows; rigorous obedience to the constitution of the United States; respect for the dignity of all those we protect; compassion; fairness; uncompromising personal integrity and institutional integrity; accountability by accepting responsibility for our actions and decisions and the consequences of our actions and decisions; and leadership, both personal and professional (FBI, Quick-facts).
Scope of Operation of the FBI
The role of the FBI has evolved over time to include activities that have been newly categorized and recognized as being criminal. The FBI in its website defines its role as the following [FBI, Quick-facts].
“To protect and defend the United States against terrorist and foreign intelligence threats, to uphold and enforce the criminal laws of the United States, and to provide leadership and criminal justice services to federal, state, municipal, and international agencies and partners.”
The FBI has its plate full handling some of the threats from within and without the United States that endanger Americans in several ways. These functions include the prevention of acts of terrorism both from external sources and domestic ones; and also, from espionage and intelligence activities from foreign powers. The FBI has risen to the occasion regarding cybercrime after the meteoric rise of the internet and all its attributes and evils. The FBI is also charged with investigating and exposing corruption activities in the public domain. The FBI also protects the civil rights of the citizens; and investigates organized crime, financial crimes and violent crime.
The complete list of Investigative Programs includes the following; Counterterrorism, Counterintelligence, Cyber Crime, Public Corruption, Civil Rights, Organized Crime, Violent Gangs, White-Collar Crime, Significant Violent Crime, Fugitives, Crimes Against Children, Art Crime, Environmental Crime, Background Investigations and Indian Country.
The FBI also has various programs to increase the relationship with the civilian population. Programs formulated to work with the private sector include; InfraGard, Business Alliance, Academic Alliance and the Citizens’ Academy. Programs for Ensuring Accountability and Compliance include Annual Inspections, Office of Professional Responsibility, Office of Integrity and Compliance, The Inspector General, The Office of the General Counsel and The Security Division.
Organization of the FBI
The FBI is organized into several divisions and departments;
National Security Branch; Counterintelligence Division, Counterterrorism Division, Directorate of Intelligence, Weapons of Mass Destruction Directorate
Criminal Investigations Branch; Criminal Investigative Division, Cyber Division
Law Enforcement Services Branch; Criminal Justice Information Services Division, Critical Incident Response Group, Laboratory Division, Office of International Operations, Office of Law Enforcement Coordination, Operational Technology Division, Training & Development Division
Administration Branch; Human Resources Division, Facilities & Logistics Services Division, Finance Division, Records Management Division, Security Division
Office of the Chief Information Officer; Information Technology Operations Division, Office of IT Policy & Planning, Office of IT Program Management, Office of IT Systems Development
There are several units that have been formed to handle special tasks within the FBI; these are mostly formed after a specific need has been identified as needing special attention and/or skill. A good example is the Hostage Rescue Team [FBI, Rise in International Crime]; the need to have an elite team that can defuse a hostage situation through forceful entry and rescue with tactics similar to those of SWAT as identified after the murder of Israeli athletes in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich by terrorists; in an attempt to be prepared for a similar situation in the 1984 summer Olympics, the unit was formed.
Another specialized team is the Computer Analysis and Response Team (CART); this team was formed in 1981.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation had a total of thirty-one thousand two-hundred and forty-four (31,244) employees as of the end of 2008. This consisted of 12,851 special agents; the rest of the employees were made up of support staff making up a total of 18,393.
There are several requirements for eligibility for recruitment as an FBI agent. A potential recruit has to be a holder of American citizenship at the time of application and be aged between 23 and 37 years old. The applicant also has to have no prior criminal record and must have completed a four-year course resulting in the award of a degree from a recognized university.
The applicant has to pass a Single Scope Background Investigation (SSBI); this test is carried out by the office of personnel management. The purpose of this test is to allow safe granting of Top Security clearance after induction into the bureau after completion of the training; the bureau has to be absolutely sure it is not risking exposing sensitive information to a person who has a questionable or unsatisfactory background.
Candidates applying for recruitment as special agents also have to pass a Physical Fitness Test (PFT); this involves running two courses measuring 300 meters and 1.5 miles respectively. The applicant also has to execute one minute of sit-ups and a similar number of maximum push-ups. The applicant has to pass a lie-detector (polygraph test); some of the questions include a possibility of the applicant being a drug user.
After the applicant has fulfilled all these requirements, he or she is required to fill a Form SF-312 which is a non-disclosure agreement; then finally is admitted to the FBI academy. This is located in the Marine Corps base in Quantico where the recruit spends an estimated 5 months undergoing rigorous training necessary for optimum preparedness for the challenging task ahead of them.
Training involves over five hundred hours of lectures and participation in over 1000 hours of simulated law enforcement scenarios where the recruit horns his/her skills in handling themselves in a practical situation. The trainees are constantly evaluated for proper progress and development of relevant skills; and those who show an obvious lack of capacity to develop these skills and on the expected schedule are inevitably weeded out.
Eventually, when the new agents graduate, they are posted to the various stations all over the country or to divisions that require their specific skills and qualifications; there’s also a potential of being posted to an embassy as a legal attaché. The agent also has the potential to be transferred to any other field office or resident agency depending on the needs of such agency, the skills of the agent and administrative goals.
The FBI also maintains an army of professional support staff who are not field agents. These include professionals such as police officers, specialists in intelligence analysis, interpreters and language experts, various scientific experts, computer experts and many others. Some of the requirements for recruitment into this cadre are less rigorous.
The structure of the FBI especially in regard to the classification of their employees has been criticized for allowing sub-optimal communication between the various agencies and employees within the structure. For example, many of the highly qualified employees such as intelligence analysts and scientists are still classified and taken as support staff who cannot participate in some core functions and operations of the FBI (Zegart, 2007). The bureau thus misses utilizing an immense wealth of skills and expertise that these people possess just because they are not special agents.
Benefits at the FBI
As an employer, the FBI has tried to ensure that their staff receives attractive benefits of employment so as to maintain a motivated and satisfied workforce. Some of the benefits include; health insurance, life insurance, retirement (pension), continuing education and professional training opportunities, work-life programs time-off among others [FBI, Benefits].
The FBI has over time played a central role in the maintenance of law and order in the United States. This role has been handled arguably well over the years. The biggest challenge however for the bureau is to evolve quickly enough to be able to handle new threats that appear every day.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Federal Bureau of Investigation – Quick Facts.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Rise in International Crime.
- Federal Bureau of Investigation: Life at the FBI: Benefits at the FBI.
- Zegart, Amy (2007). Our Clueless Intelligence System: Washington Post. Web.