Federal Bureau of Investigation
/ ˈfedərəl ˈbjʊroʊ əv ˌɪnˌvestəˈɡeɪʃn̩ /
(FBI) Agency of the US Department of Justice that investigates violations of federal law not specifically assigned to other agencies, being particularly concerned with internal security. The FBI was established 1908 and built up a position of powerful autonomy during the autocratic directorship of J Edgar Hoover 1924–72. Louis Joseph Freeh, a former FBI agent and federal prosecutor, has been director since 1993.
The FBI reports to the US Attorney General, and investigates espionage, sabotage, kidnapping, bank robbery, civil-rights violations, and fraud against the government, and conducts security clearances. Field divisions are maintained in more than 60 US cities. The FBI's special agents are qualified in law, accounting, or auditing.
In 1964 the agency was criticized by the Warren Commission concerning the assassination of President Kennedy. In 1973 L Patrick Gray, the acting director, resigned when it was revealed that he had destroyed relevant material in the Watergate investigation. Through the Freedom of Information Act it became known that the FBI had kept files on many eminent citizens and that Hoover had abused his power, for example, in investigating the civil rights leader Martin Luther King.
In 1993 William Sessions became the first FBI director to be dismissed from the post. He had been criticized for his weak leadership and abuse of related privileges.
The law enforcement agency in the Justice Department; Also called: FBI.