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History of the FBI

Mises Daily: Wednesday, August 15, 2001 by

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FBI Agent axes speakeasy, 1920In his speech appointing the new head of the FBI, President Bush spoke of the career bureaucrat’s obligation to live up to the FBI’s "great tradition."  He did not give details, so I thought that, as a public service, I would.  

Much of this bureaucracy’s activities have involved economic interventions of one sort or another, not to mention direct attacks on life and liberty. The FBI is a case study in how government agencies, programs, and powers expand, regardless of poor performance.

1908      FBI founded by big-government friend Teddy Roosevelt to investigate and prosecute various imaginary crimes, such as violations of the antitrust laws and the interstate shipment of prizefight films.  

1909      FBI becomes a glorified vice squad fighting interstate prostitution.

1919      Young J. Edgar Hoover joins in the Palmer raids, in which thousands of Americans were arrested for the thought crime of  supporting government ownership of the means of production. (In time, this view became mainstream in all three branches of government.)

1924      J. Edgar Hoover is appointed head of the FBI.  He would stay in power for forty-seven years by keeping files on his corrupt and lascivious enemies and presidents.

1932      FBI crime lab founded; they still are getting the bugs out sixty-nine years later.

1934      Following the principle that government creates its own demand, the FBI gets more powers to deal with the crime wave unleashed by the federal war on alcohol. 

1939     FDR gives the FBI responsibility for all matters relating to espionage, sabotage, and violation of the neutrality laws.  

1941      FBI infiltrates and harasses the America First Committee for the thought crime of opposing U.S. entry in World War II.  

1946      Harry Truman authorizes FBI to wiretap persons suspected of "subversive activities."  

1950      FBI passes the decade by keeping track of a dangerous American named Francis A. Sinatra.

1961      More vice squad/imaginary crime activities. For example, FBI becomes national gambling police.  Gambling continues.

1963      The FBI, in advance, and the Secret Service, on the scene, do such a good job preventing JFK’s assassination that the FBI gets important new powers to prevent the killing of the president.

1964      The FBI finds the time to put tape recorders under MLK’s bed. The FBI sends the tape to King with a veiled suggestion that he kill himself.  

1967      Brockport State professor commits suicide after FBI informants leak his "subversive" (anti-Viet Nam war) activities to the press.  (Source: Hoover’s FBI, by William Turner.)

1968      Apparently, the 1961 law didn’t work, because new laws are passed giving the FBI even more power over interstate gambling.

1968      Hoover makes Richard Nixon an honorary FBI agent.  (Source: Hoover’s FBI)  (Later, in an equally silly oxymoronical act, Nixon made Elvis an honorary DEA agent.)

1969      FBI infiltrates and harasses groups and individuals for the thought crime of opposing the Viet Nam war.

1970      The gossipy Hoover informs soul mate Nixon that actress Jean Seberg is pregnant, possibly by a leader of the Black Panther Party.  The story ends up in the gossip columns.  Seberg miscarries and attempts suicide on the anniversary of the baby’s death.  

1972      Director Hoover dies.

1973      FBI Director L. Patrick Gray resigns after it is revealed that he aided President Nixon’s Watergate cover-up.

1974      $126 million FBI building opened.  That’s nearly half a billion in today’s inflated currency.

1976      Church committee learns that the FBI spied on half a million Americans for "political crimes" without winning a single conviction.

1982      FBI gets concurrent jurisdiction with DEA over drug war just about the time drug prohibition begins to tear America apart.  Million-man march to prison begins.

1983      FBI investigates Americans opposed to U.S. wars in Central America.

1989      FBI gets new powers over local violent crime, expanding its involvement with local police agencies.  Notice that the power of the FBI is always expanding, never contracting—like government in general. 

1992      FBI gun controller Lon Horiuchi shoots woman holding her baby, proving the gun controllers right: People do get hurt when irresponsible people have guns.

1993      FBI Director William Sessions accused of misusing FBI aircraft, cars, personnel, and funds.  

1993      The highly professional FBI takes over the scene at Waco from the bumbling, grumbling, stumbling, mumbling BATF.  After the Davidians make fools of the FBI for fifty-one days, the G-men go in for the kill.  (Timothy McVeigh takes note.)  

1993      FBI crime lab scandals.

1996      FBI wrongly targets Richard Jewell as Olympic bomber.

1996      FBI receives evidence that an attorney committed perjury to save a federal judge from being removed from the bench.  They do no investigation, but somehow the target of the complaint is tipped off.  After their legal adviser tells them perjury is not a crime, they close the file.  

1999      FBI's Evidence Response teams are sent to Rwanda, Bosnia, and Kosovo to investigate war crimes.  The U. S. really is the world’s policeman.  No word yet on that pharmeceutical factory in the Sudan.

2000      FBI takes credit for peace on New Year’s Eve.  Still hasn’t taken credit for Waco, however.

2001      House committee reveals that, to protect an informant’s identity, the FBI allowed an innocent man to serve thirty years in prison for murder.  Hoover knew.

2001      FBI Russian spy-hunter Robert Hanssen pleads guilty to spying for the Russians for fifteen years.

2001      FBI guilty of failing to turn over files to McVeigh's lawyers.  Gives McVeigh one last laugh.

2001      Freeh goes, after the Clinton administration works to protect him from serious reprimand for Ruby Ridge.  

With the new guy at the FBI trying to live up to this "great tradition," you had better watch your wallet, your back, and your Constitution.

As this article was being written, I read the following headline in the local paper: "FBI says weapons and laptops missing."  Scanning the article, I was disappointed to learn that not all FBI weapons and laptops were missing. 

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James Ostrowski practices law in Buffalo, N.Y. See his archive and send him MAIL.