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The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Functions Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 12th, 2020


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic intelligence and security agency of the United States whose primary role is to enforce federal laws and enhance national security. It operates under the jurisdiction of the Department of Justice and its main roles include counterterrorism, criminal investigations, and counterintelligence. The head of the agency reports directly to the Attorney General as well as the Director of National Intelligence. The FBI is authorized to conduct investigations in more than 200 categories of crimes under the United States law. The FBI is a domestic agency and operates primarily within the United States. However, it also operates offices in its embassies across the world to improve collaborations with foreign security services.


Prior to the establishment of the FBI, the role of providing intelligence to security agencies was fulfilled by the National Bureau of Criminal Identification. The idea of an investigative agency that would report directly to the Attorney General (AG) sprung after the assassination of President William McKinley in 1901. The assassination was perceived as a threat to the stability and prosperity of the US. President Theodore Roosevelt ordered Attorney General Bonaparte to establish an independent investigative service in order to avert the perceived threats from anarchists. The Attorney General requested security personnel from various agencies in the country. Some of the founding members came from the Secret Service. In 1908, Congress opposed the move by the Justice Department to take Treasury employees and argued that the new agency would morph into a clandestine police department. This did not deter Roosevelt from attaining his objective. He further directed Bonaparte to establish a Bureau of Investigation in compliance with the laws of the United States. Prior to the formation of the FBI, the AG lacked qualified personnel to conduct investigations and as a result, relied on information collected by security agencies to make legal decisions involving criminal cases.

Creation of the FBI

The FBI was created in 1908 under the tenure of Attorney General Charles Joseph Bonaparte who issued an Order for the creation of an investigative agency. The agency was established during a period when Congress had adjourned for the summer break. Bonaparte hired thirty-four people who had extensive experience in matters of security to work for the agency that was being established to conduct investigations within the United States (Pliley, 2014). The AG recommended that the new agency become a part of the Department of Justice. The Attorney General wrote to Congress notifying them of the newly-formed agency five months after its establishment. After its establishments, the FBI’s main task was investigating the house of prostitution (Pliley, 2014). The investigations were conducted in preparation for the enforcement of the Mann Act (Pliley, 2014). The Mann Act illegalized the transport of women for the purpose of immoral acts within the states (Pliley, 2014). In 1932, the agency was renamed the United States Bureau of Investigation and linked to the Bureau of Prohibition. It was later renamed the Division of Investigation (DOI). In 1935, the DOI became an independent division within the Department of Justice and was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (Pliley, 2014).

Departments/Branches of the FBI

The FBI has several departments that serve different functions. They include the Intelligence, National Security, Human Resource, Information and Technology, Science and Technology, and Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services departments. Intelligence Branch

The Intelligence department is responsible for handling all FBI’s matters related to intelligence, information sharing policies, analysis of intelligence, homeland security, and national security (Carlisle, 2015). It is also responsible for fulfilling law enforcement needs. The department comprises several professionals that include language analysts, intelligence analysts, special agents, and physical surveillance specialists. The department has a Field Intelligence Groups (FIGs) that carry out its intelligence operations around the country (Carlisle, 2015).

The National Security Branch

This department is responsible for protecting the United States by countering all acts of terrorism and eradicating weapons of mass destruction (Tully, 2015). In addition, it coordinates and carries out all foreign intelligence operations and espionage. The department has several specialists who investigate threats to national security and provide the findings of their investigations to other law enforcement agencies such as the police department and the Criminal Scene Investigation (CIA). The primary responsibility is identifying ad eradicating any threat to national security (Tully, 2015). The National Security Branch has several units that include the FBI Counterterrorism Division, the Terrorist Screening enter, the FBI Weapons of Mass Destruction Center, and the FBI Counterintelligence Division.

FBI Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch

This department’s roles include investigation of different forms of crimes and violation of individual civil rights. Examples of crimes under its jurisdiction include violent crime, drug-related crime, organized crime, financial crime, public corruption, and white-collar crime (Tully, 2015). Also, the branch handles all counterterrorism, counterintelligence, and criminal threats conducted through the use of technology. Its staff comprises FBI special agents, computer scientists, and analysts.

FBI Science and Technology Branch

This branch provides forensic science services, identification, information dissemination, and applied technology (Tully, 2015). Moreover, it provides automated analysis support capabilities to the agency and other law enforcement organizations in the United States. The department is headed by an FBI Executive Assistant Director who answers to the FBI Director and the Attorney General.

FBI Information and Technology Branch

This department handles all the information technology needs of the FBI and conducts information management (Wittkop, 2016). The department also oversees the creation and dissemination of knowledge within the FBI and among other law enforcement agencies in order to improve the efficacy of crime prevention strategies and initiatives (Wittkop, 2016).

FBI Human Resource Branch

This department is primarily responsible for recruiting and training new FBI agents (Tully, 2015). It handles all the FBI’s human resource needs. It was formed through the unification of the FBI Human Resource Division and the FBI training Division.

FBI’s Officers and Members

The FBI has a large staff that comprises different professionals. According to government statistics, the FBI employs more than 35,000 people who perform different functions (Tully, 2015). Members include special agents and support professionals. Support professionals include scientists, language specialists, information technology specialists, and intelligence analysts (Tully, 2015). In 2012, the FBI had 35, 664 members. Special agents were 13, 778 and the rest was the professional staff.

How the FBI Operates

The FBI’s organizational structure comprises the Office of the Director and 6 functional branches that perform specialized roles. Each branch s headed by an executive assistant director who reports to the FBI Director and the US Attorney General (Tully, 2015). Each branch has several offices and divisions that are further divided into sub-branches and field offices. The Office of the Director is the central administrative organ and provides services such as finance and staff management (Tully, 2015). Examples of administrative offices under the Office of the Director include office of the Deputy Director, Office of Public Affairs, Inspection Division, Security Division, Office of the Ombudsman, Resource planning Office, and the Records Management Office among others (Tully, 2015). The FBI’s rank structure includes field agents and FBI management staff.

Mission Before and After 9/11

The mission of the FBI has evolved tremendously as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attack. Prior to the 9/11 attacks, the FBI’s mission was centered on law enforcement through the use of intelligence tools an authorities (Karlsson, 2016). Counterterrorism was not an important aspect of its mission. However, after the 9/11 attacks, the FBI changed its mission to primarily focus on the prevention of terrorist attacks and foreign intelligence threats against the United States (Nobel, 2016). This necessitated changes in a paradigm shift with regard to the collection, use, and dissemination of intelligence (Karlsson, 2016). In FBI’s mission, counterterrorism is the highest priority, and programs that involve counterterrorism initiatives get the highest resource allocations (Nobel, 2016). In addition to fighting terrorism, the FBI fights human rights violations, corruption, and violent crime. The FBI was blamed for the 9/11 attacks because of its implementation of domestic duties regarding intelligence collection, analysis, and dissemination. Therefore, beefing up its intelligence collection and analysis capabilities was a necessary step toward its transformation.

The FBI’s Operation System and Core Value of Responsible Stewardship

Responsible stewardship is one of St Leo University’s core values. The University has an abundance of resources that it utilizes in fostering a spirit of service for the development of the University and the community. In that regard, they focus on applying their resources diligently in order to fulfill their mission and goals. Likewise, the FBI’s operation system distributes its vast resources among its various branches in order to ensure that its goals and objectives of protecting the United States are met (Nobel, 2016). As the principal law enforcement agency, the FBI gathers, analyzes, and shares intelligence with other law enforcement agencies within the public and private sectors. The agency has a unified mission that promotes the application of different techniques and legal tools in the improvement of national security. In line with its mission after 9/11 attacks, the FBI allocates more resources to terrorism-related programs (Nobel, 2016). Today, the Criminal Investigative Division (CID) operates with fewer resources than it had before the 9/11 attacks. Resource allocation is conducted through the establishment of Funded Staffing Levels (FSLs) that are assigned according to divisions or investigative programs. Resource allocations are determined by the seriousness of the crimes that certain programs or divisions handle.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is an agency that operates within the US Department of Justice shoe primary role is to protect the United States from internal and external attacks. The agency’s mission prior to the 9/11 attacks involved law enforcement and fighting crime. However, after the 9/11 attacks, its mission was revised. Currently, FBI’s main focus is on topping terrorism and intelligence threats. Moreover, it fights public cooperation, civil rights violations, and investigates serious crimes. After its formation in 1908, the FBI has undergone several changes that have transformed it into the largest and most powerful law enforcement agency in the United States. It comprises several branches that perform specific functions that are related to its mission. Responsible stewardship is one of FBI’s core values. Resource allocations are conducted based on the crimes that various programs handle. For instance, counterterrorism programs get more resources than collar-crime programs.


Carlisle, R. (2015). Encyclopedia of intelligence and counterintelligence. New York, NY: Routledge.

Karlsson, M. (2016). 9/11 and the design of counterterrorism institutions. New York, NY: Routledge.

Nobel, C. (2016). Web.

Pliley, J. R. (2014). Policing sexuality: The Mann Act and the making of the FBI. New York, NY: Harvard University Press.

Tully, A. (2015). Inside the FBI. New York, NY: eNet Press.

Wittkop, J. (2016). Building a comprehensive IT security program: Practical guidelines and best practices. New York, NY: Apress.

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