During President Theodore Roosevelt’s administration, Attorney General Charles Bonaparte decided he needed a squad of investigators to handle a rising tide of crime and corruption. Bonaparte, grandnephew of Napoleon, appointed nine former Secret Service agents and twenty-five of his own men to form a special agent force. On July 26, 1908, he ordered the new force to begin conducting investigations for the Department of Justice. It was the birth of the Federal Bureau of Investigation – the FBI.
One of the agents’ early assignments was to help stop the “white slave trade” that trafficked women into prostitution houses. After World War I, the relentless G-men (an abbreviation for “government men”) began chasing down gangsters like John Dillinger, Al Capone, and “Baby Face” Nelson.
The FBI’s famous Ten Most Wanted list began in 1950 after a reporter looking for story ideas asked the bureau for information about the ten “toughest guys” it would like to catch. The stories generated so much interest, the FBI decided to make the list permanent. More than 150 of the Ten Most Wanted Fugitives have been captured with the public’s help.
Today the FBI numbers more than 13,000 special agents and 19,000 analysts, scientists, and other personnel. They work around the globe, with headquarters in Washington, D.C., 56 U.S. field offices, and more than 60 international offices in U.S. embassies. Agents investigate crimes ranging from civil rights violations to cyber-attacks. In recent years, they have helped prevent scores of terrorist attacks.
The list of FBI heroes is long. It includes men and women like Special Agent Leonard Hatton, a bomb specialist who was on his way to work in New York City on September 11, 2001, when he saw smoke rising from the World Trade Center. He ran to the scene to help others escape. When the towers collapsed, he died beneath them. The motto of the FBI is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.”