The Federal Bureau of Investigations has only “officially” been around since 1935, less than a century (but still old by American standards). However, before it became known by its current name, it operated beginning in 1906 when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Charles Bonapart as Attorney General. Bonapart regularly borrowed Secret Service members to investigate crimes, but when the practice was outlawed in 1908, he started his own branch of investigators. This branch was first only known as a “special agent force”, later to be dubbed Bureau of Investigations until finally becoming the FBI in 1935.

 

No matter what name it went by, the FBI has had a rather interesting past. Here are a few things you may not know about this branch of the government.

They probably have your fingerprints – and maybe your DNA

If you’ve had a security clearance or had your fingerprints taken for a driver’s license in your past, the FBI probably kept your prints on file. Interestingly, they may have your DNA as well – third party DNA collectors aren’t subject to HIPAA laws, so if you’ve tested your DNA to find your ancestry, the FBI may have your DNA too! The Department of Defense discouraged servicemembers from using DNA testing kits, and even if you’re not a servicemember it doesn’t hurt to be cautious with such sensitive information.

Walt Disney was an FBI informant

Aside from developing Mickey Mouse and the first full-length animated film, Walt Disney informed the FBI about actors and animators who he thought may be Communist sympathizers. He worked with the FBI from 1940 until he passed away in 1966. As part of their relationship, Disney offered to let the FBI use Disneyland for both business and recreational purposes, and the FBI allowed an episode of the Mickey Mouse Club to be filmed at an FBI office.

The FBI director has term limits

The first Director of the FBI was J. Edgar Hoover, who served initially as the Director of the Bureau of Investigations beginning in 1924. When the FBI was established in 1935, Hoover retained the Director position and served all the way until 1972. In 1976, Congress set a single 10-year term limit for the position. After Hoover’s lengthy run as director, the position has been held for as short as a single day (by Clyde Tolson after Hoover’s death) or as long as twelve years (by Robert Mueller after Congress approved an additional two year term).

The FBI investigates some weird stuff

The FBI’s mission is to “Protect the American people and uphold the Constitution of the United States.” It’s a pretty broad statement, and apparently this includes investigating the idea of extrasensory perception (ESP), spending extra time investigating John Lennon, searching for the stolen ruby slippers worn by actress Judy Garland in the Wizard of Oz, and spending two years investigating the song “Louie Louie.”

You can read your own FBI file

The Freedom of Information Act gives you access to your own FBI file, if you want it. You can also request the file for someone who is deceased. If the person you’re requesting information about is still alive and isn’t you, you’ll need their permission to access their information.

A history of drug use doesn’t preclude you from an FBI career…

The FBI has loosened its policy on drugs, particularly around marijuana use. Its most recent Employment Eligibility guide says that candidates can not have used marijuana within the year preceding application, or have used other illegal drugs within the past ten years.

…But not paying your student loans does

The same guide lists defaulting on student loans as an employment disqualifier, along with conviction of a felony, failure to pay child support, and failure to file your taxes, among other things.

Much like any government agency, the FBI has a mysterious and interesting past full of unique stories.

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Brynn Mahnke is a freelance writer specializing in researching, writing, and ghostwriting for clients in the career, finance, SaaS, and B2B/B2C niches. She focuses on writing case studies, whitepapers, ebooks, and articles showcasing the value her clients bring to their customers. When she isn't writing, you can find her running, cycling, or wrangling children. She can be reached through her website or at brynn.mahnke@gmail.com.
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