Historical Documents from the Bureau's Founding
Los Angeles, California
November 19, 1943
Memorandum for the Director:
Re: Early History of the Bureau of Investigation, United States Department of Justice
Under instructions from Assistant Director Louis B. Nichols, the following information relative to the necessity for the formation of the Bureau of Investigation, United States Departmentof Justice, and some items of interest relating to its early history are submitted by Special Agent James G. Findlay.
Inadequate Investigative Personnel
Prior to 1906, the United States Secret Service was the principal, if not the only, agency of the Government which was provided with criminal investigative personnel. Some of the Government Departments and bureaus were equipped in some way toinvestigate their own internal affairs. If a United States Attorney in any district had a difficult case and desired assistance, he would request the Attorney General to furnish an investigator or investigators, that is, Secret Service men, to aid him in the preparation of such a case for trial and to aid him in the trial of the case. Many of these Secret Service investigators were not regularlyappointed and commissioned "detectives", generally known as "Secret Service operatives" or "Secret Service men", but not United States Secret Service men.
The Chief of the United States Secret Service would recommend someone from this prepared list to the Attorney General, and as a rule such a party would then be assigned to conduct the investigation. Usually the investigator would work under thedirection and supervision of the United States Attorney. There were also special cases which were handled by special assistants to the Attorney General. Such investigations were supervised and directed by such special assistants to the Attorney General or jointly by the United States Attorney and the special assistant to the Attorney General.
There had been land frauds and alleged landfrauds in the United States since colonial times. In the early part of the present century there was a great campaign of what was called "muckraking" and land frauds, mining frauds, coal land frauds, oil land frauds, and many others were exposed. Millions of acres of land were involved in California, New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Kansas, Colorado, and other western states.
In 1907, AttorneyGeneral Charles J. Bonaparte called the attention of Congress to the fact that the Department of Justice possessed no "detective force" under its immediate control, and that conditions were rapidly growing worse.
During 1906 and 1907, some large land fraud investigations in Oregon, California, Kansas, and perhaps other states were in progress. These investigations were conducted in the beginningunder the jurisdiction and supervision of the Department of the Interior. A great amount of criticism was directed at the Interior Department "muckrakers" and by the people generally. It was reported at the time that no successful prosecution could be had.
President Theodore Roosevelt Takes Action
President Theodore Roosevelt, in his characteristic dynamic fashion, asserted that the plunderers ofthe public domain would be prosecuted and brought to justice.
The story has been related, and it is believed to be in substance true and correct, that President Theodore Roosevelt called Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte to the White House and told him that he desired that the land frauds be prosecuted vigorously, and directed that he obtain the necessary investigative personnel to handle thematter in an expeditious and thorough manner. It was reported that Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte applied to the United States Secret Service for trained personnel to make the proper and necessary investigation, and was assigned quite a force of men, who were sent out to conduct investigations. In due course a lengthy report was submitted, which was presented to Mr. Bonaparte, and by Mr....
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