Crazy Facts About the FBI
In movies, they're stoic people in suits with an almost supernatural ability to find and apprehend criminals. FBI agents are pretty impressive in real life, too, but they're not quite as infallible as Hollywood would have you think. Their secretive operations haven't remained entirely confidential, and over the years some crazy details have managed to reach the public. Take a look at these lesser-known facts about the FBI — the good, the bad and everything in between.
Art Theft Is No Joke
You might think that major art heists only happen in movies like Ocean's 8, but they're a thing in the real world, too. After all, well-known pieces of art can be some of the most expensive things in the world. What better way to get rich than by swiping a couple of Van Goghs?
Part of the FBI's job is to exhaust every possible opportunity for criminal investigations and apprehensions. They look for, test and implement new interrogation tactics, weapons and investigation techniques. They even went so far as to investigate whether ESP was a plausible tool for the government to use.
FBI Most Wanted
You may have heard of the FBI's infamous Most Wanted List. You certainly don't want to find yourself on it, and the only way people can be removed is if charges are dropped or the individual is deemed harmless to society.
They Don't Like Borat
You know the movie Borat? The mustache-clad Kazakh reporter who offends just about everyone he meets? Well, it turns out the FBI compiled a file on actor Sacha Baron Cohen for the many hijinks he performed while filming Borat. Driving around in an ice cream truck and pranking people was Cohen's typical activity at the time.
They Take Songs Seriously
Not only does the FBI value high-caliber art, but they put a lot of stock into music, too. Instead of protecting this song, however, they studied it to search for potentially pornographic language. The song in question was "Louie Louie" by The Kingsmen.
A One-man Show
Nowadays, we imagine the FBI to be an immense organization with many agents in many different sectors — and by all accounts, that's exactly what it is. It wasn't always such a thriving institution, however. Take the FBI laboratory; it’s currently one of the biggest crime labs on Earth with 500 employees.
Busting Crime Isn't Cheap
Sometimes to catch the criminals, you have to spend the big bucks. After all, busting crime isn't cheap. Not only do you need to pay your agents, but you've also got to have the right equipment on hand to do the job. There was one man, however, who cost the FBI a legendary amount of money.
J. Edgar Hoover's Controversial Career
It's pretty safe to say that running the FBI is no easy job. For some, it's proven especially tumultuous. J. Edgar Hoover was the second director of the FBI and spent the better part of his life at the helm. He made great advancements in the organization and was a leader to many.
They Busted McDonald's?
You may remember a promotional game designed by McDonald's called the McDonald's Monopoly. The promotion consisted of certain Monopoly pieces that yielded prizes for customers as small as a free burger and as big as $1 million in cash. This fun marketing ploy was run by one Jerome Jacobson.
Some Things Are Never Solved
As much as the FBI solves the hardest-to-crack cases, sometimes they simply can't get to the bottom of an incident. One of these incidents is the 2003 case of the missing Angola plane. This mystery starts with two mechanics working on a 727 and ends with them inexplicably taking off.
You can't have a successful FBI program without making some connections — and some unlikely ones, at that. The FBI has always relied on a certain number of informants to let them know when shady behavior is taking place, or to keep an eye on specific individuals.
An Embarrassing Moment
When you're meant to investigate the strangest, most hidden operations in the U.S., you're bound to stumble upon some false leads. As it turns out, the FBI is not immune to embarrassing slip-ups now and again, and that's what happened in 2005.
You Can Find More Than You Think
Do you ever find yourself curious about what information lurks behind the FBI's walls? Of course, we'll never truly gain access to all their juicy files (unless you set your sights on becoming an agent yourself) but there’s a surprising amount of information available to the public.
They Don't Like Webcams, Either
You might tease your dad for keeping a piece of tape over his computer's webcam, but he might not be far off track when it comes to virtual monitoring. Organizations like the FBI do, in fact, use webcams to investigate groups or people.
They Might Have Your Fingerprint
Even if you've never committed a crime, the FBI might have your fingerprints in their database. Many jobs require applicants to provide their fingerprints as part of a background check, and these go directly to the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System along with 100 million others.
1234? Try Again
Not all criminals are masterminds, and some of the biggest names on the most wanted list have been caught for the simplest reasons. One infamous cyberhacker, Jeremy Hammond, was captured thanks to his flimsy computer password: His cat's name, plus the numbers 123.
Ever dreamed of becoming part of the FBI? Well, before you get your hopes up, take a quick look at their qualifications before sending in an application. For starters, if you aren't between the ages of 23 and 37, you're out of luck.
Behind the Curve
While the FBI likes to market themselves as a cutting-edge, advanced organization, they were shockingly behind the curve when it comes to digitizing records. Before the year 2012, they were still using paper trails for every case. Talk about ancient!
Plenty of Samples
When you think about the sheer number of crimes happening on a day-to-day basis, it makes sense that the FBI must keep the growing quantities of evidence stored up somewhere. When a case has been processed, they can't simply throw the hair, blood and fingerprint samples away — they've got to box them up.
An Unlikely Target
It's common knowledge that the FBI keeps tabs on certain persons of interest. You might be surprised, however, at just who those persons turn out to be. Not everyone knows that 1950s superstar Frank Sinatra was someone the FBI kept a close watch on over the years.
As with any top-level organization, the FBI has its own secret language agents use to communicate. Many of their codewords are unknown to the public, but a few have become common knowledge. The word "bucar," for example, refers to a special FBI car.
The Overworked Agent?
You might have an idea in your head of the overworked FBI agent who has no life outside of their job. This may not always be the case, however. It turns out that the FBI has part-time roles for those individuals who don't want to spend every waking minute going over gruesome criminal cases.
Tough on Alcohol
During the time of Prohibition — 1920 to 1933 — the government had an unfavorable view on alcohol. In our current day and age, when you can see 10 different liquor stores in the same area, a ban on booze seems preposterous. In the 1920s, however, it was no simple matter.
Our country's law enforcement system was not always as robust as it is today. The Federal Bureau of Investigation saw its humble beginnings in the year 1908, under President Theodore Roosevelt's supervision. During this time, the entire Justice Department was made up of only 38 individuals.
Before the FBI officially became the FBI, it was headed by a man named Stanley Finch. Finch had a tough view on crime, which was all well and good, except his main focus was on busting prostitution. He saw the practice as inherently evil and detrimental to society.
Even systems meant to combat corruption are vulnerable to being corrupted. One would hope that the FBI of all organizations would be resistant to corruption, but FBI director William J. Burns proved otherwise. He found himself in a 1920s oil scandal called the "Teapot Dome Scandal."
A Boys’ Club
It's not surprising that the FBI was male-dominated in its early years, but it's still a disappointing truth. Not only was it generally harder for women to get in, but director J. Edgar Hoover actively took actions against women FBI agents.
Intelligence Is Intimidating
The FBI likes having smart people within its ranks, but they're suspicious when highly intelligent people appear on the outside. This is why one Albert Einstein caught their eye in the mid-1900s. He was so incredibly smart that they feared the things he was capable of.
Another one of J. Edgar Hoover's less-than-charming traits in his day was his hate of so-called communists. He saw the threat of communism everywhere and was constantly on the lookout for a person, place or thing to accuse of communist sympathizing.
Undercover Agent Gone Awry
Everyone loves a good story about an undercover agent. It seems like such a thrilling job, as if it’s rife with drama and adventure. The truth, however, is not always so glamorous. One undercover agent named Craig Monteilh was sent to Muslim mosques to catch terrorists.