American Heritage magazine takes a look at what they call the Most Dangerous Institution, from its formation in 1908 as the Bureau of Investigation to these post-September 11th days. I especially like their sidebar "FBI Turning Points: 10 Critical Cases" which discusses investigations that have shaped the FBI into the organization it is today. An excerpt from the article:
With fewer than 400 agents in 1934, the FBI could hardly police the whole country. That wasn’t the point. What FDR wanted was theater, and Hoover obliged. He selected cases that guaranteed publicity. The slaying of Dillinger and the hunt for various “public enemies” —Pretty Boy Floyd, Baby Face Nelson, the Barker gang—made the Bureau famous (after several name changes, it finally became the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935). As movies and magazines trumpeted the G-man myth, newspapers proclaimed Hoover “Public Hero Number One.”The FBI's web site has more details about their 94 year history online. And, yes, the story of John Dillinger does make for pretty good theatre.