The FBIAA was founded in April 1981 in response to the growing recognition that agents needed to join together in order to protect and advance the interests of their profession. The Association was incorporated under the laws of the District of Columbia as a non-profit corporation on September 18, 1981.

History of The Founding of The FBI Agents Association

By SSA Craig L. Dotlo (retired)
FBIAA First President 1981 - 1988

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the United States Government faced a highly agitated and disgruntled segment of the American people. The very controversial Vietnam War and contentious civil rights struggle produced social unrest, including many violent demonstrations.

A number of college students formed a group known as "Students for a Democratic Society," which primarily protested the Government's policies on the Vietnam War and the Selective Service draft system. A radical faction of this group splintered into a new organization referred to as the "Weathermen."

Following the accidental destruction of a Weathermen bomb factory in New York City, the group went underground. While fugitives from justice, the members of the Weathermen Underground continued to protest Government policies through a series of criminal acts including bank robberies, burglaries and bombings of Government offices and ultimately the bombing of the United States Capitol.

A desire grew to form an agent's association to address the concerns of its members, not merely in time of crises, but on a continual basis.

The FBI was directed by the President and the Attorney General to vigorously and expeditiously locate and apprehend those who had become known as the "Weathermen Fugitives." The FBI directed its agents in New York and other key areas to utilize "sensitive techniques" including surreptitious warrantless entries and wire taps.

About the same time, it became clear that President Nixon's tenure was in serious jeopardy because of charges relating to the Watergate scandal. In this highly politicized climate, the media, the Department of Justice and Congressional committees began examining other perceived areas of Government abuse including warrantless entries by Special Agents searching for the Weathermen Fugitives. These FBI agents were characterized by prominent national public officials as "renegades." Since the Weathermen Fugitives had conspired with hostile foreign nations, FBI senior officials had concluded that the more liberal National Security Guidelines were applicable in these investigations. This interpretation obviated the need for the more traditional judicial warrant process for search and electronic surveillance required in criminal investigations. FBI Headquarters did not initially acknowledge that it had authorized the "sensitive techniques" and failed to assert that field agents were operating with Headquarters' authority and not as "renegades."

Detailed information about these FBI initiatives became front page headlines, which led the new Attorney General under the Carter Administration to order a complete investigation of FBI activities. The Department of Justice subpoenaed and vigorously investigated "street agents," who were compelled to appear before Grand Juries. Many of these agents lacked the financial resources to retain competent counsel to protect themselves from the consequences of having done their jobs as instructed. Ultimately, the Field Division Supervisor, who headed the New York Office Weathermen squad, was indicted by a Federal Grand Jury in New York for violations of civil rights statutes. The indictment was based on the Department of Justice's presentation of the "facts" to the Grand Jury. Street agents were held criminally responsible for policies sanctioned by the highest level of the Executive Branch.

View of FBI headquarters in 1975.

Field agents across the country knew that the Supervisor's activities had been authorized by FBIHQ, and their anger and frustration finally boiled over at what was clearly intended to be the railroading of a dedicated colleague. This suffering and torment led FBI agents to independently form an ad hoc group named "The Special Agents Legal Defense Committee." This informal and meagerly financed committee met with great success because agents from across the nation rallied in support of a common purpose. The committee raised thousands of dollars for victimized agents and organized letter writing campaigns to members of Congress and newspapers throughout the country. A newsletter was published to keep agents informed of the latest events. More important, these efforts united agents in the common cause of giving aid and comfort to our colleagues, who found themselves in trouble simply because they had done their jobs. This grass roots group allowed FBI street agents to tell their side of the story to the American people, while FBIHQ remained tight-lipped because of a Department of Justice gag order.

Finally, a group of New York agents uncovered documents in FBI files proving that the FBI Supervisor who had been indicted had acted with the full knowledge and authorization of the Director. It took those agents one week to find documents that the Departmental lawyers had been unable to locate during a year long investigation. The Department was forced to move for dismissal of the indictment. Although two high level FBI Headquarters' officials were convicted of civil rights violations in Washington, D.C., they were subsequently pardoned by President Reagan.

The unjust indictment and the effective action mounted by the united field agents offered lessons that the agents were quick to learn. A rally on the steps of the Federal Courthouse in New York drew national attention to the injustice of the indictment. A fundraising campaign helped cover the legal expenses of all the agents involved in the investigation. Independently, field agents began a serious study that established definitively the foreign connections to the Weathermen. Apparently, those links were not seriously considered by the Department of Justice.

On the positive side we learned that agents can, when united and determined, take responsible and productive action on their own. Street agents had learned that they could not necessarily rely on administrators at FBI Headquarters or the Department of Justice to protect their rights or their professional interests--especially in an environment highly charged with political considerations.

It was from this experience that a desire grew to form an agent's association to address the concerns of its members, not merely in time of crises, but on a continual basis. We needed access to competent legal counsel and to a united voice that would be heard by administrators at the FBI, by members of Congress, by the media, by our national leaders and by the American people.

With the growth of the Association, we have been able to significantly influence the law enforcement profession at the Federal level in several ways. Our views are sought by members of Congress, we are invited to serve on Governmental commissions; our opinions are publicized in the media; our recommendations are given to the Director of the FBI; and our overall contributions serve as a benefit for all FBI agents.

The FBI Agents Association has sought to bring about change in the FBI through the use of logic and compelling arguments. We are dedicated to improving the Bureau to ensure all FBI agents are treated in a fair manner and to ensure the best possible climate for the effective discharge of their professional duties.