In February 1946 Stalin gave a public address in which he implied that

future wars were inevitable until Communism replaced capitalism worldwide.

Events in Europe and North America convinced Congress that Stalin was well

on his way to achieving his goal. The Russian veto prevented the United

Nations from curbing Soviet expansion under its auspices.


Americans feared Communist expansion was not limited to Europe. By 1947,

ample evidence existed that pro-Soviet individuals had infiltrated the

American Government. In June, 1945, the FBI raided the offices of Amerasia,

a magazine concerned with the Far East, and discovered a large number of

classified State Department documents. Several months later the Canadians

arrested 22 people for trying to steal atomic secrets. Previously, Americans

felt secure behind their monopoly of the atomic bomb. Fear of a Russian bomb

now came to dominate American thinking. The Soviets detonated their own bomb

in 1949.


Counteracting the Communist threat became a paramount focus of government at

all levels, as well as the private sector. While U.S. foreign policy

concentrated on defeating Communist expansion abroad, many U.S. citizens

sought to defeat the Communist threat at home. The American Communist Party

worked through front organizations or influenced other Americans who agreed

with their current propaganda ("fellow travelers").


Since 1917, the FBI and its predecessor agencies had investigated suspected

acts of espionage and sabotage. In 1939 and again in 1943, Presidential

directives had authorized the FBI to carry out investigations of threats to

national security. This role was clarified and expanded under Presidents

Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Any public or private agency or individual

with information about subversive activities was urged to report it to the

FBI. A poster to that effect was distributed to police departments

throughout the country. At the same time, it warned Americans to "avoid

reporting malicious gossip or idle rumors." The FBI's authority to conduct

background investigations on present and prospective government employees

also expanded dramatically in the postwar years. The 1946 Atomic Energy Act

gave the FBI "responsibility for determining the loyalty of individuals

...having access to restricted Atomic Energy data." Later, executive orders

from both Presidents Truman and Eisenhower gave the FBI responsibility for

investigating allegations of disloyalty among federal employees. In these

cases, the agency requesting the investigation made the final determination;

the FBI only conducted the investigation and reported the results. Many

suspected and convicted spies, such as Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, had been

federal employees. Therefore, background investigations were considered to

be just as vital as cracking major espionage cases.


Despite the threats to the United States of subversion and espionage, the

FBI's extended jurisdiction, and the time-consuming nature of background

investigations, the Bureau did not surpass the number of Agents it had

during World War II--or its yearly wartime budget--until the Korean War in

the early 1950s. After the Korean War ended, the number of Agents stabilized

at about 6,200, while the budget began a steady climb in 1957.


Several factors converged to undermine domestic Communism in the 1950s.

Situations like the Soviet defeat of the Hungarian rebellion in 1956 caused

many members to abandon the American Communist Party. However, the FBI also

played a role in diminishing Party influence. The Bureau was responsible for

the investigation and arrest of alleged spies and Smith Act violators, most

of whom were convicted. Through Hoover's speeches, articles, testimony, and

books like Masters of Deceit, the FBI helped alert the public to the

Communist threat.


The FBI's role in fighting crime also expanded in the postwar period through

its assistance to state and local law enforcement and through increased

jurisdictional responsibility.


Advances in forensic science and technical development enabled the FBI to

devote a significant proportion of its resources to assisting state and

local law enforcement agencies. One method of continuing assistance was

through the National Academy. Another was to use its greater resources to

help states and localities solve their cases.


A dramatic example of aid to a state occurred after the midair explosion of

a plane over Colorado in 1955. The FBI Laboratory examined hundreds of

airplane parts, pieces of cargo, and the personal effects of passengers. It

pieced together evidence of a bomb explosion from passenger luggage, then

painstakingly looked into the backgrounds of the 44 victims. Ultimately,

Agents identified the perpetrator and secured his confession, then turned

the case over to Colorado authorities who successfully prosecuted it in a

state court.


At the same time, Congress gave the FBI new federal laws with which to fight

civil rights violations, racketeering, and gambling.


Up to this time, the interpretation of federal civil rights statutes by the

Supreme Court was so narrow that few crimes, however heinous, qualified to

be investigated by federal agents.


The turning point in federal civil rights actions occurred in the summer of

1964, with the murder of voting registration workers Michael Schwerner,

Andrew Goodman, and James Chaney near Philadelphia, Mississippi. At the

Department of Justice's request, the FBI conducted the investigation as it

had in previous, less-publicized racial incidents. The case against the

perpetrators took years to go through the courts. Only after 1966, when the

Supreme Court made it clear that federal law could be used to prosecute

civil rights violations, were seven men found guilty. By the late 1960s, the

confluence of unambiguous federal authority and local support for civil

rights prosecutions allowed the FBI to play an influential role in enabling

African Americans to vote, serve on juries, and use public accommodations on

an equal basis.


Involvement of the FBI in organized crime investigations also was hampered

by the lack of possible federal laws covering crimes perpetrated by

racketeers. After Prohibition, many mob activities were carried out locally,

or if interstate, they did not constitute major violations within the

Bureau's jurisdiction.


An impetus for federal legislation occurred in 1957 with the discovery by

Sergeant Croswell of the New York State Police that many of the best known

mobsters in the United States had met together in upstate New York. The FBI

collected information on all the individuals identified at the meeting,

confirming the existence of a national organized-crime network. However, it

was not until an FBI Agent persuaded mob insider Joseph Valachi to testify

that the public learned firsthand of the nature of La Cosa Nostra, the

American "mafia."


Although federal racketeering and gambling statutes were passed in the 1950s

and early 1960s to aid the Bureau's fight against mob influence, the two

strongest weapons for combatting organized crime were given to the FBI

during President Richard Nixon's Administration. The Omnibus Crime Control

and Safe Streets Act of 1968 provided for the use of court-ordered

electronic surveillance in the investigation of certain specified

violations. The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO)

Statute of 1970 allowed organized groups to be prosecuted for all of their

diverse criminal activities, without the crimes being linked by a

perpetrator or all-encompassing conspiracy. Along with greater use of Agents

for undercover work by the late 1970s, these provisions helped the FBI

develop cases that, in the 1980s, put almost all the major traditional crime

family heads in prison.


A national tragedy produced another expansion of FBI jurisdiction. When

President Kennedy was assassinated, the crime was a local homicide; no

federal law addressed the murder of a President. Nevertheless, President

Lyndon B. Johnson tasked the Bureau with conducting the investigation.

Congress then passed a new law to ensure that any such act in the future

would be a federal crime.


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