FBI agents have a wide field of endeavors, from tracking big-time criminals
to sitting behind a desk conducting hours of research.
The FBI investigates white-collar crime, organized crime and drugs, violent
crimes and civil rights violations. But it's also the FBI's responsibility
to gather foreign counterintelligence and investigate terrorist activities
that affect the security of the U.S.
"Terrorism has become extremely important to the FBI," says Don Berecz.
He is an FBI special agent in Springfield, Illinois.
The FBI gathers security intelligence for the U.S. government. This information
is used to help government decision-makers develop policy, and it also allows
FBI agents to catch criminals and deal with them appropriately. For example,
the FBI has a special section dedicated to helping find drug dealers.
Typically, national security agents analyze information from a number of
sources, including the media, to get the story behind the story.
Spying may not be everything you imagine. For one thing, national security
agents don't wear trench coats and fedoras. "We generally look and dress like
every other professional worker in America," says Roger Jonus. He is an FBI
agent in Washington, D.C.
Often, agents use covert and intrusive methods, such as electronic surveillance
and the recruitment of spies, to get the information they want. But strict
laws govern when and how undercover intelligence measures can be used. Electronic
surveillance, mail opening and covert searches require a warrant from a judge.
FBI officers typically work a 40-hour week, Monday through Friday. Certain
cases may require evening and weekend work. "It's not routine work at all.
You have to respond to situations quickly, and no case is the same as the
last one," says Jonus.
Historically, the FBI has looked for attorneys and accountants who can
help muddle through the maze of paperwork surrounding white-collar crimes.
These days, the FBI is also looking for computer scientists, engineers and
people who can speak foreign languages.
"It's a very good career for young ladies," says special agent Dawn Moritz.
"Over 10 percent of agents are now women."