5 Secrets the FBI Doesn’t Want You to Know
We investigate a few of the juicier government secrets from one of the nation's most private agencies.
By Beth Dreher
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You can read Marilyn Monroe's FBI file online, not to mention your own.
The Vault, an FBI reading room of more than 6,700 documents, contains details of investigations into Marilyn Monroe, Dick Clark, Joe Paterno, Steve Jobs, and many more people famous for everything from music and movies to organized crime. Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, if you're curious about the dirt the FBI has on you, you can request your own rap sheet here.
Even with no arrests, your fingerprints are probably on file in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
If you've had your fingerprints taken as part of a background check to, say, get a driver's license or a job, or to buy a gun, the results likely live in the FBI's Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS). This database of more than 100 million fingerprints is located in a huge "data campus" in Clarksburg, West Virginia, about 250 miles west of the main FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C. Even with so many on file, according to the FBI its system can match a set in about 12 minutes.
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It's not a dealbreaker if an agent has a past history of recreational drugs.
Candidates are automatically disqualified if they smoked pot in the last three years, or used another illegal drug in the last ten years. They're also dinged for having worse than 20/200 vision. To become an FBI Special Agent, candidates must be between the ages of 23 and 37 and successfully complete a battery of physical tests including a timed 300-meter sprint (women must run it in less than 65 seconds to qualify; men, 55 seconds) and pushups (women must do at least 14; men, 30). If they have training in any of the 12 "critical skills," including accounting, finance, or law, their application will move to the top of the pile.
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The criminals on the FBI's Most Wanted list? They're often chosen based on looks.
The Most Wanted list, created by J. Edgar Hoover in 1950, identifies people wanted for kidnapping, murder, theft, and other crimes. But according to New York Times reporter Michael S. Schmidt, "the bureau trie[s] to select dangerous fugitives who...could be recognized by the public because they have distinctive physical features," such as a scar, multiple tattoos or a strangely-shaped face.
The FBI didn't go digital until last year ...because of computer coding issues.
You might think that the bureau responsible for national security would use the most sophisticated computers available. But until 2012, the FBI was still using paper files to track cases. The group had planned to switch to a new $425 million electronic system in 2009, but there were problems with computer coding. Finally, in August 2012—two and a half years late, and $26 million over budget—the country's premier law enforcement agency began using the new machines.