17 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.
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’re able to request the files. These are 13 celebrities you’d never guess had FBI files.
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.
It’s not a deal-breaker 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 uncorrected 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 push-ups (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. These are 10 facts you never knew about the Secret Service.
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, “bureau officials…[try] 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 2012 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. These are the 16 strangest unsolved mysteries of all time.
They spent a year investigating the song Louie Louie
Remember the song Louie Louie? The song was written by Richard Berry in 1955 and later made popular by The Kingsmen and featured in the films American Graffiti and Animal House. It was also the subject of an FBI investigation that ran for more than two years during the mid-1960s. The concern: Whether the lyrics were dirty and pornographic. Ultimately, after spending countless time and money, the G-Men determined the lyrics were unintelligible.
They were really suspicious of John Lennon
Here’s one you may have heard. In 1971, Beatles member John Lennon was placed under surveillance by the FBI. Why? Because he was writing such anti-war songs as “Give Peace a Chance.” Here are some more crazy conspiracy theories throughout history that turned out to be true.
Walt Disney was an informant
“From 1940 until his death in 1966, Walt Disney served as a secret informer for the Los Angeles office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, according to documents that have come to light under the Freedom of Information Act,” the New York Times reported in 1993. The subject matter was “un-American activities,” and Disney reportedly gave up the names of several Hollywood people who were suspected of being Communists. He did such a good job, he was named “full Special Agent in Charge Contact” in 1954.
So was Ronald Reagan
While president of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947, Ronald Reagan was designated “Source T-10” by the FBI, which meant he was a confidential source with the code name “T-10,” the New York Times reports. “Documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act indicate that Reagan and his first wife, actress Jane Wyman, provided federal agents with the names of actors they believed were Communist sympathizers,” according to Time in a 1985 story.
It took them a decade to locate Dorothy’s ruby slippers
A pair of ruby slippers worn by Judy Garland in the film The Wizard of Oz was stolen from the Judy Garland Museum in Minnesota in 2005. One of at least four pairs used in the film still in existence, it must have been important: It took more than ten years of searching and an actual sting operation for the FBI to finally locate the purloined pair. Check out some more secret government projects you never knew about.