The Feds: 6 of America’s Top Law Enforcement Agencies


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The United States is a federal republic. Simply put, this means that Americans are governed by elected officials at both a federal and state level. And, to a lesser extent, a local level.

Federal law enforcement agencies exist for one purpose. And that is – to enforce the laws enacted by the federal government.  Here’s a brief overview of America’s top 6 federal law enforcement agencies:

Drug Enforcement Administration

Established in 1973, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) was formed for the purpose of coordinating and consolidating the federal government’s drug control efforts.

Due to the booming international drug trade in the 1960’s and 70’s, the United States yearned for a single federal agency that would strictly focus on enforcing federal drug laws. And that’s what the DEA is – a singular federal agency that’s mandated with combatting drug smuggling, and use, within the United States.

The DEA’s formation was a consolidation of several then-existing federal agencies, such as the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, and the Office of Drug Abuse Law Enforcement.  Currently, the DEA is the lead agency for the domestic enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act. And, it is primarily responsible for pursuing and coordinating drug investigations – both at home and abroad.

United States Customs and Border Protection

The US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is one of the largest law enforcement entities in the world, employing over 60,000 people. The CBP has one primary mission. And that is – to the keep terrorists and their weapons out of America. The agency’s other mission is the facilitation of lawful international trade and travel.

Responsible for enforcing hundreds of federal laws at America’s borders, the men and women of CBP greet roughly one million visitors a day. Also, in a single day, the CBP arrests more than 1,100 people, screens more than 67,000 cargo containers and seizes almost 6 tons of illegal drugs. Additionally, the CBP facilitates an average of $3 trillion in lawful international trade.

United States Marshals Service

Created under the Judiciary Act by the First Congress and signed into law by President George Washington, the United States Marshalls Service (USMS) was formed in 1789. At its genesis, the USMS’ primary role was to execute all lawful United States warrants issued by the federal courts. Essentially, the USMS was created to assist federal courts with law enforcement duties.

Currently operating under the supervision of the Department of Justice, the USMS is America’s oldest law enforcement agency. Today, the USMS has several key functions: federal prisoner transport, protecting  officers of the court and fugitive recovery operations. The USMS handles all federal arrest warrants, and operates the federal Witness Protection Program.


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Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) was officially formed in 1972. Prior to that time, the ATF was a division of the IRS due to the ATF’s role in collecting federal revenue from the sale of alcohol, tobacco and guns.  In 2001, the ATF was moved from the Treasury Department to the Justice Department, and it was renamed the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives.

The ATF has numerous tasks, which include the enforcement of federal laws involving the manufacture, use and possession of guns and explosives. They also investigate the illegal trafficking of tobacco and alcohol. The agency works closely with local law enforcement in regulating the interstate sale and transportation of ammunition, firearms and explosives.

Also, the ATF is heavily involved in the investigation of arson and bombings. And, in fact, they operate a highly sophisticated fire research laboratory in Maryland, where acts of criminal arson are reconstructed.

United States Secret Service

Formed in 1865 solely for the purpose of combatting counterfeit US currency, the United States Secret Service now has a myriad of investigative and protection responsibilities. Spanning 150 worldwide offices, the Secret Service is mandated with protecting the President, Vice President, their families, and several other key American leaders.

The agency is also tasked with enforcing and investigating financial crimes, such as bank fraud, identity theft, counterfeiting US currency and cybercrimes.  Prior to 2003, the Secret Service was under the control of the Treasury Department, but has since been reassigned to the Department of Homeland Security.

Federal Bureau of Investigation  

Last but not least – the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Known for being on the cutting-edge of forensic technology, and innovative investigative techniques, the FBI is America’s principal law enforcement agency.

Established as the Bureau of Investigation in 1908, and later changed to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935, the FBI is headquartered at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C.  In addition to law enforcement, the FBI is mandated with domestic intelligence gathering, and national security.  Although the FBI is under the control of the Department of Justice, it reports to both the Attorney General (head of DOJ) and the Director of National Intelligence (President’s Cabinet).

The FBI is America’s leading domestic counterintelligence, counter-terrorism and criminal investigation organization. Whereas the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has no law enforcement authority and focuses on international intelligence work, the FBI focuses its intelligence work on the domestic front, while possessing the authority to arrest.

Currently, the FBI maintains 56 field offices in major American cities, while also maintaining more than 400 smaller offices in lesser cities.

Maintaining law and order in such a complex and dangerous world is no easy task. The men and women who work for these agencies work tirelessly to ensure America is kept safe from both domestic and foreign threats. Is there a federal law enforcement agency that you find particularly interesting?


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About jchasenovelist

Published thriller author, criminologist, and blogger.
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1 Response to The Feds: 6 of America’s Top Law Enforcement Agencies

  1. Pingback: Forensic Genealogy Finds the Killer: 3 Cold Cases Recently Solved #crime #coldcase | Author Jennifer Chase

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