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What Are the FBI and Department of Justice?


FBI Director James Comey is sworn in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, July 7, 2016, prior to testifying before the House House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing to explain his agency's recommendation to not prosecute Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over her private email setup. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

The reopening of an FBI investigation into Hillary Clinton’s email has raised questions about whether the action could influence the U.S. presidential election.

Last week, FBI Director James Comey announced the agency was reviewing a new set of emails recently discovered. The emails could be important to an investigation into Clinton’s email practices that was closed earlier this year. Hillary Clinton is the Democratic candidate for president.

The FBI director reportedly acted on his own to announce the reopened investigation, after being warned by officials at the U.S. Department of Justice not to. The officials reportedly told Comey that informing Congress about the new material was not in line with department policy.

FBI Director James Comey makes a statement at FBI Headquarters in Washington, July 5, 2016.
FBI Director James Comey makes a statement at FBI Headquarters in Washington, July 5, 2016.

The incident raises questions about the relationship between the Justice Department and FBI, and how the two agencies cooperate. The FBI generally conducts investigations for the Justice Department, which is responsible for enforcing the laws and administering justice.

Beginnings in 1908

The FBI is an agency based in Washington D.C. It was started in 1908 by the head of the U.S. Department of Justice at the time, Attorney General Charles J. Bonaparte.

The bureau began as a special investigative force of the Justice Department with fewer than 35 employees. Today, it remains one of many agencies coming under the Department of Justice.

It is also a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community, a grouping of 16 agencies. These agencies work separately and together on intelligence activities related to U.S. foreign relations and national security.

The FBI investigates specific crimes assigned to its agents. It also provides other law enforcement agencies with fingerprint identification services, laboratory examinations, and training.

U.S. President Barack Obama (R) nominates James Comey (L), a Republican who served in the Bush Justice Department, to be his choice to replace Robert Mueller as the next FBI director in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, June 21, 2013. REUT
U.S. President Barack Obama (R) nominates James Comey (L), a Republican who served in the Bush Justice Department, to be his choice to replace Robert Mueller as the next FBI director in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, June 21, 2013. REUT

The U.S. president appoints a director for the agency. Barack Obama appointed James Comey in 2013. The appointment takes effect if the U.S. Senate confirms it. FBI directors can serve as long as ten years, but no longer.

The FBI website describes the bureau as “an intelligence-driven and threat-focused national security organization with both intelligence and law enforcement responsibilities.” Its mission is to “protect the American people and uphold the United States Constitution.”

The FBI has 56 locations in major U.S. cities, as well as more than 60 offices around the world. It employs nearly 35,000 people. This includes special agents, intelligence experts, language specialists, scientists and information technology specialists.

DOJ launched in 1870

An act of Congress created the Department of Justice in 1870. The Attorney General heads the agency. At the time, the government faced increasing legal cases brought against the United States.

The Department of Justice website says the main goal of the agency is to “enforce the law and defend the interest of the United States according to the law.”

Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and FBI Director James Comey stand by a wanted poster of Iranians who are wanted by the FBI for computer hacking during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, March 24, 2016.
Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and FBI Director James Comey stand by a wanted poster of Iranians who are wanted by the FBI for computer hacking during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, Thursday, March 24, 2016.

Loretta Lynch currently leads the Justice Department. She took office in 2015 after President Obama nominated her and the Senate confirmed the nomination.

FBI Director Comey reports to Lynch. Comey also has experience at the Department of Justice, where he served as deputy attorney general from 2003-2005.

I’m Caty Weaver.

Bryan Lynn wrote this story for VOA Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

conduct – n. the way someone behaves

specific – adj. clearly and exactly stated

mission – n. a task or job given a person or organization to do

according to – prep. as stated, reported or recorded

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