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15 Fascinating FBI Facts Finally Revealed


For all its faults and flaws, the FBI does serve an important role in law enforcement. A few bad agents — and some appalling leadership — has tarnished its reputation over the years, though, and some of the abuses of power and just plain strange decisions have only recently come to light.

Agents have tough jobs, and they put themselves on the line every day, keeping the rest of us safe from some of the worst people humanity has to offer. But that kind of responsibility only makes some of their odd choices that much weirder.

Check out some of the most fascinating things that have happened in the history of the Bureau.

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1. The FBI kept tabs on Sacha Baron Cohen during the filming of Borat because of complaints of a “Middle Eastern man…driving through America in an ice cream van.”

8e926d98-3728-4e16-8c70-ab001482b2da_tabletvia IMDb | Twentieth Century Fox

The FBI also kept tabs on the deaf and blind Helen Keller as a radical socialist.

b4de80e1-8d53-46fe-87f3-a775bd2bd988_tabletvia bio

To protect an informant, the FBI framed four innocent men for murder.

Two of the men died in prison, and all were exonerated more than thirty years later. The informant — for whom the Bureau created the Witness Protection Program — allegedly killed at least three people while under the FBI’s protection before being gunned down himself.

8b51f53b-8ddf-407b-826d-759bf1f8df6b_tabletvia U.S. Marshals Service

The FBI sent Martin Luther King Jr. a letter encouraging him to kill himself.

The rambling letter, rife with errors, details supposed affairs and referred to audio recordings of trysts.

cd400f55-556e-4748-bf9b-e12ef31c3842_tabletvia The Judiciary Report

Trying to uncover an Iranian plot, the FBI pored over grocery store records in San Francisco in hopes that sales of falafel and tahini would lead them to sleeper agents.

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The Christmas classic It’s a Wonderful Life made the FBI’s watch list as anti-consumerist Communist propaganda.

aed02c40-e7eb-4f9e-badb-b8b138ce342d_tabletvia IMDb | Gaston Longet / MPTV

Due to his involvement in the Black Power movement, the FBI told Samuel L. Jackson’s mother that he would die within a year if he remained with them, so she put him on a plane to Los Angeles.

2e3de7af-8319-4a9a-bfe5-bac164faa42d_tabletvia IMDb | Kevin Winter / Getty Images

After a complaint about obscenity, the FBI spent two years investigating the lyrics to “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen.

They eventually dropped the investigation after they found the lyrics to be “unintelligible at any speed”.

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A group of activists broke into an FBI field office in Pennsylvania, stole more than 1,000 documents, and distributed them to newspapers around the country, exposing widespread abuses.

The resulting anger in the public, led the FBI to shut down the COINTELPRO program, which had stomped on Americans’ First Amendment rights and led to the letter to Reverend King.

5ee3a196-150e-408c-b5ae-5f1c9295e811_tabletvia Democracy Now!

The FBI’s Office of Alien Property seized Nikola Tesla’s possessions shortly after his death even though he was an American citizen.

2eb23475-8d94-4539-8cb3-5509cc2837b0_tabletvia Napoleon Sarony / Wikimedia Commons

You can request a copy of your own FBI file — if they have one on you.

baa13086-fb5a-4b6d-92bd-24fc893faf28_tabletvia The Telegraph | AP

The FBI’s attempt to crack an iPhone’s encryption wasn’t the first time they took a tech company to court to unlock a phone.

The pattern lock on a pimp’s Android phone proved too complicated for FBI agents, so they got a court order compelling Google to help.

dd3d41c1-ffce-4bdb-a565-3774c62143f0_tabletvia Google Play


FBI counter-terrorism expert John P. O’Neill spent years tracking Osama bin Laden and warning of Al Qaeda’s determination to attack U.S. soil.

After being passed over for multiple promotions, John left the FBI and took over as head of security for the World Trade Center in August 2001. He died in the attacks on 9/11.

8ef14768-886a-4b2b-87e2-fbc276377565_tabletvia PBS

The FBI spent a year investigating a camera found attached to balloons in a farmer’s field after seeing that it contained images of what appeared to be a corpse.

It turned out to be footage from a shoot of a Nine Inch Nails music video. The camera had been set up to record from balloons, but had broken free and floated 200 miles away.

44e2841b-4841-4455-acec-571ada49ac2f_tabletvia Tumblr / deadwh0

So many FBI agents cheated on a surveillance guidelines test that the Bureau had to re-test them all.

a37a2fe5-bc11-4793-abad-9dffc17dc9c0_tabletvia reddit / jpr281

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