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1908 Annual Report

Historical Documents from the Bureau's Founding

Annual Report of the Attorney General of the United States, 1908, p.7

The New Special Agent Force

In my last annual report I called attention to the fact that this department was obliged to call upon the Treasury Department for detective service, and had, in fact, no permanent executive force directly under its orders. Through the prohibition of its further use of the Secret Service force, contained in the Sundry Civil Appropriation Act, approved May 27, 1908, it became necessary for the department to organize a small force of special agents of its own. Although such action was involuntary on the part of this department, the consequences of the innovation have been, on the whole, moderately satisfactory. The Special Agents, placed as they are under the direct orders of the Chief Examiner, who receives from them daily reports and summarizes these each day to the Attorney General, are directly controlled by this department, and the Attorney General knows or ought to know, at all times what they are doing and at what cost. Under these circumstances he may be justly held responsible for the efficiency and economy of the service rendered. The experience of the past six months has shown clearly that such a force is, under modern conditions, absolutely indispensable to the proper discharge of the duties of this department, and it is hoped that its merits will be augmented and its attendant expense reduced by further experience.

Special Accounting Force Needed

In prosecutions for violations of the laws relating to national banks it is often necessary, and has become customary, for this department to secure the services of national-bank examiners to prepare the cases for trial and testify as expert witnesses regarding the records of the banks involved. These officers display both zeal and capacity in the [p.8] discharge of these duties, but it would be more satisfactory and less expensive if the Department of Justice had a small number of trained accountants in its permanent employ for these and similar purposes. The reasons which have been found by experience to, in some measure, counterbalance the loss of the very valuable services of the Secret Service force apply at least with equal force to the bank examiners; and if the Congress shall not see fit to indicate its disapproval, the employment of such accountants in their places may receive careful consideration by the department in the near future.

The number and gravity of offenses against the national banking laws by officers or employees of national banks constitute matters of reasonable solicitude and regret. The moral culpability involved in such offenses seems often to be imperfectly appreciated and, although they usually excite great indignation and provoke loud complaints from the sufferers when they are first discovered, so much time is frequently lost in the preparation for trial and actual trial of these long and complicated cases that the crime itself has faded from public memory when the criminal is at last convicted, and there is need of vigilance lest he finally escape with wholly insufficient punishment. The department has felt bound in duty energetically to assist the several United States attorneys in bringing this class of offenders to justice, and to do all in its power to assure them adequate penalties.