Home News Stories 2004 April Spotlight on FBI Honolulu

Spotlight on FBI Honolulu

Spotlight on FBI Honolulu
Positioned on the Asia-Pacific Rim to Protect America


Graphic of Honolulu field office in the 30s and current

Seventy three years ago this month—April 9, 1931, to be exact—the FBI opened a regional office in exotic Honolulu, Territory of Hawaii, on the island of Oahu.

Why? Mostly to handle immigration and fugitive matters. It was a small office, though, and it closed and reopened several times in response to changes in crime demographics.

Until December 7, 1941, of course, when Hawaii’s isolated paradise status came to an abrupt halt with the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. On that day, Robert L. Shivers, Special Agent in Charge of the office, called FBI Headquarters and was patched through to New York where Director Hoover was visiting.

“The Japanese are bombing Pearl Harbor...It’s war,” Shivers said. “You may be able to hear it yourself. Listen!”

Since that time, the FBI’s Honolulu Office has played a key role in national and international criminal and national security matters. It is one of the few FBI offices with overseas (“extraterritorial”) jurisdiction.

What’s that mean? It means that it conducts major terrorism/criminal investigations of crimes against Americans and American interests in 47 foreign countries in the Asia-Pacific Rim...extending to Mongolia, westward to Afghanistan, and southward to Antarctica...and including spots like the Philippines, Nepal, Pakistan, and India. It has four regional officeson Maui, on Hawaii (the Big Island), on Guam, and on Saipan.

What kind of investigations specifically? Many national security cases, given the concentration of U.S. military and critical infrastructure assets in these locations. Beyond terrorism and espionage cases, also cyber issues, Asian criminal enterprises operating on the island, contract/regulatory corruption and frauds, health care frauds, the sexual exploitation of children, and violent gangs.

Are they worked in partnership with other agencies? Almost always. And not just cooperative efforts, but in operational task forces. Hawaii’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), for example, is made up of FBI and other federal agents, local and state police and sheriffs, and military analysts: it investigates...it sends terrorist threat info to the officials who need it...and it works with police and intelligence agencies throughout the Pacific Rim. Likewise, FBI Honolulu is part of task forces specializing in infrastructure protection, crimes against children, high-tech crimes, and human trafficking.

A final thought: Hau’oli La Hanau, FBI Honolulu. We wish you a very happy birthday and a successful 73rd year of protecting America from your unique geographical vantage.