What most people know about the FBI comes from popular culture—books, TV, and movies, as well as the news. Films and fiction are more concerned with creating a good story than with accuracy. And, unfortunately, some news programs are littered with politically motivated and partisan views about the FBI. However, you don’t have to rely on information created by individuals and organizations with no connection to the Bureau. If you want an accurate look at the FBI, I suggest you bypass the entertainment and news media. Here are seven FBI resources providing an unfiltered look at the FBI:
1. Visit websites FBI.gov and FBIJobs.gov
To learn about the FBI directly from the FBI, you can visit and browse FBI.gov. The website, the ultimate of FBI resources, provides articles, reports, press releases, and photos about the past and current work of the Bureau and its employees. Instead of using the FBI website search bar, which doesn’t seem to distinguish keyword results for focused articles and simple mentions, I find it easier to locate information by using Google search. Enter the topic or keywords of the subject you’re researching and include the words FBI. FBI webpages will be included in the search results. Details about employment and the wide variety of jobs available in the FBI can be found on the FBIJobs.gov website, the only site for you to obtain accurate and up-to-date employment and recruitment details and to apply for FBI positions nationwide.
2. FBI Case File Review Podcast
This true crime and history podcast features interviews with retired and former FBI agents. To date, nearly 200 episodes have been posted. Among the many agents interviewed on the show are Ali Soufan, the 9/11 case agent featured in the Hulu series The Looming Tower; legendary undercover agent Joe Pistone, aka Donnie Brasco; Waco hostage negotiator Gary Noesner; and former FBI profiler and forensic linguist Jim Fitzgerald. Also featured are interviews with the case agents of the Miami Shootout, Unabomber, Madoff, Polly Klaas, Robert Hanssen, Watergate, Jeffrey Dahmer, and Oklahoma City bombing investigations, as well as many fascinating but not as well-known FBI cases. Listening to the personal accounts of these agents provides unique FBI resources akin to eavesdropping on the FBI. Podcast episodes and show notes with detailed bios and photos are posted at jerriwilliams.com and can also be accessed on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast, Spotify, Pandora, and other popular podcast apps, as well as YouTube.
3. FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detective
This nonfiction book debunks twenty clichés and misconceptions about the FBI, by presenting educational reality checks supported by excerpts from the FBI website, quotes from retired agents, and reviews of popular films and fiction featuring FBI agent characters. Filled with fun, factual and transparent insights, FBI Myths and Misconceptions: A Manual for Armchair Detective is an FBI resource that will help you—create realistic FBI characters and plots for your next book or script; impress your armchair detective friends with your knowledge about the FBI; prepare for a career in the FBI and avoid embarrassing yourself at Quantico. The book is available as an ebook, paperback, and hardback worldwide wherever books are sold.
4. Read Books about the FBI Written by FBI Agents
Another way to make sure you’re getting accurate information about the FBI is to read books about the FBI written by FBI agents. More of us are becoming authors, whether writing fiction or nonfiction inspired by our cases. I’ve made it easy for you to find these agents and their books by curating an exclusive listing of nonfiction, crime fiction, true crime, and memoirs by the retired agents featured on the FBI Retired Case File Review podcast. I call my colorful list of more than fifty books the FBI Reading Resource, and it’s available to members of my FBI in Books, TV, and Movies Reader Team. You can join my Reader Team you can click here or on the image below.
5. Ask An Agent
People may assume that what agents do is a secret, that it’s all covert. But that’s not true. Yes, there are agents assigned to counterintelligence or counterterrorism matters that will never be declassified. However, for the most part, an FBI agent can discuss any FBI investigation that has been fully adjudicated and is in the public domain. Just turn on your TV—there are entire true crime TV networks and cable news outlets featuring sound bites from retired agents. So if you ever meet an agent, go ahead and ask these individual FBI resources your questions. Most will be happy to provide answers.
6. Citizens Academy
Did you know that FBI field offices offer an interactive course to local community leaders that provides an inside view of how the FBI operates? Held for six to eight weeks, the classes are usually in the evening. The purpose of the Citizen’s Academy is to liaison with business, religious, civic, and non-profit organizations and develop a transparent partnership between them and the local FBI division that serves the community. Attendees are educated about the different violations investigated by the FBI, learn how to process a crime scene, train with firearms, some may even tour FBI Headquarters and the FBI Academy. Participants must apply for consideration and are selected by the special agent in charge of the local FBI field office. To learn more, contact the FBI field office closest to where you live.
7. Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit
Professional writers and producers who have questions about the FBI may want to contact the FBI’s Investigative Publicity and Public Affairs Unit (IPPAU), located at FBI headquarters. The agents and public affairs specialists in the unit primarily respond to inquiries from the news media, but they are also actively handling questions posed by authors, writers, and producers who seek FBI resources to assist them in creating accurate portrayals of the FBI and its special agents. Based on its limited staff and resources, the IPPAU cannot ensure cooperation with every project. However, as determined on a case-by-case basis, they may be able to provide information on FBI policies and procedures, provide access to FBI facilities and personnel for filming and interviews, fact-check articles, manuscripts, and screenplays, and provide guidance on FBI history and current operations.
By consulting the above-listed FBI resources, you will receive an eye-opening reality check on some of the clichés and misconceptions about who the FBI is and what the FBI does and learn information that will help you assess the accuracy of what you read and hear about the Bureau and its employees. I’m proud to produce three of these seven opportunities to learn about the real FBI.