The FBI in the US has the physical instruments to harm citizens physically, that seems to give FBI the ground to break the constitution and intimidate all the 3 branches to take control of all the powers. How is that prevented?

  • 3
    Same way all other people are who can harm others - by laws and procesures and culture and training. Why is FBI somehow special?
    – user4012
    Nov 30 '16 at 18:05
  • @user4012 If it wants to break laws as an institution, how can laws be enforced against it?
    – xuhdev
    Nov 30 '16 at 18:15
  • 2
    [this question has been logged, please wait in place for FBI arrival, thank you citizen] Nov 30 '16 at 18:37
  • Quis custodiet ipsos custodes. It's a serious problem, but we've got serious people working on it these last 2000 years or so. The FBI is designed more or less to answer it.
    – user9389
    Nov 30 '16 at 19:00
  • Also - I cannot believe that 2 hours passed and J. Edgar Hoover's name hasn't been uttered.
    – user4012
    Nov 30 '16 at 20:36

The FBI falls under the purview of the Department of Justice, which is run by the US Attorney General. The Attorney General is nominated for appointment by the President, subject to approval by the US Senate.

So, the FBI is run by its director, who answers to the Attorney General, who answers to the President.

The Attorney General is subject to approval by the Senate. Like all Executive Branch functions, they are also subject to oversight by Congress, specifically the House and Senate Judiciary Committees. They must answer to Congress when called upon, and can be removed by Congress, even if the President does not want it to happen (impeachment).

Furthermore, funding for the FBI originates from and must be approved by Congress, who has sole spending authority.

If the FBI, itself, went rogue, the President has authority over the entire US military, subject to Congressional oversight. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard. Each state has their own militia under state control - the National Guard.

The federal marshal service is separate from the FBI, but within the Justice Department.

The ATF (Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms) Agency is also separate from the FBI but within the Justice Department.

The Secret Service, tasked with protecting the President from threats, is actually part of the Treasury Department (correction, WAS, per cpast - now in the Dept of Homeland Security), so separate from the FBI and even the Justice Department.

As you can see, there are plenty of armed military and law enforcement resources that could be called upon to counter and oppose the FBI if they decided to attempt some kind of armed insurrection.

Their very lawful authority that allows them to do so much of what might make them a threat would also be undermined by any such action, greatly reducing their chance for success.

The FBI is limited by the separation of powers. They are not immune to nor above the concept in action.

  • 3
    Good answer, but you omitted another factor - FBI is not a "person". There may be a small cabal of people acting illegally, but either they have to get ENTIRE thousands of FBI personnell to agree with them (how? They usually can't agree on which types of paper to stock, never mind on illegal conspiracy); or simply have cabal include higher-ups who order unsuspecting underlings (at which point, at least ONE underling will have enough brains and integrity to raise alarms about illegal orders; at least anonymously).
    – user4012
    Nov 30 '16 at 18:55
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    Good point. I am assuming a compliant rank and file if leadership decides they want to do this, which is certainly not a given. I assume that because I want to show that, even with unrealistically favorable conditions for a cabal going rogue, there are checks and balances against them. If I demonstrate that it would not work, under those conditions, then I don't have to go through demonstrating that the even less-friendly reality - of which there are probably endless permutations, would be unlikely to succeed. Nov 30 '16 at 19:01
  • 1
    FYI, the Secret Service is under DHS these days.
    – cpast
    Nov 30 '16 at 19:13

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