What is the FBI oath?

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) oath is sworn by all FBI employees upon entering the Bureau. It represents their commitment to upholding the values and mission of the FBI. The oath binds FBI personnel to principles of fidelity, bravery, and integrity as they carry out their duties to the American people.

What are the key components of the FBI oath?

The FBI oath consists of a solemn swearing of support to the United States Constitution and its laws. Key components include:

  • Upholding the Constitution and defending the country from enemies, foreign and domestic
  • Bearing true faith and allegiance to the Constitution
  • Carrying out duties faithfully and impartially
  • Supporting and defending the Constitution against all enemies

In summary, the oath emphasizes upholding the Constitution, remaining impartial, and defending the nation from threats. It binds FBI personnel to faithfully execute their duties.

What are the exact words of the FBI oath?

The full text of the FBI oath of office is:

“I [name] do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

Agents swear to this oath upon entering the FBI Academy at Quantico. All FBI employees must take the oath as a requirement for serving in the Bureau. The oath emphasizes upholding the Constitution above all else.

When do FBI agents and employees take the oath?

The FBI oath is sworn under the following circumstances:

  • Upon entrance to the FBI Academy for new agent training
  • When promoted to a higher supervisory or leadership position
  • Upon appointment as FBI Director by the President
  • For non-agent employees, when first hired by the FBI in any capacity

Taking the oath is a defining moment for new agents and a solemn responsibility for veteran employees. It represents their commitment to the Founding Fathers’ vision for law and order.

Why is an oath required for FBI personnel?

There are several key reasons an oath is mandatory for FBI personnel:

  • Binds agents and employees to faithful service
  • Highlights their responsibility to the Constitution and rule of law
  • Sets a high ethical standard for conduct
  • Affirms loyalty to country above all else
  • Distinguishes FBI as an apolitical law enforcement agency

In essence, the oath reinforces FBI personnel are servants of the American people and the Constitution. It underscores their obligations to ethical behavior.

What principles guide the FBI oath?

The FBI oath reflects several guiding principles and values:

  • Fidelity – Faithfulness to the Constitution and mission
  • Bravery – Courage to uphold laws and principles
  • Integrity – Commitment to honesty and ethics
  • Impartiality – Unbiased adherence to rule of law
  • Accountability – Responsibility to public trust

These principles translate the oath into day-to-day FBI activities and culture. Upholding them is central to the Bureau’s effectiveness.

What are consequences for violating the FBI oath?

Violating the FBI oath can carry serious penalties, including:

  • Termination of employment
  • Loss of retirement benefits
  • Criminal prosecution
  • Imprisonment
  • Civil lawsuits

Egregious violations may rise to the federal level if criminal statutes were broken. Even minor breaches can result in administrative sanctions or dismissal.

Has any FBI agent broken their oath?

Unfortunately, there have been rare cases of FBI personnel violating their oath and breaking the law:

  • Robert Hanssen – Sold secrets to the Soviet Union and Russia over 22 years. Pleaded guilty to espionage in 2001.
  • John Connolly – Convicted of racketeering and obstruction of justice related to mob informants James “Whitey” Bulger and Stephen Flemmi.
  • Lynn Adelaide Dixon – Pleaded guilty to failing to disclose her romantic relationship with a supervisor. Fired by the FBI.

These examples represent a tiny fraction of FBI employees. The overwhelming majority serve with high integrity and honor.

What does it mean to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic?

This clause refers to the FBI’s central role in protecting the U.S. from threats to its security and democratic institutions.

“Enemies foreign” relates to international terrorism, espionage, cyber crimes, and other threats from overseas.

“Enemies domestic” refers to homegrown threats like domestic terrorism, public corruption, organized crime, and civil rights violations.

Defending the Constitution binds the FBI to confront whoever threatens American society or governance. It is a broad mandate for proactive threat response.

Can the FBI oath be broken or violated?

Yes, FBI personnel can break or violate their oath, either intentionally or unintentionally. Common violations include:

  • Perjury – Lying under oath
  • Bribery – Accepting bribes
  • Excessive force – Violating policies on use of force
  • Tampering with evidence – Mishandling evidence
  • Discrimination – Failure to uphold civil rights laws

These represent failures to impartially enforce the law. Those who commit such violations face disciplinary action, firing, and potentially criminal charges for oath breaches.

What oaths do other federal law enforcement agencies require?

Here are examples of oaths required by other U.S. law enforcement agencies:

  • U.S. Marshals Service – 14-word oath similar to FBI version.
  • Drug Enforcement Administration – Swears to enforce controlled substance laws and regulations.
  • Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives – Upholding Constitution and defending against threats.
  • Customs and Border Protection – Supporting and defending the U.S. Constitution.
  • U.S. Secret Service – Protecting national leaders and combating financial crimes.

Most federal law enforcement use oaths with Constitutional loyalty as a foundation. State/local police and sheriff’s deputies take similar oaths.

Do FBI employees take the oath every year?

No, FBI employees and agents do not retake the full oath annually. They take it just once upon entering duty, with a single exception:

The FBI Director is appointed for a 10-year term. When reappointed, they must retake the oath of office. For all other personnel, a single oath binds them for their entire FBI career.

However, ongoing training reinforces the oath as guiding principles. Ethics and integrity are stressed as career-long commitments.

Can the President fire the FBI Director?

Yes, the President has authority under the Constitution to dismiss the FBI Director. Directors are nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. As head of the Executive Branch, the President can remove a Director for any reason before their 10-year term is up.

There are no specific legal causes required for firing an FBI Director. However, dismissing a Director for partisan political reasons can generate serious controversy. Only one Director has ever been fired – James Comey in 2017 by President Trump.

Does the FBI oath expire?

No, the FBI oath does not have an expiration date. Once sworn by new agents and employees, the oath remains binding throughout their entire career with the Bureau. There is no time limit or need to renew it periodically.

The oath has lifelong implications in terms of guiding values, ethics, and conduct. Former agents and employees remain subject to laws regarding classified information, government property, and other aspects of their service. The oath helps instill an ongoing ethical duty.

Can I see a copy of an FBI Special Agent’s oath of office?

The standard oath of office signed by new FBI Special Agents is not a public document. However, the text matches that of the formal oath recited verbally during ceremonies.

A typical Special Agent’s written oath would read:

“I, [full name], do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I will obey the lawful orders of the President of the United States and the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter, so help me God.”

This represents the agent’s signature commitment to their new role and responsibilities. The signed oath becomes part of their permanent FBI record as they embark on their career.

Do FBI agents have to follow any particular religion or believe in God?

No, FBI Special Agents and employees do not need to follow any particular religion or believe in any deity. The phrase “so help me God” is optional when taking the oath.

The FBI is an equal opportunity employer and does not discriminate based on religion. Agents must agree to uphold and enforce the U.S. Constitution as federal law enforcement officers. Their personal religious affiliations or beliefs are not a factor.

Can an FBI agent be fired or penalized for misconduct?

Yes, FBI agents and other employees are held to high ethical and performance standards. Those who engage in serious misconduct face disciplinary consequences, including:

  • Written reprimand
  • Reassignment or demotion
  • Short-term suspension
  • Long-term suspension
  • Dismissal from the FBI

Potential misconduct that would warrant firing includes perjury, evidence tampering, excessive force, bribery, obstruction of justice, and illegal discrimination. Lesser infractions may generate letters of censure, suspensions, or probation.

What legal consequences can a FBI agent face for violating their oath?

If an agent’s misconduct violates federal or state law, they may face criminal prosecution in court. This could lead to:

  • Fines or restitution
  • Probation
  • Imprisonment
  • Loss of pension benefits
  • Prohibition from future law enforcement roles

Criminal offenses bring disgrace to the FBI and betrayal of public trust. They represent a profound violation of the oath of office. Depending on the crime, both felony and misdemeanor charges may apply.


The FBI oath of office obliges all employees to uphold the rule of law and U.S. Constitution with bravery, fidelity, and integrity. It is a central pillar of FBI culture and performance of duties. Those who break this solemn oath face consequences ranging from administrative discipline to federal prosecution. For the vast majority, the oath guides a noble career of public service and protection of American society from all enemies.

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