In 2009, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation came knocking on the door of the biohacking community: The agency sponsored a booth and workshop at the 2009 iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) competition in Cambridge, MA, USA, and stood alongside US biohacking community leaders at a FBI‐sponsored synthetic biology conference “Building Bridges Around Building Genomes” held near San Francisco in 2010. The FBI acknowledged that their presence at and sponsorship of these conferences might seem unusual, with one agent noting in his slideshow, “We're with the U.S. Government […] and we're here to help. Really” (https://www.synbioproject.org/site/assets/files/1260/you_presentation.pdf). Since, the agency has organized more such meetings in 2011 and 2012 FBI agents have generally been welcome in the amateur biology scene in the USA.
“[FBI agents] need to be educated about the realities of the community and new technologies.”
Jason Bobe, co‐founder and director of the website DIYbio.org, said that the discussions between the community and the FBI have educated both sides. “[FBI agents] need to be educated about the realities of the community and new technologies”, he said. “I think it was hugely valuable for us to engage and educate them. I think it became obvious to them that we are not the enemy”. Craig Fair, an assistant special agent at the FBI, who was in charge of counterterrorism in the San Francisco Bay Area and has a doctorate in microbiology, told the FBI‐sponsored “bridges” meeting in 2012: “[We] want to show the international community that this model [of cooperation between the FBI and DYIbio] is safeguarding your practice, and that's to our mutual benefit” (http://diyhpl.us/wiki/transcripts/fbi-diybio-2012/intro/). Bobe, who operates a volunteer hotline for biosafety education, contrasted this “new” FBI, represented by scientists with a PhD with the “old” image of crew‐cut G‐men decked out in blue suits.
New FBI or not, many …