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The American Protective League (APL) was the largest vigilante organization that operated in the United States during World War I. Staffed by an all-volunteer force, the league was eventually organized as an official auxiliary of the Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Department of Justice. It was disbanded in 1919, as concerns about the restriction of civil liberties, due in part to the APL’s surveillance activities and perceived invasion of privacy, mounted after the war. This entry reviews the founding of the APL and then examines its original intent, its evolution and expansion, and its ultimate demise.

Founded in 1917 by Albert Briggs, a wealthy Chicago advertising executive, the original mission of the APL was to provide free automobile transportation for Special Agents of the Bureau of ...

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