A secret society organized and operated by the US government, the American Protective League was founded in 1917 after the American declaration of war on Germany. Under the auspices of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), responsible for counterintelligence work on US soil, the APL recruited volunteers as unpaid secret agents for the duration of the war. Each member had a number, and reported suspicious activities to his or her captain, who forwarded them to the local FBI office.

The APL had 250,000 members by the end of the war. In February 1919, the FBI dissolved it and issued colourful certificates to each of its members. As far as can be determined, the APL’s activities did not result in the arrest of a single spy or the prevention of a single act of sabotage. When the Second World War broke out, the experiment was not repeated.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006