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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA //), known informally as the Agency and historically as the Company, is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the federal government of the United States, officially tasked with gathering, processing, and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT) and conducting covert action through its Directorate of Operations. As a principal member of the United States Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and Cabinet of the United States. Following the dissolution of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) at the end of World War II, President Harry S. Truman created the Central Intelligence Group under the direction of a Director of Central Intelligence by presidential directive on January 22, 1946, and this group was transformed into the Central Intelligence Agency by implementation of the National Security Act of 1947.
CIA headquarters, Langley, Virginia
|September 18, 1947; 76 years ago (1947-09-18)
|Independent (component of the Intelligence Community)
|George Bush Center for Intelligence
Langley, Virginia, U.S.
|(Official): The Work of a Nation. The Center of Intelligence.
(Unofficial): And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. (John 8:32)
|$15 billion (as of 2013[update])
|Office of the President of the United States
|Office of the Director of National Intelligence
Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is a domestic security service, the CIA has no law enforcement function and is mainly focused on intelligence gathering overseas, with only limited domestic intelligence collection. The CIA serves as the national manager for HUMINT, coordinating activities across the IC. It also carries out covert action at the behest of the President. It exerts foreign political influence through its paramilitary operations units, such as the Special Activities Center. The CIA was instrumental in establishing intelligence services in many countries, such as Germany's BND. It has also provided support to several foreign political groups and governments, including planning, coordinating, training in torture, and technical support. It was involved in many regime changes and carrying out terrorist attacks and planned assassinations of foreign leaders.
Since 2004, the CIA is organized under the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI). Despite having had some of its powers transferred to the DNI, the CIA has grown in size as a response to the September 11 attacks. In 2013, The Washington Post reported that in the fiscal year 2010, the CIA had the largest budget of all IC agencies, exceeding previous estimates.
The CIA has increasingly expanded its role, including covert paramilitary operations. One of its largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has officially shifted focus from counterterrorism to offensive cyber operations.
The agency has been the subject of many controversies, including torture, human rights violations, domestic wiretapping, propaganda, and allegations of drug trafficking. In 2022, it was discovered that it still has a domestic surveillance program that does not have Congressional oversight.
When the CIA was created, its purpose was to create a clearinghouse for foreign policy intelligence and analysis. Today, its primary purpose is to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence, and to carry out covert operations.
The CIA has an executive office and five major directorates:
- The Directorate of Digital Innovation
- The Directorate of Analysis
- The Directorate of Operations
- The Directorate of Support
- The Directorate of Science and Technology
The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (D/CIA) is appointed by the President with Senate confirmation and reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI); in practice, the CIA director interfaces with the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), Congress, and the White House, while the deputy director (DD/CIA) is the internal executive of the CIA and the Chief Operating Officer (COO/CIA), known as executive director until 2017, leads the day-to-day work as the third highest post of the CIA. The deputy director is formally appointed by the director without Senate confirmation, but as the president's opinion plays a great role in the decision, the deputy director is generally considered a political position, making the chief operating officer the most senior non-political position for CIA career officers.
The Executive Office also supports the U.S. military, particularly the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command, by providing it with information it gathers, receiving information from military intelligence organizations, and cooperates with field activities. The Associate Deputy Director of the CIA is in charge of the day-to-day operations of the agency. Each branch of the agency has its own director. The Office of Military Affairs (OMA), subordinate to the Associate Deputy Director, manages the relationship between the CIA and the Unified Combatant Commands, who produce and deliver regional/operational intelligence and consume national intelligence produced by the CIA.
Directorate of Analysis
The Directorate of Analysis, through much of its history known as the Directorate of Intelligence (DI), is tasked with helping "the President and other policymakers make informed decisions about our country's national security" by looking "at all the available information on an issue and organiz[ing] it for policymakers". The Directorate has four regional analytic groups, six groups for transnational issues, and three that focus on policy, collection, and staff support. There are regional analytical offices covering the Near East and South Asia, Russia and Europe; and the Asian Pacific, Latin American, and Africa.
Directorate of Operations
The Directorate of Operations is responsible for collecting foreign intelligence (mainly from clandestine HUMINT sources), and for covert action. The name reflects its role as the coordinator of human intelligence activities between other elements of the wider U.S. intelligence community with their HUMINT operations. This Directorate was created in an attempt to end years of rivalry over influence, philosophy, and budget between the United States Department of Defense (DOD) and the CIA. In spite of this, the Department of Defense recently organized its own global clandestine intelligence service, the Defense Clandestine Service (DCS), under the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).
Directorate of Science & Technology
The Directorate of Science & Technology was established to research, create, and manage technical collection disciplines and equipment. Many of its innovations were transferred to other intelligence organizations, or, as they became more overt, to the military services.
For example, the development of the U-2 high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft was done in cooperation with the United States Air Force. The U-2's original mission was clandestine imagery intelligence over denied areas such as the Soviet Union. It was subsequently provided with signals intelligence and measurement and signature intelligence capabilities and is now operated by the Air Force.
A DS&T organization analyzed imagery intelligence collected by the U-2 and reconnaissance satellites called the National Photointerpretation Center (NPIC), which had analysts from both the CIA and the military services. Subsequently, NPIC was transferred to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).
Directorate of Support
The Directorate of Support has organizational and administrative functions to significant units including:
- The Office of Security
- The Office of Communications
- The Office of Information Technology
Directorate of Digital Innovation
The Directorate of Digital Innovation (DDI) focuses on accelerating innovation across the Agency's mission activities. It is the Agency's newest directorate. The Langley, Virginia-based office's mission is to streamline and integrate digital and cybersecurity capabilities into the CIA's espionage, counterintelligence, all-source analysis, open-source intelligence collection, and covert action operations. It provides operations personnel with tools and techniques to use in cyber operations. It works with information technology infrastructure and practices cyber tradecraft. This means retrofitting the CIA for cyberwarfare. DDI officers help accelerate the integration of innovative methods and tools to enhance the CIA's cyber and digital capabilities on a global scale and ultimately help safeguard the United States. They also apply technical expertise to exploit clandestine and publicly available information (also known as open-source data) using specialized methodologies and digital tools to plan, initiate and support the technical and human-based operations of the CIA. Before the establishment of the new digital directorate, offensive cyber operations were undertaken by the CIA's Information Operations Center. Little is known about how the office specifically functions or if it deploys offensive cyber capabilities.
The directorate had been covertly operating since approximately March 2015 but formally began operations on October 1, 2015. According to classified budget documents, the CIA's computer network operations budget for fiscal year 2013 was $685.4 million. The NSA's budget was roughly $1 billion at the time.
Rep. Adam Schiff, the California Democrat who served as the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, endorsed the reorganization. "The director has challenged his workforce, the rest of the intelligence community, and the nation to consider how we conduct the business of intelligence in a world that is profoundly different from 1947 when the CIA was founded," Schiff said.
The CIA established its first training facility, the Office of Training and Education, in 1950. Following the end of the Cold War, the CIA's training budget was slashed, which had a negative effect on employee retention. In response, Director of Central Intelligence George Tenet established CIA University in 2002. CIA University holds between 200 and 300 courses each year, training both new hires and experienced intelligence officers, as well as CIA support staff. The facility works in partnership with the National Intelligence University, and includes the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis, the Directorate of Analysis' component of the university.
For later stage training of student operations officers, there is at least one classified training area at Camp Peary, near Williamsburg, Virginia. Students are selected, and their progress evaluated, in ways derived from the OSS, published as the book Assessment of Men, Selection of Personnel for the Office of Strategic Services. Additional mission training is conducted at Harvey Point, North Carolina.
The primary training facility for the Office of Communications is Warrenton Training Center, located near Warrenton, Virginia. The facility was established in 1951 and has been used by the CIA since at least 1955.
Details of the overall United States intelligence budget are classified. Under the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949, the Director of Central Intelligence is the only federal government employee who can spend "un-vouchered" government money. The government showed its 1997 budget was $26.6 billion for the fiscal year. The government has disclosed a total figure for all non-military intelligence spending since 2007; the fiscal 2013 figure is $52.6 billion. According to the 2013 mass surveillance disclosures, the CIA's fiscal 2013 budget is $14.7 billion, 28% of the total and almost 50% more than the budget of the National Security Agency. CIA's HUMINT budget is $2.3 billion, the SIGINT budget is $1.7 billion, and spending for security and logistics of CIA missions is $2.5 billion. "Covert action programs," including a variety of activities such as the CIA's drone fleet and anti-Iranian nuclear program activities, accounts for $2.6 billion.
There were numerous previous attempts to obtain general information about the budget. As a result, reports revealed that CIA's annual budget in Fiscal Year 1963 was $550 million (inflation-adjusted US$ 5.3 billion in 2024), and the overall intelligence budget in FY 1997 was US$26.6 billion (inflation-adjusted US$ 48.5 billion in 2024). There have been accidental disclosures; for instance, Mary Margaret Graham, a former CIA official and deputy director of national intelligence for collection in 2005, said that the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion, and in 1994 Congress accidentally published a budget of $43.4 billion (in 2012 dollars) in 1994 for the non-military National Intelligence Program, including $4.8 billion for the CIA.
After the Marshall Plan was approved, appropriating $13.7 billion over five years, 5% of those funds or $685 million were secretly made available to the CIA. A portion of the enormous M-fund, established by the U.S. government during the post-war period for reconstruction of Japan, was secretly steered to the CIA.
Relationship with other intelligence agencies
Foreign intelligence services
The role and functions of the CIA are roughly equivalent to those of Germany's Federal Intelligence Service (BND), the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (the SIS or MI6), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS), the French foreign intelligence service Direction générale de la Sécurité extérieure (DGSE), the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (Sluzhba Vneshney Razvedki, SVR), the Chinese Ministry of State Security (MSS), the Indian Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the Egyptian General Intelligence Service, Israel's Mossad, and South Korea's National Intelligence Service (NIS).
The CIA was instrumental in the establishment of intelligence services in several U.S. allied countries, including Germany's BND.
The closest links of the U.S. intelligence community to other foreign intelligence agencies are to Anglophone countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. Special communications signals that intelligence-related messages can be shared with these four countries. An indication of the United States' close operational cooperation is the creation of a new message distribution label within the main U.S. military communications network. Previously, the marking of NOFORN (i.e., No Foreign Nationals) required the originator to specify which, if any, non-U.S. countries could receive the information. A new handling caveat, USA/AUS/CAN/GBR/NZL Five Eyes, used primarily on intelligence messages, gives an easier way to indicate that the material can be shared with Australia, Canada, United Kingdom, and New Zealand.