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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian intelligence agency of the United States government.

It is an independent agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior United States policymakers.

It is the successor of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) formed during World War II to coordinate espionage activities between the branches of the United States military. The 1947 National Security Act established the CIA, affording it "no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad". One year later, this mandate was expanded to include "sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition and evacuation measures...subversion [and] assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation movements, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world".

The CIA's primary function is to collect information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and to advise public policymakers. The agency conducts covert operations and paramilitary actions, and exerts foreign political influence through its Special Activities Division. The CIA and its responsibilities changed markedly in 2004. Before December 2004, the CIA was the main intelligence organization of the US government; it coordinated and oversaw not only its own activities but also the activities of the US Intelligence Community (IC) as a whole. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 created the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), which took over some of the government and IC-wide functions. The DNI manages the IC and therefore the intelligence cycle. The functions that moved to the DNI included the preparation of estimates of the consolidated opinion of the 16 IC agencies, and the preparation of briefings for the President of the United States.

Today, the CIA still has a number of functions in common with other countries' intelligence agencies; see Relationships with foreign intelligence agencies. The CIA's headquarters is in Langleymarker in McLeanmarker, unincorporated Fairfax County, Virginiamarker, a few miles west of Washington, DCmarker along the Potomac River.

Sometimes, the CIA is referred to euphemistically in government and military parlance as Other Government Agencies (OGA), particularly when its operations in a particular area are an open secret. Other terms include The Company. and The Agency.


In its present form, the CIA has an executive office and several agency-wide functions, and four major directorates:
*The Directorate of Intelligence, responsible for all-source intelligence research and analysis
*The National Clandestine Service, formerly the Directorate of Operations, which does clandestine intelligence collection and covert action
*The Directorate of Support
*The Directorate of Science and Technology


The overall US intelligence budget has been considered classified until recently. There have been numerous attempts to get general information and there have also been accidental disclosures: for instance, Mary Margaret Graham, a former CIA official and deputy director of national intelligence for collection in 2005, said the annual intelligence budget was $44 billion.

Executive Office

The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (D/CIA) reports directly to the Director of National Intelligence (DNI); in practice, he deals with the DNI, Congress (usually via the Office of Congressional Affairs), and the White Housemarker, while the Deputy Director is the internal executive. The CIA has varying amounts of Congressional oversight, although that is principally a guidance role.

The CIA Executive Office also facilitates CIA’s support of the US military by providing it with information it gathers, receiving information from military intelligence organizations, and cooperating on field activities. Two senior executives have responsibility, one CIA-wide and one for the National Clandestine Service. The Associate Director for Military Support, a senior military officer, manages the relationship between CIA and the Unified Combatant Commands, who produce regional/operational intelligence and consume national intelligence; he is assisted by the Office of Military Affairs in providing support to all branches of the military.

In the National Clandestine Services, an Associate Deputy Director for Operations for Military Affairs deals with specific clandestine human-source intelligence and covert action in support of military operations.

The CIA also makes national-level intelligence available to tactical organizations, usually to their all-source intelligence group.

Executive Staff

Staff offices with several general responsibilities report to the Executive Office.

General Publications

The CIA's Center for the Study of Intelligence maintains the Agency's historical materials and promotes the study of intelligence as a legitimate discipline.

In 2002, the CIA's Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis began publishing the unclassified Kent Center Occasional Papers, aiming to offer "an opportunity for intelligence professionals and interested colleagues—in an unofficial and unfettered vehicle—to debate and advance the theory and practice of intelligence analysis."

General counsel and inspection

Two offices advise the Director on legality and proper operations. The Office of General Counsel advises the Director of the CIA on all legal matters relating to his role as CIA director and is the principal source of legal counsel for the CIA.

The Office of Inspector General promotes efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in the administration of Agency activities, and seeks to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. The Inspector General, whose activities are independent of those of any other component in the Agency, reports directly to the Director of the CIA.

Public Affairs

The Office of Public Affairs advises the Director of the CIA on all media, public policy, and employee communications issues relating to his role. This office, among other functions, works with the entertainment industry.

Directorate of Intelligence

The Directorate of Intelligence produces all-source intelligence analysis on key foreign issues. It has four regional analytic groups, six groups for transnational issues, and two support units.

Regional groups

There is an Office dedicated to Iraqmarker, and regional analytical Offices covering:
*The Office of Middle East and North Africa Analysis (MENA)
*The Office of South Asia Analysis (OSA)
*The Office of Russian and European Analysis (OREA)
*The Office of East Asian, Pacific, Latin American and African Analysis (APLAA)

Transnational groups

The Office of Terrorism Analysis supports the National Counterterrorism Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. See CIA transnational anti-terrorism activities.

The Office of Transnational Issues assesses perceived existing and emerging threats to US national security and provides the most senior policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support.

The CIA Crime and Narcotics Center researches information on international crime for policymakers and the law enforcement community. As the CIA has no legal domestic police authority, it usually sends its analyses to the FBI and other law enforcement organizations, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration of the United States Department of Justicemarker.

The Weapons Intelligence, Nonproliferation, and Arms Control Center provides intelligence support related to national and non-national threats, as well as supporting threat reduction and arms control. It receives the output of national technical means of verification.

The Counterintelligence Center Analysis Group identifies, monitors, and analyzes the efforts of foreign intelligence entities, both national and non-national, against US government interests. It works with FBI personnel in the National Counterintelligence Executive of the Director of National Intelligence.

The Information Operations Center Analysis Group. deals with threats to US computer systems. This unit supports DNI activities.

Support and general units

The Office of Collection Strategies and Analysis provides comprehensive intelligence collection expertise to the Directorate of Intelligence, to senior Agency and Intelligence Community officials, and to key national policymakers.

The Office of Policy Support customizes Directorate of Intelligence analysis and presents it to a wide variety of policy, law enforcement, military, and foreign liaison recipients.

National Clandestine Service

In 2004, the CIA was given charge of all US human intelligence, which many consider the core of the agency. As such, the National Clandestine Service (NCS; formerly the Directorate of Operations) is responsible for collecting foreign intelligence, mainly from clandestine HUMINT sources, and covert action. The new name reflects its having absorbed some Department of Defense HUMINT assets. The NCS was created in an attempt to end years of rivalry over influence, philosophy and budget between the United States Department of Defensemarker and the CIA. The Department of Defense had organized the Defense HUMINT Service, which, with the Presidential decision, became part of the NCS.

The precise present organization of the NCS is classified.

Directorate of Science and 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.

Imagery intelligence collected by the U-2 and reconnaissance satellites was analyzed by a DS&T organization 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).

The CIA has always shown a strong interest in how to use advances in technology to enhance its effectiveness. This interest has historically had two primary goals:
  • harnessing techniques for its own use
  • countering any new intelligence technologies the Soviets might develop.

In 1999, the CIA created the venture capital firm In-Q-Tel to help fund and develop technologies of interest to the agency. It has long been the IC practice to contract for major development, such as reconnaissance aircraft and satellites.

Directorate of Support

The Directorate of Support has many traditional organizational administrative functions, such as personnel, security, communications, and financial operations, but in a manner consistent with the needs of highly sensitive operations. Significant units include
* The Office of Security
* The Office of Communications
* The Office of Information Technology


The Office of Training begins with the Junior Officer Training program for new employees, but it also conducts courses in a wide range of specialized professional disciplines. So that the initial course might be taken by employees who had not received final security clearance and thus were not permitted unescorted access to the Headquarters building, a good deal of basic training has been given at office buildings in the urban areas of Arlington, Virginia.

For a later stage of training of student operations officers, there is at least one classified training area at Camp Peary, Virginia, near Williamsburg. 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.

Relationship with other sources of intelligence

The CIA acts as the primary American HUMINT, HUMan INTelligence, and general analytic agency, under the Director of National Intelligence, who directs or coordinates the 16 member organizations of the United States Intelligence Community. In addition, it obtains information from other US government intelligence agencies, commercial information sources, and foreign intelligence services.

Other US intelligence agencies

A number of intelligence organizations are fully or partially under the budgetary control of the United States Secretary of Defense or other cabinet officers such as the United States Attorney General.

As do other analytic members of the US intelligence community, such as the Department of State's Bureau of Intelligence and Research and the analytic division of the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), CIA's raw input includes imagery intelligence (IMINT) collected by the air and space systems of the National Reconnaissance Officemarker (NRO), processed by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), signals intelligence (SIGINT) of the National Security Agencymarker (NSA), and measurement and signature intelligence (MASINT) from the DIA MASINT center.

Open Source Intelligence

Until the 2004 reorganization of the intelligence community, one of the "services of common concern" that CIA provided was Open Source Intelligence from the Foreign Broadcast Information Service (FBIS).FBIS, which had absorbed the Joint Publication Research Service, a military organization that translated documents, which moved into the National Open Source Enterprise under the Director of National Intelligence.

CIA still provides a variety of unclassified maps and reference documents both to the intelligence community and the public.

As part of its mandate to gather intelligence, CIA is looking increasingly online for information, and has become a major consumer of social media. "We're looking at YouTube, which carries some unique and honest-to-goodness intelligence," said Doug Naquin, director of the DNI Open Source Center (OSC) at CIA. "We're looking at chat rooms and things that didn't exist five years ago, and trying to stay ahead."


Many of the duties and functions of Intelligence Community activities, not the CIA alone, are being outsourced and privatized. Mike McConnell, former Director of National Intelligence, was about to publicize an investigation report of outsourcing by US intelligence agencies, as required by Congress.However, this report was then classified. Hillhouse speculates that this report includes requirements for the CIA to report:
  • different standards for government employees and contractors;
  • contractors providing similar services to government workers;
  • analysis of costs of contractors vs. employees;
  • an assessment of the appropriateness of outsourced activities;
  • an estimate of the number of contracts and contractors;
  • comparison of compensation for contractors and government employees,
  • attrition analysis of government employees;
  • descriptions of positions to be converted back to the employee model;
  • an evaluation of accountability mechanisms;
  • an evaluation of procedures for "conducting oversight of contractors to ensure identification and prosecution of criminal violations, financial waste, fraud, or other abuses committed by contractors or contract personnel"; and
  • an "identification of best practices of accountability mechanisms within service contracts."

According to investigative journalist Tim Shorrock:

Congress has required an outsourcing report by March 30, 2008.

Part of the contracting problem comes from Congressional restrictions on the number of employees in the IC. According to Hillhouse, this resulted in 70% of the de facto workforce of the CIA's National Clandestine Service being made up of contractors. "After years of contributing to the increasing reliance upon contractors, Congress is now providing a framework for the conversion of contractors into federal government employees--more or less."

As with most government agencies, building equipment often is contracted. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO), responsible for the development and operation of airborne and spaceborne sensors, long was a joint operation of the CIA and the United States Department of Defense. NRO had been significantly involved in the design of such sensors, but the NRO, then under DCI authority, contracted more of the design that had been their tradition, and to a contractor without extensive reconnaissance experience, Boeing. The next-generation satellite Future Imagery Architecture project, which missed objectives after $4 billion in cost overruns, was the result of this contract.

Some of the cost problems associated with intelligence come from one agency, or even a group within an agency, not accepting the compartmented security practices for individual projects, requiring expensive duplication.

Foreign intelligence services

Many intelligence services cooperate. There may even be a deniable communications channel with ostensibly hostile nations.

The role and functions of the CIA are roughly equivalent to those of the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Servicemarker (MI6), the Canadian Security Intelligence Servicemarker (CSIS), the Australian Secret Intelligence Servicemarker (ASIS), the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), the French foreign intelligence service Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieuremarker (DGSE) and Israel's Mossad. While the preceding agencies both collect and analyze information, some like the US State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research are purely analytical agencies. See List of intelligence agencies.

The closest links of the US IC to other foreign intelligence agencies are to Anglophone countries: Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom. There is a special communications marking that 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 US military communications network. Previously, the marking of NOFORN (i.e., No Foreign Nationals) required the originator to specify which, if any, non-US countries could receive the information. A new handling caveat, USA/AUS/CAN/GBR/NZL Eyes Only, used primarily on intelligence messages, gives an easier way to indicate that the material can be shared with Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and New Zealand.

Organizational history

The Central Intelligence Agency was created by Congress with the passage of the National Security Act of 1947, signed into law by President Harry S. Truman. It is the descendant of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of World War II, which was dissolved in October 1945 and its functions transferred to the State and War Departments. Eleven months earlier, in 1944, William J. Donovan, the OSS's creator, proposed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt to create a new organization directly supervised by the President: "which will procure intelligence both by overt and covert methods and will at the same time provide intelligence guidance, determine national intelligence objectives, and correlate the intelligence material collected by all government agencies." Under his plan, a powerful, centralized civilian agency would have coordinated all the intelligence services. He also proposed that this agency have authority to conduct "subversive operations abroad," but "no police or law enforcement functions, either at home or abroad."
CIA personnel have died on duty, some in accidents and some by deliberate hostile action. On the memorial wall at CIA headquarters, some of the stars have no name attached, because it would reveal the identity of a clandestine officer. Both the OSS and its British counterparts, as do other agencies worldwide, struggle with finding the right organizational balance among clandestine intelligence collection, counterintelligence, and covert action.

Immediate predecessors, 1946–47

The Office of Strategic Services, which was the first independent US intelligence agency, created for World War II, was broken up shortly after the end of the war, by President Harry S. Truman, on September 20, 1945 when he signed an Executive Order which made the breakup 'official' as of October 1, 1945. The rapid reorganizations that followed reflected the routine sort of bureaucratic competition for resources, but also trying to deal with the proper relationships of clandestine intelligence collection and covert action (i.e., paramilitary and psychological operations). In October 1945, the functions of the OSS were split between the Departments of State and War:
New Unit Oversight OSS Functions Absorbed
Strategic Services Unit (SSU) War Department Secret Intelligence (SI) (i.e., clandestine intelligence collection) and Counter-espionage (X-2)
Interim Research and Intelligence Service (IRIS) State Department Research and Analysis Branch (i.e., intelligence analysis)
Psychological Warfare Division (PWD) (not uniquely for former OSS) War Department, Army General Staff Staff officers from Operational Groups, Operation Jedburgh, Morale Operations (black propaganda)
This division lasted only a few months. Despite opposition from the military establishment, the United States Department of Statemarker and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), President Truman established the Central Intelligence Group (CIG) in January 1946 which was the direct predecessor to the CIA. The CIG was an interim authority established under Presidential authority. The assets of the SSU, which now constituted a streamlined "nucleus" of clandestine intelligence was transferred to the CIG in mid-1946 and reconstituted as the Office of Special Operations (OSO).

Early CIA, 1947–1952

In September 1947, the National Security Act of 1947 established both the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency. Rear Admiral Roscoe H.marker Hillenkoettermarker was appointed as the first Director of Central Intelligence.
The diameter CIA seal in the lobby of the Original Headquarters Building.
The National Security Council Directive on Office of Special Projects, June 18, 1948 (NSC 10/2) further gave the CIA the authority to carry out covert operations "against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups but which are so planned and conducted that any US Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorized persons."

In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act (Public law 81-110) authorized the agency to use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures, and exempting it from most of the usual limitations on the use of Federal funds. It also exempted the CIA from having to disclose its "organization, functions, officials, titles, salaries, or numbers of personnel employed." It also created the program "PL-110", to handle defectors and other "essential aliens" who fall outside normal immigration procedures, as well as giving those persons cover stories and economic support.

The structure stabilizes, 1952

Then-DCI Walter Bedell Smith, who enjoyed a special degree of Presidential trust, having been Dwight D. Eisenhower's primary Chief of Staff during World War II, insisted that the CIA or at least only one department had to direct the OPC and OSO. Those organization, as well as some minor functions, formed the euphemistically named Directorate of Plans in 1952.

Also in 1952, United States Army Special Forces were created, with some missions overlapping those of the Department of Plans. In general, the pattern emerged that the CIA could borrow resources from Special Forces, although it had its own special operators.

Early Cold War, 1953–1966

Allen Dulles, who had been a key OSS operations officer in Switzerland during World War II, took over from Smith, at a time where US policy was dominated by intense anticommunism. Various sources existed, the most visible being the investigations and abuses of Senator Joseph McCarthy, and the more quiet but systematic containment doctrine developed by George Kennan, the Berlin Blockade and the Korean War. Dulles enjoyed a high degree of flexibility, as his brother, John Foster Dulles, was simultaneously Secretary of State.

Concern regarding the Soviet Union and the difficulty of getting information from its closed society, which few agents could penetrate, led to solutions based on advanced technology. Among the first success was with the Lockheed U-2 aircraft, which could take pictures and collect electronic signals from an altitude above Soviet air defenses' reach. After Gary Powers was shot down by an SA-2 surface to air missile in 1960, causing an international incident, the SR-71 was developed to take over this role.

During this period, there were numerous covert actions against resource nationalism and socialism. The CIA overthrew a democratically-elected government for the first time during Operation Ajax, after Iran moved to take control of its petroleum reserves. Some of the largest operations were aimed at Cuba after the overthrow of the Batista dictatorship, including assassination attempts against Fidel Castro and the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion. There have been suggestions that the Soviet attempt to put missiles into Cuba came, indirectly, when they realized how badly they had been compromised by a US-UK defector in place, Oleg Penkovsky.

The CIA, working with the military, formed the joint National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) to operate reconnaissance aircraft such as the SR-71 and later satellites. "The fact of" the United States operating reconnaissance satellites, like "the fact of" the existence of NRO, was highly classified for many years.
Early CORONA/KH-4B imagery IMINT satellite.

Indochina and the Vietnam War (1954–1975)

See also: Vietnam War and Phoenix Program
The OSS Patti mission arrived in Vietnam near the end of World War II, and had significant interaction with the leaders of many Vietnamese factions, including Ho Chi Minh. While the Patti mission forwarded Ho's proposals for phased independence, with the French or even the United States as the transition partner, the US policy of containment opposed forming any government that was communist in nature.

The first CIA mission to Indochina, under the code name Saigon Military Mission arrived in 1954, under Edward Lansdale. US-based analysts were simultaneously trying to project the evolution of political power, both if the scheduled referendum chose merger of the North and South, or if the South, the US client, stayed independent. Initially, the US focus in Southeast Asia was on Laos, not Vietnam.

During the period of US combat involvement in the Vietnam War, there was considerable argument about progress among the Department of Defense under Robert McNamara, the CIA, and, to some extent, the intelligence staff of Military Assistance Command Vietnam. In general, the military was consistently more optimistic than the CIA. Sam Adams, a junior CIA analyst with responsibilities for estimating the actual damage to the enemy, eventually resigned from the CIA, after expressing concern to Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms with estimates that were changed for interagency and White House political reasons. Adams afterward wrote the book War of Numbers.

Abuses of CIA authority, 1970s–1990s

Things came to a head in the mid-1970s, around the time of Watergate. A dominant feature of political life during that period were the attempts of Congress to assert oversight of US Presidency, the executive branch of the US Government. Revelations about past CIA activities, such as assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders (most notably Fidel Castro) and illegal domestic spying on US citizens , provided the opportunities to execute Congressional oversight of US intelligence operations.

Hastening the CIA's fall from grace were the burglary of the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party by ex-CIA agents, and President Richard Nixon's subsequent use of the CIA to impede the FBI's investigation of the burglary. In the famous "smoking gun" recording that led to President Nixon's resignation, Nixon ordered his chief of staff, H. R. Haldeman, to tell the CIA that further investigation of Watergate would "open the whole can of worms" about the Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba. In this way Nixon and Haldemann ensured that the CIA's #1 and #2 ranking officials, Richard Helms and Vernon Walters, communicated to FBI Director L. Patrick Gray that the FBI should not to follow the money trail from the burglars to the Committee to Re-elect the President, as it would uncover CIA informants in Mexico. The FBI initially agreed to this due to a long standing agreement between the FBI and CIA not to uncover each other's sources of information. Though within a couple of weeks the FBI demanded this request in writing, and when no such formal request came, the FBI resumed its investigation into the money trail. Nonetheless, when the smoking gun tapes were made public, damage to the public's perception of CIA's top officials, and thus to the CIA as a whole, could not be avoided.

In 1973, then-DCI James R. Schlesinger commissioned reports known as the "Family Jewels" on illegal activities by the Agency. In December 1974, Investigative journalist Seymour Hersh broke the news of the "Family Jewels" in a front-page article in The New York Times, revealing that the CIA had assassinated foreign leaders, and had illegally conducted surveillance on some 7,000 US citizens involved in the antiwar movement (Operation CHAOS). The CIA had also experimented on people, who unknowingly took LSD (among other things).

Congress responded to the disturbing charges in 1975, investigating the CIA in the Senate via the Church Committee, chaired by Senator Frank Church (D-Idaho), and in the House of Representatives via the Pike Committee, chaired by Congressman Otis Pike (D-NY). In addition, President Gerald Ford created the Rockefeller Commission, and issued an executive order prohibiting the assassination of foreign leaders. As the CIA fell out of favor with the public, Ford assured Americans that his administration was not involved: "There are no people presently employed in the White House who have a relationship with the CIA of which I am personally unaware."

Repercussions from the Iran-Contra affair arms smuggling scandal included the creation of the Intelligence Authorization Act in 1991. It defined covert operations as secret missions in geopolitical areas where the US is neither openly nor apparently engaged. This also required an authorizing chain of command, including an official, presidential finding report and the informing of the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which, in emergencies, requires only "timely notification".

2004, DNI takes over CIA top-level functions

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 created the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), who took over some of the government and intelligence community (IC)-wide functions that had previously been the CIA's. The DNI manages the United States Intelligence Community and in so doing it manages the intelligence cycle. Among the functions that moved to the DNI were the preparation of estimates reflecting the consolidated opinion of the 16 IC agencies, and preparation of briefings for the president. On July 30, 2008, President Bush issued Executive Order 13470 amending Executive Order 12333 to strengthen the role of the DNI.

Previously, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) oversaw the Intelligence Community, serving as the president's principal intelligence advisor, additionally serving as head of the CIA. The DCI's title now is "Director of the Central Intelligence Agency" (DCIA), serving as head of the CIA.

Currently, the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence. Prior to the establishment of the DNI, the CIA reported to the President, with informational briefings to congressional committees. The National Security Advisor is a permanent member of the National Security Council, responsible for briefing the President with pertinent information collected by all US intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, etc. All 16 Intelligence Community agencies are under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence.

Mission-related issues and controversies

The history of CIA deals with several things, certainly including covert action, but also clandestine and overt intelligence collection, intelligence analysis and reporting, and logistical and technical support of its activities. Prior to the December 2004 reorganization of the intelligence community (IC), it also was responsible for coordinations of IC-wide intelligence estimates.

These articles are organized in two different ways: By geographical region (for state actors or non-state actors limited to a country or region) and by transnational topic (for non-state actors).

CIA operations by region, country and date are discussed in detail in the following articles:

CIA analyses of issues such as the effect of emerging infectious diseases, and the detection of Weapons of mass destruction, are inherently transnational, and are discussed in the following articles. CIA operations and, where appropriate, authorizations for covert operations (for example, NSDD 138 authorizing direct action against opponents) by transnational topic are discussed in the following Wikipedia articles:

In addition, a view of covert US activity specifically oriented towards regime change actions is given in the following Wikipedia article:

Major sources for this section include the Council on Foreign Relations of the United States series, the National Security Archive and George Washington Universitymarker, the Freedom of Information Act Reading Room at the CIA, US Congressional hearings, Blum's book and Weiner's book Note that the CIA has posted a rebuttal to Weiner's book, and that Jeffrey Richelson of the National Security Archive has also been sharply critical of it.

Areas of controversy about inappropriate, often illegal actions include experiments, without consent, on human beings to explore chemical means of eliciting information or disabling people. Another area involved torture and clandestine imprisonment. There have been attempted assassinations under CIA orders and support for assassinations of foreign leaders by citizens of the leader's country, and, in a somewhat different legal category that may fall under the customary laws of war, assassinations of militant leaders.

Security and counterintelligence failures

While the names change periodically, there are two basic security functions to protect the CIA and its operations. There is an Office of Security in the Directorate for Support, which is responsible for physical security of the CIA buildings, secure storage of information, and personnel security clearances. These are directed inwardly to the agency itself.

In what is now the National Clandestine Service, there is a counter-intelligence function, called the Counterintelligence Staff under its most controversial chief, James Jesus Angleton. This function has roles including looking for staff members that are providing information to foreign intelligence services (FIS) as moles. Another role is to check proposals for recruiting foreign HUMINT assets, to see if these people have any known ties to FIS and thus may be attempts to penetrate CIA to learn its personnel and practices, or as a provocateur, or other form of double agent.

This agency component may also launch offensive counterespionage, where it attempts to interfere with FIS operations. CIA officers in the field often have assignments in offensive counterespionage as well as clandestine intelligence collection.

Security failures

In 1993, the headquarters of the CIA was attacked by Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani national. Two CIA employees were killed, Frank Darling and Lansing Bennett, M.D.

The "Family Jewels" and other documents reveal that the Office of Security violated the prohibition of CIA involvement in domestic law enforcement, sometimes with the intention of assisting police organizations local to CIA buildings.

Counterintelligence failures

Perhaps the most disruptive period involving counterintelligence was James Jesus Angleton's search for a mole, based on the statements of a Soviet defector, Anatoliy Golitsyn. A second defector, Yuri Nosenko, challenged Golitsyn's claims, with the two calling one another Soviet double agents. Many CIA officers fell under career-ending suspicion; the details of the relative truths and untruths from Nosenko and Golitsyn may never be released, or, in fact, may not be fully understood. The accusations also crossed the Atlantic to the British intelligence services, who also were damaged by molehunts.

On February 24, 1994, the agency was rocked by the arrest of 31-year veteran case officer Aldrich Ames on charges of spying for the Soviet Union since 1985.

Other defectors have included Edward Lee Howard, a field operations officer, and William Kampiles, a low-level worker in the CIA 24-hour Operations Center. Kampiles sold the Soviets the detailed operational manual for the KH-11 reconnaissance satellite.

Failures in intelligence analysis

The agency has also been criticized for ineffectiveness as an intelligence gathering agency. Former DCI Richard Helms commented, after the end of the Cold War, "The only remaining superpower doesn't have enough interest in what's going on in the world to organize and run an espionage service." The CIA has come under particular criticism for failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union.

See the information technology section of the intelligence analysis management for discussion of possible failures to provide adequate automation support to analysts, and A-Space for a IC-wide program to collect some of them. Cognitive traps for intelligence analysis also goes into areas where CIA has examined why analysis can fail.

Agency veterans have lamented CIA's inability to produce the kind of long-range strategic intelligence that it once did in order to guide policymakers. John McLaughlin, who was deputy director and acting director of central intelligence from October 2000 to September 2004, said that CIA is drowned by demands from the White House and Pentagon for instant information, "intelligence analysts end up being the Wikipedia of Washington." In the intelligence analysis article, orienting oneself to the consumers deals with some of ways in which intelligence can become more responsive to the needs of policymakers.

For the media, the failures are most newsworthy. A number of declassified National Intelligence Estimates do predict the behavior of various countries, but not in a manner attractive to news, or, most significantly, not public at the time of the event. In its operational role, some successes for the CIA include the U-2 and SR-71 programs, and anti-Sovietmarker operations in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s .

Among the first analytic failures, before the CIA had its own collection capabilities, it assured President Harry S Truman on October 13, 1950 that the Chinese would not send troops to Korea. Six days later, over one million Chinese troops arrived. See an analysis of the failure; also see surrounding text for the two Koreas and China, and the time period before the Korean War. Earlier, the intelligence community failed to detect the North Korean invasion, in part because resources were not allocated to SIGINT coverage of the Korean peninsula .

The history of US intelligence, with respect to French Indochina and then the two Vietnams, is long and complex. The Pentagon Papers often contain pessimistic CIA analyses that conflicted with White House positions. It does appear that some estimates were changed to reflect Pentagon and White House views.. See CIA activities in Asia and the Pacific for detailed discussions of intelligence and covert operations from 1945 (i.e., before the CIA) onwards.

Another criticism is the failure to predict India's nuclear testsmarker in 1974. A review of the various analyses of India's nuclear program did predict some aspects of the test, such as a 1965 report saying, correctly, that if India did develop a bomb, it would be explained as "for peaceful purposes".

A major criticism is failure to forestall the September 11 attacks. The 9/11 Commission Report identifies failures in the IC as a whole. One problem, for example, was the FBI failing to "connect the dots" by sharing information among its decentralized field offices. The report, however, criticizes both CIA analysis, and impeding their investigation .

The executive summary of a report which was released by the office of CIA Inspector General John Helgerson on August 21, 2007 concluded that former DCI George Tenet failed to adequately prepare the agency to deal with the danger posed by Al-Qaeda prior to the attacks of September 11, 2001. The report had been completed in June, 2005 and was partially released to the public in an agreement with Congress, over the objections of current DCI General Michael Hayden. Hayden said its publication would "consume time and attention revisiting ground that is already well plowed.” Tenet disagreed with the report's conclusions, citing his planning efforts vis-a-vis al-Qaeda, particularly from 1999.

Questionable/controversial tactics

The CIA has been called into question on several occasions for some of the tactics it employs to carry out its missions. At times these tactics have included torture, training of groups and organizations that would later participate in killing of civilians and other non-combatants, human experimentation, and targeted killings and assassinations.

In understanding the CIA's role in human rights, there are challenging problems of ethics. John Stockwell, a CIA officer who left the Agency and became a public critic, said of the CIA field officers: "They don't meet the death squads on the streets where they're actually chopping up people or laying them down on the street and running trucks over their heads. The CIA people in San Salvador meet the police chiefs, and the people who run the death squads, and they do liaise with them, they meet them beside the swimming pool of the villas. And it's a sophisticated, civilized kind of relationship. And they talk about their children, who are going to school at UCLA or Harvard and other schools, and they don't talk about the horrors of what's being done. They pretend like it isn't true".

External investigations and document releases

At various times since the creation of the CIA, the US Government has produced comprehensive reports on CIA actions that marked historical watersheds in how CIA went about trying to fulfill its vague charter purposes from 1947. These reports were the result of internal/presidential studies, external investigations by Congressional committees or other arms of the US Government, or even the simple releases and declassification of large quantities of documents by the CIA.

Several investigations (e.g., the Church Committee, Rockefeller Commission, Pike Committee, etc.), as well as released declassified documents, reveal that the CIA, at times, operated outside its charter. In some cases, such as during Watergate, this may have been due to inappropriate requests by White House staff. In other cases, there was a violation of Congressional intent, such as the Iran-Contra affair. In many cases, these reports provide the only official discussion of these actions available to the public.

Influencing public opinion and law enforcement

This is an area with many shades of gray. There is little argument, for example, that the CIA acted inappropriately in providing technical support to White House operatives conducting both political and security investigations, with no legal authority to do so. Things become much more ambiguous when law enforcement may expose a clandestine operation, a problem not unique to intelligence but also seen among different law enforcement organizations, where one wants to prosecute and another to continue investigations, perhaps reaching higher levels in a conspiracy.

Involvements with former Nazi and Japanese war criminals

While the United States was involved in the prosecution of war criminals, US military and intelligence agencies protected some war criminals in the interest of obtaining technical or intelligence information from them, or taking part in ongoing intelligence or engineering (e.g., Operation Paperclip). Multiple US intelligence organizations were involved, and many of these relationships were formed before the creation of the CIA in 1947, but the CIA, in some cases, took over the relationships and concealed them for nearly 60 years.

Al-Qaeda and the War on Terror

The CIA had long been dealing with terrorism originating from abroad, and in 1986 had set up a Counterterrorist Center to deal specifically with the problem. At first confronted with secular terrorism, the Agency found Islamist terrorism looming increasingly large on its scope.

The network that became known as al-Qaeda (The Base) grew out of Arab volunteers who fought the Soviets and their puppet regimes in Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1984 Abdullah Azzam and Osama bin Laden set up an organization known as the Office of Services in Peshawarmarker, Pakistan, to coordinate and finance the "Afghan Arabs", as the volunteers became known.

The CIA also channeled US aid to Afghan resistance fighters via Pakistan in a covert operation known as Operation Cyclone. It denied dealing with non-Afghan fighters, or having direct contact with bin Laden. However, various authorities relate that the Agency brought both Afghans and Arabs to the United States for military training. Azzam and Bin Laden set up recruitment offices in the US, under the name "Al-Khifah", the hub of which was the Farouq Mosque in Brooklyn's Atlantic Avenue. This was "a place of pivotal importance for Operation Cyclone".

Among notable figures at the Brooklyn center was the Egyptian "double agent" Ali Mohamed, who worked for the CIA, the Green Berets, Egyptian Islamic Jihad and al-Qaeda at various times in the 1980s and 1990s. FBI special agent Jack Cloonan called him "bin Laden's first trainer". Another was "Blind Sheikh" Abdel Rahman, a leading recruiter of mujaheddin, who obtained US entry visas with the help of the CIA in 1987 and 1990.

Around 1988, Bin Laden set up al-Qaeda from the more extreme elements of the Services Office. But it was not a large organization. When Jamal al-Fadl (who had been recruited through the Brooklyn center in the mid 1980s) joined in 1989, he was described as Qaeda's "third member".

In January 1996 the CIA created an experimental "virtual station", the Bin Laden Issue Station, under the Counterterrorist Center, to track Bin Laden's developing activities. Al-Fadl, who defected to the CIA in spring 1996, began to provide the Station with a new image of the Qaeda leader: he was not only a terrorist financier, but a terrorist organizer too. FBI special agent Dan Coleman (who together with his partner Jack Cloonan had been "seconded" to the Bin Laden Station) called him Qaeda's "Rosetta Stone".

In 1999 CIA chief George Tenet launched a grand "Plan" to deal with al-Qaeda. The Counterterrorist Center, its new chief Cofer Black and the center's Bin Laden unit were the Plan's developers and executors. Once it was prepared Tenet assigned CIA intelligence chief Charles E. Allen to set up a "Qaeda cell" to oversee its tactical execution. In 2000 the CIA and USAF jointly ran a series of flights over Afghanistan with a small remote-controlled reconnaissance drone, the Predator; they obtained probable photos of Bin Laden. Cofer Black and others became advocates of arming the Predator with missiles to try to assassinate Bin Laden and other Qaeda leaders. After the Cabinet-level Principals Committee meeting on terrorism of September 4, 2001, the CIA resumed reconnaissance flights, the drones now being weapons-capable.

The CIA set up a Strategic Assessments Branch in 2001 to remedy the deficit of "big-picture" analysis of al-Qaeda, and apparently to develop targeting strategies. The branch was formally set up in July 2001, but it struggled to find personnel. The branch's head took up his job on September 10, 2001.

After 9/11, the CIA came under criticism for not having done enough to prevent the attacks. Tenet rejected the criticism, citing the Agency's planning efforts especially over the preceding two years. He also considered that the CIA's efforts had put the Agency in a position to respond rapidly and effectively to the attacks, both in the "Afghan sanctuary" and in "ninety-two countries around the world". The new strategy was called the "Worldwide Attack Matrix".

2003 War in Iraq

Whether or not the intelligence available, or presented by the Bush Administration justified the 2003 invasion of Iraq or allowed proper planning, especially for the occupation, is quite controversial. However, there were more than one CIA employee that asserted the sense that Bush administration officials placed undue pressure on CIA analysts to reach certain conclusions that would support their stated policy positions with regard to Iraq.

CIA Special Activities Division paramilitary teams were the first teams in Iraq arriving in July 2002. Once on the ground they prepared the battle space for the subsequent arrival of US military forces. SAD teams then combined with US Army Special Forces (on a team called the Northern Iraq Liaison Element or NILE) . This team organized the Kurdish Peshmerga for the subsequent US-led invasion. They combined to defeat Ansar al-Islam, an ally of Al-Qaeda. If this battle had not been as successful as it was, there would have been a considerable hostile force behind the US/Kurdish force in the subsequent assault on Saddam's Army. The US side was carried out by Paramilitary Operations Officers from SAD/SOG and the Army's 10th Special Forces Group.

SAD teams also conducted high risk special reconnaissance missions behind Iraqi lines to identify senior leadership targets. These missions led to the initial strikes against Saddam Hussein and his key generals. Although the initial strike against Hussein was unsuccessful in killing the dictator, it was successful in effectively ending his ability to command and control his forces. Other strikes against key generals were successful and significantly degraded the command's ability to react to and maneuver against the US-led invasion force.

NATO member Turkeymarker refused to allow its territory to be used by the US Army's 4th Infantry Division for the invasion. As a result, the SAD, US Army Special Forces joint teams and the Kurdish Peshmerga were the entire northern force against Saddam's Army during the invasion. Their efforts kept the 1st and 5th Corps of the Iraqi Army in place to defend against the Kurds rather than their moving to contest the coalition force coming from the south. This combined US Special Operations and Kurdish force soundly defeated Saddam's Army, a major military success, similar to the victory over the Taliban in Afghanistan. Four members of the SAD/SOG team received CIA's rare Intelligence Star for their "heroic actions."

Drug trafficking

Two offices of CIA Directorate of Intelligence have analytical responsibilities in this area. The Office of Transnational Issues applies unique functional expertise to assess existing and emerging threats to US national security and provides the most senior US policymakers, military planners, and law enforcement with analysis, warning, and crisis support.

CIA Crime and Narcotics Center researches information on international narcotics trafficking and organized crime for policymakers and the law enforcement community. Since CIA has no domestic police authority, it sends its analytic information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other law enforcement organizations, such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the United States Department of the Treasurymarker (OFAC).

Another part of CIA, the National Clandestine Service, collects human intelligence (HUMINT) in these areas.

Research by Dr. Alfred W. McCoy, Gary Webb, and others has pointed to CIA involvement in narcotics trafficking across the globe, although the CIA officially denies such allegations. During the Cold War, when numerous soldiers participated in transport of Southeast Asian heroin to the United States by the airline Air America , the CIA's role in such traffic was reportedly rationalized as "recapture" of related profits to prevent possible enemy control of such assets. GaryWebb and other researchers have reported about similar operations during Reagan's Contra War against the democratically-elected government of Nicaragua, US involvement in Afghanistan during the Cold War, and current CIA involvement with Pakistan's ISI intelligence agency, which allegedly has links to the refining of Afghan heroin in Pakistan.

Lying to Congress

Speaker of the United States House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has stated that the CIA repeatedly misled the Congress since 2001 about waterboarding and other torture, though Pelosi admitted to being told about the programs. Six members of Congress have stated that Director of CIA Leon Panetta admitted that over a period of several years since 2001 the CIA regularly deceived Congress, including affirmatively lying to Congress. These lies to Congress are similar to CIA lies to Congress from earlier periods, according to the Congressmen.

Covert programs hidden from Congress

On July 10, 2009, House Intelligence subcommittee Chairwoman Representative Jan Schakowsky announced the termination of an unnamed CIA covert program described as "very serious" in nature which had been kept secret from Congress for eight years.

CIA Director Panetta had ordered an internal investigation to determine why Congress had not been informed about the covert program. Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Representative Silvestre Reyes announced that that he is considering an investigation into alleged CIA violations of the National Security Act, which requires with limited exception that Congress be informed of covert activities. Investigations and Oversight Subcommittee Chairwoman Schakowsky indicated that she would forward a request for congressional investigation to HPSCI Chairman Silvestre Reyes.

As mandated by Title 50 of the United States Code Chapter 15, Subchapter III, when it becomes necessary to limit access to covert operations findings that could affect vital interests of the US, as soon as possible the President must report at a minimum to the Gang of Eight.The House is expected to support the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Bill including a provision that would require the President to inform more than 40 members of Congress about covert operations. The Obama administration White House threatened to veto the final version of a bill that included such a provision. On July 16, 2008 the fiscal 2009 Intelligence Authorization Bill was approved by House majority containing stipulations that 75% of money sought for covert actions would be held until all members of the House Intelligence panel were briefed on sensitive covert actions. The Bush administration White House issued a statement indicating that if the bill contained that provision when it reached the President, senior advisors would recommend that he veto the bill.

The program was rumored vis-a-vis leaks made by anonymous government officials on July 23, to be an assassinations program,, but this remains unconfirmed.

Allegations by Director Panetta indicate that details of a secret counterterrorism program were withheld from Congress under orders from former US Vice President Dick Cheney. This prompted Senator Feinstein and Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee to insist that no one should go outside the law. "The agency hasn't discussed publicly the nature of the effort, which remains classified," said agency spokesman Paul Gimigliano.

Wall Street Journal reported, citing former intelligence officials familiar with the matter, that the program was an attempt to carry out a 2001 presidential authorization to capture or kill al Qaeda operatives.

Intelligence Committee investigation
On July 17, 2009, The House Intelligence Committee said it was launching a formal investigation into the secret program. Representative Silvestre Reyes announced the probe will look into "whether there was any past decision or direction to withhold information from the committee".

Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, who called for the investigation, stated that the investigation was intended to address CIA failures to inform Congress fully or accurately about four issues: C.I.A. involvement in the downing of a missionary plane mistaken for a narcotics flight in Peru in 2001, and two "matters that remain classified", as well as the rumored-assassinations question. In addition, the inquiry is likely to look at the Bush administration’s program of eavesdropping without warrants and its detention and interrogation program.


  1. " McLean CDP, Virginia." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on September 1, 2009.
  2. ( Traces CIA activities over a 40-year period)
  3. CIA Abbreviations and Acronyms
  4. Executive Order 13470
  5. "Bush Orders Intelligence Overhaul", by Associated Press, July 31, 2008
  6. "Review of 'Legacy of Ashes: The History of CIA'" by Nicholas Dujmovic, CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence, November 26, 2007
  7. The CIA: On top of everything else, not very good at its job, Review of Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA by Tim Weiner in The Economist, August 16, 2007
  8. Steve Coll, Ghost Wars (Penguin, 2005 edn), p.87.
  9. Giles Foden, "Blowback Chronicles", Guardian, Sept. 15, 2001; referring to John Cooley, Unholy Wars: Afghanistan, America and International Terrorism (Pluto Press, no date given)
  10. Cooperative Research transcript of Fox TV interview with J. Michael Springmann (head of the non-immigrant visa section at the US consulate in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, in 1987-88) July 18, 2002.
  11. transcript of Springmann interview with CBC, July 3, 2002, 9/11 Review.
  12. Andrew Marshall, "Terror 'blowback' burns CIA", Independent On Sunday, November 1, 1998.
  13. Cloonan Frontline interview, PBS, July 13, 2005.
  14. Peter L Bergen, Holy War, Inc: Inside the Secret World of Osama bin Laden (Weidenfield & Nicholson, 2001), p.65.
  15. Jane Mayer, "Junior: The clandestine life of America's top Al Qaeda source", New Yorker, Sept. 11, 2006.
  16. Tenet, At The Center of the Storm, pp.119, 120.
  17. 9/11 Commission Report, chapter 11, p.342 ( HTML version)
  18. Joint Inquiry Final Report, part three, p.387.
  19. Tenet statement to the 9/11 Commission, March 24, 2004, p.8.
  20. George Tenet, At The Center Of The Storm (Harper Press, 2007), pp.121–2; cf. p.178.
  21. Plan of Attack, Bob Woodward, Simon and Shuster, 2004.
  22. An interview on public radio with the author
  23. Behind lines, an unseen war, Faye Bowers, Christian Science Monitor, April 2003.
  24. Operation Hotel California: The Clandestine War inside Iraq, Mike Tucker, Charles Faddis, 2008, The Lyons Press |isbn=9781599213668
  25. Gary Webb Dark Alliance
  26. Solomon, Norman, (Jan./Feb. 1997, " Snow Job". Extra!
  27. BBC News, May 14, 2009, "Pelosi says CIA lied on 'torture'"
  28. BBC News, July 9, 2009, "CIA 'often lied to congressmen'"

Further reading

  • McCoy, Alfred W. (2006): A Question of Torture: CIA Interrogation, from the Cold War to the War on Terror, Owl Books, ISBN 0805082484
  • Wallace, Robert; Melton, H. Keith; Schlesinger, Henry R. (2008). Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs, from Communism to al-Qaeda. Dutton. ISBN 0525949801

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