The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an intelligence agency of the United States government. Its primary function is obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, and persons, and reporting such information to the branches of the government. Its secondary function is propaganda or public relations, overt and covert information dissemination, both true and false, and influencing others to decide in favor of the U.S. government. The third function of the CIA is as the hidden hand of the federal government, by engaging in covert operations. This is done at the direction of the President, and with oversight by Congress. This last function has caused much controversy for the CIA, raising questions about the legality, morality, effectiveness, and intelligence of such operations.


The entrance of the CIA Headquarters


The entrance of the CIA Headquarters



Its headquarters is in the community of Langley in the McLean CDP of Fairfax County, Virginia, a few miles Northwest from downtown Washington, D.C. along the Potomac River. The CIA is part of the U.S. Intelligence Community, led by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The role and functions of the CIA are roughly equivalent to those of the United Kingdom's Secret Intelligence Service (MI6), the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS), the Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS) and Israel's Mossad.


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


The Central Intelligence Agency was created by Congress with the National Security Act of 1947 and signed 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. But the need for a postwar centralized intelligence system was clearly recognized. Eleven months earlier, in 1944, William J. Donovan (a.k.a. Wild Bill Donovan), the OSS's creator, proposed to President Franklin D. Roosevelt creating a new espionage 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."


Despite opposition from the military establishment, the State Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), President Truman established the Central Intelligence Group in January 1946. Later, under the National Security Act of 1947 (effective September 18, 1947), the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency were established. Rear Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter was appointed as the first Director of Central Intelligence.


In the creation of the Central Intelligence Agency, several disposed Nazi operational agents were recruited as U.S. secret agents, yet formed just a minor portion of the agents at that time; they were induced financially and promised exemption from criminal prosecution and trial for war crimes committed during World War II. Additionally, many scientists were also extracted from Germany in order to aid the U.S.; their recruitment was under aegis of Operation Paperclip.


The now declassified National Security Council Directive on Office of Special Projects, June 18, 1948 (NSC 10/2) provided the operating instructions for the CIA:



"Plan and conduct covert operations which are conducted or sponsored by this government 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 unauthorised persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them. Covert action shall include any covert activities related to: propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition, and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."



In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act (a.k.a. Public Law 81-110) was passed, permitting the agency's using confidential, fiscal, and administrative procedures, and exempting it from most of the usual limitations on the use of federal funds. The act 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. By 1949, the West German intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst, under Reinhard Gehlen, was under the CIA's control.


In 1950, the CIA organized the Pacific Corporation, the first of many CIA private enterprises. Director Hillenkoetter approved Project BLUEBIRD, the CIA's first mind control program. In 1951, the Columbia Broadcasting System began co-operating with the CIA; President Truman created the Office of Current Intelligence; Project BLUEBIRD was renamed Project ARTICHOKE.


During the first years of its existence, other branches of government did not exercise much control over the Central Intelligence Agency; justified by the desire to match and defeat KGB actions throughout the globe, a task many believed could be accomplished only through an approach as equally ungentlemanly as the KGB's, consequently, few in government closely inquired about the CIA's activity. The rapid expansion of the CIA, and a developed sense of independence under the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) Allen Dulles added to this trend.


Things came to a head in the early 1970s, around the time of the Watergate political burglary affair. A dominant feature of political life during that period were the attempts of Congress to assert oversight of U.S. Presidency, the executive branch of the U.S. Government. Revelations about past CIA activities, such as assassinations and attempted assassinations of foreign leaders, illegal domestic spying on U.S. citizens, provided the opportunities to execute Congressional oversight of U.S. intelligence operations. Hastening the Central Intelligence Agency's fall from grace were the burglary of the Watergate headquarters of the Democratic Party by ex-CIA agents, and President Nixon's subsequent use of the CIA to impede the FBI's investigation of the burglary. In the famous "smoking gun" audio tape provoking 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 of Cuba, and, therefore, that the CIA should tell the FBI to cease investigating the Watergate burglary, due to reasons of "national security".


DCI James R. Schlesinger had commissioned reports on past CIA crimes; the reports, known as "The Family Jewels", were kept close to the Agency's chest until Seymour Hersh broke the news in an article, in the New York Times, that the CIA had assassinated foreign leaders, and had kept files on some seven thousand American citizens involved in the peace movement (Operation CHAOS). Congress investigated the CIA in the Senate via the Church committee, named after its chairman, Frank Church (D-Idaho), and in the House of Representatives via the Pike committee, named after its chairman Otis Pike (D-N.Y.); and these investigations provoked further politically embarrassing disclosures. Around Christmas of 1974–5, Congress struck another blow for governmental oversight when they blocked covert military intervention in the civil war in Angola. Subsequently, the CIA was prohibited from assassinating foreign leaders.


Further, President Gerald Ford, responding to protests about the intrusive activities of the CIA, set up a "Citizens' Commission" on January 4, 1975 to investigate whether it had spied on Americans inside the U.S. in violation of its charter. The CIA's charter was again enforced, with the FBI solely responsible for investigating U.S. citizens.


Repercussions from the Iran-Contra 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 U.S. 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".


In 1988, President George H. W. Bush became the first former chief of the CIA to be elected President of the United States.


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 Central Intelligence Agency. The DCI's title now is "Director of the Central Intelligence Agency" (DCIA), serving as head of the CIA.


Currently, the Central Intelligence Agency reports to U.S. Congressional committees, but also answers directly to the President. The National Security Advisor is a permanent member of the cabinet, responsible for briefing the President with pertinent information collected by all U.S. intelligence agencies, including the National Security Agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration, et cetera; all fifteen Intelligence Community agencies are under the authority of the Director of National Intelligence.


Many of the post-Watergate restrictions upon the Central Intelligence Agency were lifted after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the The Pentagon. Some critics charge this violates the requirement in the U.S. Constitution that the federal budget be openly published. However, 52 years earlier, in 1949, Congress and President Harry Truman had approved arrangements that CIA and national intelligence funding could be hidden in the U.S federal budget.



CIA central intelligence agency seal USA


CIA seal



Organization - Agency seal


The heraldic symbol of the CIA consists of 3 representative parts: the left-facing bald eagle head atop, the compass star (or compass rose), and the shield. The eagle is the national bird, standing for strength and alertness. The 16-point compass star represents the CIA's world-wide search for intelligence outside the United States, which is then reported to the headquarters for analysis, reporting, and re-distribution to policymakers. The compass rests upon a shield, symbolic of defense and intelligence.




  • Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCIA) – The head of the CIA is given the title of the DCIA. The act that created the CIA in 1947 also created a Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) to serve as head of the United States intelligence community, act as the principal adviser to the President for intelligence matters related to the national security, and serve as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 amended the National Security Act to provide for a Director of National Intelligence who would assume some of the roles formerly fulfilled by the DCI, with a separate Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

  • Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DDCIA) – Assists the Director in his duties as head of the CIA and exercises the powers of the Director when the Director’s position is vacant or in the Director’s absence or disability.

  • Associate Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (ADD) – Created July 5, 2006, the ADD was delegated all authorities and responsibilities vested previously in the post of Executive Director. The post of Executive Director, which was responsible for managing the CIA on a day-to-day basis, was simultaneously abolished.

  • Associate Director for Military Support (AD/MS) – The DCIA's principal advisor and representative on military issues. The AD/MS coordinates Intelligence Community efforts to provide Joint Force commanders with timely, accurate intelligence. The AD/MS also supports Department of Defense officials who oversee military intelligence training and the acquisition of intelligence systems and technology. A senior general officer, the AD/MS ensures coordination of Intelligence Community policies, plans and requirements relating to support to military forces in the intelligence budget.


Controversies - War on terror


On November 5, 2002, newspapers reported that Al-Qaeda operatives in a car travelling through Yemen had been killed by a missile launched from a CIA-controlled Predator drone (a medium-altitude, remote-controlled aircraft). On May 15, 2005, it was reported that another of these drones had been used to assassinate Al-Qaeda figure Haitham al-Yemeni inside Pakistan.


In June 2005, two events occurred that may shape future CIA operations.


Arrest warrants for 22 CIA agents were issued within the European Union (Schengen Agreement members). The agents are alleged to have taken an Egyptian, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, a suspected terrorist, from Milan on 17 February 2003 for extraordinary rendition to Egypt, where according to relatives of the cleric, he was tortured. The removal of Nasr was not unusual except that the Italian government has denied having approved the rendition. Similar operations of this sort have occurred worldwide since 9/11, the vast majority with at least tacit approval by the national government. Additionally, it allegedly disrupted Italian attempts to penetrate the terrorist's Al Qaeda network. The New York Times reported soon after that it is highly unlikely that the CIA agents involved would be extradited, despite the US-Italy bilateral treaty regarding extraditions for crimes that carry a penalty of more than a year in prison.


Soon after, President Bush appointed the CIA to be in charge of all human intelligence and manned spying operations. This was the culmination of a years old turf war regarding influence, philosophy and budget between the DIA of The Pentagon and the CIA. The Pentagon, through the DIA, wanted to take control of the CIA's paramilitary operations and many of its human assets. The CIA, which has for years held that human intelligence is the core of the agency, successfully argued that the CIA's decades long experience with human resources and civilian oversight made it the ideal choice. Thus, the CIA was given charge of all US human intelligence, but as a compromise, the Pentagon was authorized to include increased paramilitary capabilities in future budget requests.


Despite reforms which have led back to what the CIA considers its traditional principal capacities, the CIA Director position has lost influence in the White House. For years, the Director of the CIA met regularly with the President to issue daily reports on ongoing operations. After the creation of the post of Director of National Intelligence, currently occupied by Mike McConnell, the report is now given by the DNI—who oversees all US Intelligence activities, including DIA operations outside of CIA jurisdiction. Former CIA Director Porter Goss, himself also a former CIA officer, denies this has had a diminishing effect on morale, in favor of promoting his singular mission to reform the CIA into the lean and agile counter-terrorism focused force he believes it should be.


On December 6, 2005, German Khalid El-Masri filed a lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet, claiming that he was transported from the Republic of Macedonia to a prison in Afghanistan and held captive there by the CIA for 5 months on a case of mistaken identity. Two months after his true identity had been found out, he had been taken to Albania and released without funds or an official excuse.



The USAF's stealth bomber SR-71 Blackbird was developed from the CIA's A-12 OXCART


The USAF's SR-71 Blackbird was developed from the CIA's A-12 OXCART




The 2003 War in Iraq


In December 2005, ABC News reported that former agents claimed the CIA used waterboarding, along with five other "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", against detainees held in the secret prisons. Waterboarding is widely regarded as a form of torture, though there are reports that President Bush signed a secret "finding" that it is not, authorizing its use.


After a media and public outcry in Europe concerning headlines about "secret CIA prisons" in Poland and other US allies, the EU through its Committee on Legal Affairs investigated whether any of its members, especially Poland, the Czech Republic or Romania had any of these "secret CIA prisons." After an investigation by the EU Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, the EU determined that it could not find any of these prisons. In fact, they could not prove if they had ever existed at all. To quote the report, "At this stage of the investigations, there is no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania, Poland or any other country. Nevertheless, there are many indications from various sources which must be considered reliable, justifying the continuation of the analytical and investigative work."


On 13 December 2005 Dick Marty, investigating illegal CIA activity in Europe on behalf of the Council of Europe, reported evidence that "individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards". His investigation has found that no evidence exists establishing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Europe, but added that it was "highly unlikely" that European governments were unaware of the American program of renditions. However, Marty's interim report, which was based largely on a compendium of press clippings has been harshly criticised by the governments of various EU member states. 



Clandestine service


In 1996, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued a congressional report estimating that the clandestine service part of the intelligence community "easily" breaks "extremely serious laws" in countries around the world, 100,000 times every year. 


According to the report, DO (Directorate of Operations) officers engage in highly illegal activities not only risk political embarrassment to his country and President, but also endanger the freedom of the clandestine officer himself. Regarded the facts and recent history, the case officers are held accountable for overseeing the Clandestine Service (CS) and the Director's of Central Intelligence (DCI) must work closely with the Director of the CS and directly responsible for him.


A pejorative term for people who work for the CIA or other intelligence agencies is often "spook." Another occasionally used phrase to refer to CIA officers, "Virginia farmboys," is incorrectly believed to be in reference to the Langley, VA headquarters. In fact, the term comes from one of the CIA's training facility for clandestine officers, Camp Peary, also known as "The Farm."



Drug trafficking


Accusations have repeatedly been made that the CIA has been involved in drug trafficking to fund illegal operations. For example, In 1996, journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of exposés for the San Jose Mercury News, entitled "Dark Alliance", in which he alleged the use of CIA aircraft, which had ferried arms to the Contras, to ship cocaine to the United States during the return flights.


Webb also alleged that Central American narcotics traffickers could import cocaine to U.S. cities in the 1980s without the interference of normal law enforcement agencies. He claimed that this led, in part, to the crack cocaine epidemic, especially in poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and that the CIA intervened to prevent the prosecution of drug dealers who were helping to fund the Contras. Faced with Congressional and other media criticism (especially the Los Angeles Times), the San Jose Mercury News retracted Webb's conclusions and Webb was prevented from conducting any more investigative reporting. Webb was transferred to cover non-controversial suburban stories and gave up journalism.


After the Gary Webb report in the Mercury News, the CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz was assigned to investigate these allegations. In 1998 the new CIA director, George Tenet declared that he was releasing the report.


The report and Hitz's testimony showed that the "CIA did not 'expeditiously' cut off relations with alleged drug traffickers" and "the CIA was aware of allegations that 'dozens of people and a number of companies connected in some fashion to the contra program' were involved in drug trafficking"


Hitz also said that under an agreement in 1982 between Ronald Reagan's Attorney General William French Smith and the CIA, agency officers were not required to report allegations of drug trafficking involving non-employees, which was defined as meaning paid and non-paid "assets [meaning agents], pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, as well as contra officials and others.


This agreement, which had not previously been revealed, came at a time when there were allegations that the CIA was using drug dealers in its controversial covert operation to bring down the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Only after Congressional funds were restored in 1986 was the agreement modified to require the CIA to stop paying agents whom it believed were involved in the drug trade.



Drugs in Asia


It has also been alleged that the CIA was involved in the opium/heroin trade in Asia, which was the focus of Alfred W. McCoy's book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, an earlier edition of which had already been subjected to an attempted CIA suppression. The CIA's operation, Air America, has also been accused of transporting drugs.





The ultimate form of espionage, science faction.

A novel by Jameson Hunter featuring John Storm

trying to unravel a plot to undermine US military dominance



Mafia connections and assassination plots


The United States government has conspired with organized crime figures to assassinate foreign heads of state. The CIA has been linked to several assassination attempts on foreign leaders, including first democratically elected prime minister of the Democratic Republic of Congo Patrice Lumumba, former leader of Panama Omar Torrijos and the President of Cuba, Fidel Castro. Between August 1960, and April 1961, the CIA with the help of the Mafia assassins pursued a series of plots to poison or shoot Castro according to the assassination plots proposed by Colonel Sheffield Edwards, director of the CIA's Office of Security.


Notre Dame law professor G. Robert Blakey, counsel for the House Select Committee on Assassinations, states that the CIA withheld information from the Warren Commission and frustrated the efforts of the Congressional Committee he represented.


According to a 1997 New York Times article, the CIA conducted a covert propaganda campaign to squelch criticism of the Warren Report. The CIA urged its field stations to use their "propaganda assets" to attack those who didn't agree with the Warren Report. In a dispatch from CIA headquarters, the Agency instructed its stations around the world to:

  1. counteract the "new wave of books and articles criticizing the [Warren] Commission's findings...[and] conspiracy theories ...[that] have frequently thrown suspicion on our organization";

  2. "discuss the publicity problem with liaison and friendly elite contacts, especially politicians and editors;" and

  3. "employ propaganda assets to answer and refute the attacks of the critics. ... Book reviews and feature articles are particularly appropriate for this purpose. ... The aim of this dispatch is to provide material for countering and discrediting the claims of the conspiracy theorists..."


On January 13, 2006, the CIA launched an airstrike on Damadola, a Pakistani village near the Afghan border, where they believed Ayman al-Zawahiri was located. The airstrike killed a number of civilians but al-Zawahiri apparently was not among them. The Pakistani government issued a strong protest against the US attack, considered a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty [1]. However, several legal experts argue that this cannot be considered an assassination attempt as al-Zawahiri is named as terrorist and an enemy combatant by the United States, and therefore this targeted killing is not covered under Executive Order 12333, which banned assassinations.








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