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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent U.S. Government agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior U.S. policymakers.

The CIA was created in 1947 by President Harry S. Truman with the signing of the National Security Act. The intent was to help eliminate the intelligence gaps that had existed between government agencies before World War II. The Act charged the CIA with coordinating national intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating, and disseminating intelligence.[1]

The Act 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 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.

Functions and responsibilities[]

The function of the CIA is to assist the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency in carrying out its responsibilities.

To accomplish its mission, the CIA engages in research, development, and deployment of high-leverage technology for intelligence purposes. As a separate agency, CIA serves as an independent source of analysis on topics of concern and also works closely with the other organizations in the Intelligence Community to ensure that the intelligence consumer — whether Washington policymaker or battlefield commander — receives the best intelligence possible.

As changing global realities have reordered the national security agenda, CIA has adapted by:

  • Creating special, multidisciplinary centers to address such high-priority issues such as nonproliferation, counterterrorism, counterintelligence, international organized crime and narcotics trafficking, environment, and arms control intelligence.
  • Forging stronger partnerships between the several intelligence collection disciplines and all-source analysis.
  • Taking an active part in Intelligence Community analytical efforts and producing all-source analysis on the full range of topics that affect national security.
  • Contributing to the effectiveness of the overall Intelligence Community by managing services of common concern in imagery analysis and open-source collection and participating in partnerships with other intelligence agencies in the areas of research and development and technical collection.

By emphasizing adaptability in its approach to intelligence collection, the CIA can tailor its support to key intelligence consumers and help them meet their needs as they face the issues of the post-Cold War World.

Congressional oversight[]

Intelligence reform legislation enacted in 2004 had a significant effect on the work of the CIA. The CIA Director does not have the Community-wide responsibilities that historically absorbed the attention of the DCI, nor is he responsible for daily morning briefings in the White House. In his role as National Humint Manager, the CIA Director oversees the National Clandestine Service’s efforts HUMINT collection by the CIA and coordinates HUMINT efforts by other agencies. The CIA also retains primary responsibilities for all-source analysis on a vast array of international issues that are of concern to the U.S. Government.

Some observers suggest that the CIA has lost stature as a result of the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 that placed the DNI between the head of the CIA and the President. Other observers argue, however, that without the burden of interagency coordination, the CIA Director is better positioned to emphasize analytical and HUMINT collection activities. Congress has expressed concern about both HUMINT and the conduct of analysis on repeated occasions and may choose to oversee the CIA Director’s efforts more closely.

  1. See Central Intelligence Agency Factbook on Intelligence 2002, "The Genesis of the CIA" (full-text)