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An intelligence agency is a governmental agency that is devoted to information gathering (known in the context as "intelligence") for purposes of national security and national defense.


An intelligence agency means

the Central Intelligence Agency, a foreign intelligence component of the Department of Defense, or the foreign counterintelligence or foreign counterterrorism components of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.[1]


The means of information gathering by an intelligence agency may include espionage, communication interception, cryptanalysis, cooperation with other institutions, and evaluation of public sources.

Intelligence agencies provide some or all of the following services for their national governments.

  • provide analysis in areas relevant to national security;
  • give early warning of impending crises;
  • serve national and international crisis management by helping to discern the intentions of current or potential opponents;
  • inform national defense planning and military operations;
  • protect secrets, both of their own sources and activities, and those of other state agencies; and
  • may act covertly to influence the outcome of events in favor of national interests.

Intelligence agencies are also involved in defensive activities such as counter-espionage or counter-terrorism.


  1. 50 U.S.C. §426(5).