cia-logo-b-w-200-200The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence service of the U.S. Government, tasked with gathering, processing and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). As one of the principal members of the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), the CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence and is primarily focused on providing intelligence for the President and his Cabinet.

Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is a domestic security service, CIA has no law enforcement function and is mainly focused on overseas intelligence gathering, with only limited domestic collection. Though it is not the only U.S. government agency specializing in HUMINT, CIA serves as the national manager for coordination and deconfliction of HUMINT activities across the entire intelligence community. Moreover, CIA is the only agency authorized by law to carry out and oversee covert action on behalf of the President, unless the President determines that another agency is better suited for carrying out such action. It can, for example, exert foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Division.

Before the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act, CIA Director concurrently served as the head of the Intelligence Community; today these functions and authorities reside with the Director of National Intelligence. Despite transferring some of its powers to the DNI, the CIA has grown in size as a result of the September 11 terrorist attacks. In 2013, The Washington Post reported that in fiscal year 2010, the CIA had the largest budget of all IC agencies, exceeding previous estimates.

The CIA has increasingly expanded its roles, including covert paramilitary operations. One of its largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber-operations. While the CIA has had some recent accomplishments, such as locating Osama bin Laden and taking part in the successful Operation Neptune Spear, it has also been involved in controversial programs such as extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation techniques.