The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the United States' foreign intelligence agency, responsible for obtaining and analysing information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and reporting such information to the various branches of the US government. It also maintains a vast covert military apparatus, which during the Cold War was responsible for many attempts to depose foreign governments seen as pro-Soviet and opposing US interests, such as those of Arbenz in Guatemala and Allende in Chile. Its headquarters is in Langley, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C

Table of contents
1 History
2 CIA Directors
3 CIA Operations in Iraq
4 "Worldwide Attack Matrix"
5 See also
6 External links
7 Further Reading


The Agency, created in 1947 by President Harry S. Truman, is a descendant of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) of World War II. The OSS was dissolved in October 1945 but William J. Donovan, the creator of the OSS, had submitted a proposal to the President in 1944. He called for a new organization having direct Presidential supervision, "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." Despite strong opposition from the military, the State Department, and the FBI, Truman established the Central Intelligence Group in January 1946. Later under the National Security Act of 1947 (which became effective on September 18, 1947) the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency were established.

In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act was passed, permitting the agency to use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures and exempting it from many 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." Some critics have charged that this violates a provision of the U.S. Constitution that the federal budget be openly published.

The activities of the CIA are largely undisclosed. Like other intelligence agencies, it collects information from a variety of sources, the vast majority probably being public information in the countries concerned, but also from individuals who for various reasons including bribes, blackmail, and ideology, decide to pass otherwise secret information to the CIA. It also undoubtedly makes use of the surveillance satellites of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the signal interception capabilities of the NSA, including the Echelon system, and the surveillance aircraft of the various branches of the US armed forces. At one stage, the CIA even operated its own fleet of U-2 surveillance aircraft.

The agency also employs a group of officers with paramilitary skills. Michael Spann, the CIA officer killed in November 2001 during the Afghanistan conflict, was one such individual. A small number of other CIA officers are confirmed to be working in similar roles in Afghanistan, but the extent of paramilitary action by the CIA since the 1961 Bay of Pigs Invasion is largely unknown.

Defectors such as Phillip Agee have alleged that CIA covert action is extraordinarily widespread, extending even to propaganda campaigns within allied countries of the United States. The agency has also been accused of participation in the illegal drug trade, notably in Laos, Afghanistan, and Nicaragua. It is known to have attempted assassinations of foreign leaders, most notably Fidel Castro, though since 1976 a Presidential order has banned such actions, except during wartime.

One of the CIA's publications, the CIA World Factbook, is unclassified and is indeed made freely available without copyright restrictions.

In 1988, President George H. W. Bush became the first former head of the CIA to become President of the United States.

The activities of the CIA have caused considerable political controversy both in the United States and in other countries, often nominally friendly to the United States, where the agency has operated (or been alleged to). For instance, the CIA has supported various dictators, including Manuel Noriega, who have been friendly to perceived US geopolitical interests, sometimes over democratically elected governments.

The agency has also been criticized for ineffectiveness as an intelligence gathering agency. These criticism included allowing a double agent, Aldrich Ames to gain high positions within the organization, and for focusing on finding informants with information of dubious value rather than on processing the vast amount of open source intelligence. In addition, the CIA has come under particular criticism for failing to predict the collapse of the Soviet Union.

On November 5, 2002, newspapers reported that a car full of Al-Qaeda operatives had been killed by a missile launched from a CIA-controlled Predator drone (a high-altitude, remote-controlled aircraft).

CIA Directors

The head of the CIA is given the title Director of Central Intelligence (DCI). The DCI is not only the head of the CIA but also the leader of the entire U.S. intelligence community and the President's principal advisor on intelligence matters. A list of DCIs (in chronological order) follows.

Rear Adm. Sidney W. Souers, USNR January 23 1946 - June 10 1946
Lt. Gen. Hoyt S. Vandenberg, USA June 10 1946 - May 1 1947
Rear Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, USN May 1 1947 - October 7, 1950
Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, USA October 7 1950 - February 9 1953
Allen W. Dulles February 26, 1953 - November 29, 1961
John A. McCone November 29 1961 - April 28 1965
Vice Adm. William F. Raborn, Jr, USN (Ret.) April 28 1965 - June 30 1966
Richard M. Helms June 30 1966 - February 2 1973
James R. Schlesinger February 2, 1973 - July 2 1973
William E. Colby September 4 1973 - January 30 1976
George H. W. Bush January 30 1976 - January 20 1977
Adm. Stansfield Turner, USN (Ret.) March 9 1977 - January 20 1981
William J. Casey January 28 1981 - January 29 1987
William H. Webster May 26 1987 - August 31 1991
Robert M. Gates November 6 1991 - January 20 1993
R. James Woolsey February 5 1993 - January 10 1995
John M. Deutch May 10 1995 - December 15 1996
George J. Tenet July 11 1997 - present

CIA Operations in Iraq

According to some sources [1] [1] [1] [1] the CIA appears to have supported the 1963 military coup in Iraq and the subsequent Saddam Hussein led government up until the point of the 1991 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. US support was premised on the notion that Iraq was a key buffer state in relations with the Soviet Union.

In 2002 an unnamed source, quoted in the Washington Post, says that the CIA was authorized to undertake a covert operation, if necessary with help of the Special Forces, that could serve as a preparation for a full-scale military attack of Iraq. [1]

"Worldwide Attack Matrix"

In a briefing held September 15 2001 George Tenet presented the Worldwide Attack Matrix, a "top-secret" document describing covert CIA anti-terror operations in 80 countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa. The actions, underway or being recommended, would range from "routine propaganda to lethal covert action in preparation for military attacks". The plans, if carried out, "would give the CIA the broadest and most lethal authority in its history". [1]

See also

External links

Further Reading