The United States of America's foreign intelligence agency, responsible for obtaining and analysing information about foriegn governments, corporations, and individuals, and reporting such information to the various branches of the US government. It is also the agency responsible for many attempts to covertly influence foreign governments, such as the failed attempt to invade Cuba by Cuban exiles at the Bay Of Pigs in 1961.
The CIA, created in 1947 by President Harry S. Truman, is a descendant of the 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 18 September 1947) the National Security Council and the Central Intelligence Agency were established.
In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act was passed to permitting the Agency to use confidential fiscal and administrative procedures and exempting them 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."
The activities of the CIA are, obviously, largely not disclosed, but some educated guesses can be made about its activities. 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 and 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 operates 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 other paramilitary actions of the CIA since the Bay Of Pigs are largely unknown.
The CIA's work has been fictionalised with varying degrees of accuracy in a considerable number of spy novels.
One of the CIA's publications, the CIA World Factbook is unclassified and is indeed made freely available without copyright restrictions. The factbook forms the basis of most of the country entries in this Wikipedia.
- The official CIA home page