The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an intelligence agency of the United States Government. Its primary function is obtaining and analyzing information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and reporting such information to the various branches of the Government. A second function is overtly and covertly disseminating information, both true and false, that influences others to make decisions favorable to the United States Government. The second function is usually known as propaganda or public relations. A third function of the CIA is to act as the "hidden hand" of the government by engaging in covert operations at the direction of the President. It is this last function that has caused most of the controversies regarding the CIA over the years, raising questions about the legality, morality, effectiveness, and intelligence of such operations.

Its headquarters are in the community of Langley in the McLean CDP of Fairfax County, Virginia, a few miles up the Potomac River from downtown Washington, D.C.. The CIA is part of the American Intelligence Community, which is now led by the Director of National Intelligence (DNI). The roles and functions of the CIA are roughly equivalent to those of the United Kingdom's MI6 and Israel's Mossad.



The Agency, created in 1947 by the National Security Act of 1947 signed 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 (aka Wild Bill), the creator of the OSS, submitted a proposal to President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1944 calling 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 its creation many disposed Nazi operatives were recruited to become agents, they were offered financial packages and promised to be exempt from trial for their war crimes committed in World War II. This was a result of Operation Paperclip. Rear Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter was appointed as the first Director of Central Intelligence.

The now declassified National Security Council Directive on Office of Special Projects, June 18, 1948 (NSC 10/2) provided the operating instructions for the CIA:

"Plan and conduct covert operations which are conducted or sponsored by this government against hostile foreign states or groups or in support of friendly foreign states or groups but which are so planned and conducted that any US Government responsibility for them is not evident to unauthorised persons and that if uncovered the US Government can plausibly disclaim any responsibility for them. Covert action shall include any covert activities related to: propaganda; economic warfare; preventive direct action, including sabotage, anti-sabotage, demolition, and evacuation measures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance movements, gurrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-Communist elements in threatened countries of the free world."

Dr. Daniele Ganser of the ETH ZZrich notes that these instructions fall under the FBI definition of terrorism:

"The unlawful use of force or violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives."

In 1949, the Central Intelligence Agency Act (also called "Public Law 110") 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." It also created a program called "PL-110" to handle defectors and other "essential aliens" outside normal immigration procedures, as well as giving those persons cover stories and economic support.[4] By 1949, the West German intelligence agency Bundesnachrichtendienst, under Reinhard Gehlen, was under the CIA's control.

In 1950, the CIA organized the Pacific Corporation, the first of many CIA private enterprises. Director Hillenkoetter approved Project BLUEBIRD, the CIA's first structured behavioral control program. In 1951, the Columbia Broadcasting System began cooperating with the CIA. President Truman created the Office of Current Intelligence. Project BLUEBIRD was renamed Project ARTICHOKE.

During the first years of its existence, other branches of government did not exercise much control over the Agency. This was often justified by a desire to defeat and match the activities of the KGB across the globe, a task that many believed could only be accomplished through an equally ungentlemanly approach. As a result, few in government inquired too closely into CIA activity. The rapid expansion of the Agency and a developing sense of independence under DCI Allen Dulles added to this trend.

Things came to a head in the early 1970s, around the time of the Watergate affair. One dominant feature of political life during this period were the attempts of Congress to assert its power of oversight over the executive branch of government. Revelations about past CIA activities, such as assassination attempts of foreign leaders and illegal domestic spying, provided the opportunity to carry out this process in the sphere of intelligence operations. Hastening the Agency's fall from grace were the involvement of ex-CIA agents in the Watergate break-in and President Nixon's subsequent attempts to use the CIA to stop the FBI investigation of Watergate. In the famous "smoking gun" tape which led to Nixon's resignation, Nixon ordered his chief of staff Haldeman to tell the CIA that further investigation of Watergate would "open the whole can of worms" about the Bay Of Pigs operation, and therefore that the CIA should tell the FBI to stop investigating Watergate because of "national security."

DCI James R. Schlesinger had commissioned a series of reports on past CIA wrongdoing. These reports, known euphemistically as "the Family Jewels", were kept close to the Agency's chest until an article by Seymour Hersh in the New York Times broke the news that the CIA had been involved in the assassination of foreign leaders and kept files on some seven thousand American citizens involved in the peace movement (Operation CHAOS). Congress investigated the CIA in the Senate through the Church committee, named after Chairman Frank Church (D-Idaho) and in the House through the Pike committee, named after Chairman Otis Pike (D-N.Y.); and these investigations led to further embarrassing disclosures. Around the Christmas of 1974/5, another blow was struck by Congress when they blocked covert intervention in Angola.

The CIA was subsequently prohibited from assassinating foreign leaders. Further, the prohibition against domestic spying, which had always been prohibited by the CIA charter, was again to be enforced, with the FBI having sole responsibility for domestic investigation of US citizens. Repercussions from the Iran-Contra scandal included the creation of the Intelligence Authorization Act in 1991. This defined "covert operations" as secret missions in areas where the U.S. is not involved in open or apparent engagement. This also required a certain chain of authorization, including an official presidential finding report and informing the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which under emergency situations only requires "timely notification".

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

Previously, the Director of Central Intelligence (DCI) oversaw the Intelligence Community and served as the principal intelligence adviser to the president, in addition to serving as head of the Central Intelligence Agency. The DCI's title is now Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCIA), and the Director serves as head of the CIA.

Today, the Central Intelligence Agency reports to U.S. Congressional committees but also answers to the President directly. The National Security Advisor is a permanent cabinet member responsible for briefing the President on pertinent information collected from all U.S. intelligence agencies including the National Security Agency, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and others. All 15 agencies of the Intelligence Community are under the Director of National Intelligence.

Many of the post-Watergate restrictions on the CIA were removed after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the U.S. military hub, The Pentagon. Some critics have charged that this violates the requirement in the U.S. Constitution that the federal budget be openly published. However, 52 years earlier, in 1949, Congress and President Harry Truman had approved arrangements that CIA and national intelligence funding could be hidden in the overall U.S federal budget.

CIA seal

The compass, or star, as some call it, has sixteen points. These points represent the CIA's search for intelligence data from all over the world (outside the United States) and bringing it back to headquarters in Virginia for analysis, reporting, and redistribution to policy makers. The compass rests upon a shield which is a symbol for defense.


The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCIA) manages the operations, personnel and budget of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Director is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DDCIA) assists the Director in his duties as head of the CIA and exercises the powers of the Director when the Director’s position is vacant or in the Director’s absence or disability.

The Associate Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (ADD), a position created July 5, 2006, was delegated all authorities and responsibilities vested previously in the post of Executive Director. The post of Executive Director, which was responsible for managing the CIA on a day-to-day basis, was simultaneously abolished.

The Associate Director for Military Support (AD/MS) is the DCIA's principal advisor and representative on military issues. The AD/MS coordinates Intelligence Community efforts to provide Joint Force commanders with timely, accurate intelligence. The AD/MS also supports Department of Defense officials who oversee military intelligence training and the acquisition of intelligence systems and technology. A senior general officer, the AD/MS ensures coordination of Intelligence Community policies, plans and requirements relating to support to military forces in the intelligence budget.

The Directorate of Intelligence, the analytical branch of the CIA, is responsible for the production and dissemination of all-source intelligence analysis on key foreign issues.

The National Clandestine Service, a semi-independent service which was formerly the Directorate of Operations, is responsible for the clandestine collection of foreign intelligence and covert action.

The Directorate of Science & Technology creates and applies innovative technology in support of the intelligence collection mission.

The Directorate of Support provides the mission critical elements of the Agency's support foundation: people, security, information, property, and financial operations. Most of this Directorate is sub-structured into smaller offices based on role and purpose, such as the CIA Office of Security.

The Center for the Study of Intelligence maintains the Agency's historical materials and promotes the study of intelligence as a legitimate and serious discipline.

The Office of the General Counsel advises the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on all legal matters relating to his role as CIA director and is the principal source of legal counsel for the CIA.

The Office of Inspector General promotes efficiency, effectiveness, and accountability in the administration of Agency activities. OIG also seeks to prevent and detect fraud, waste, abuse, and mismanagement. The Inspector General is nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate. The Inspector General, whose activities are independent of those of any other component in the Agency, reports directly to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. OIG conducts inspections, investigations, and audits at Headquarters and in the field, and oversees the Agency-wide grievance-handling system. The OIG provides a semiannual report to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency which the Director is required by law to submit to the Intelligence Committees of Congress within 30 days.

The Office of Public Affairs advises the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency on all media, public policy, and employee communications issues relating to his role as CIA director and is the CIA’s principal communications focal point for the media, the general public and Agency employees.

Relationship with other agencies

The CIA acts as the primary American provider of central intelligence estimates. It is believed to make use of the surveillance satellites of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the signal interception capabilities of the NSA, including the ECHELON system, the surveillance aircraft of the various branches of the U.S. armed forces and the analysts of the State Department and Department of Energy. At one point, the CIA even operated its own fleet of U-2 surveillance aircraft. The agency has also operated alongside regular military forces, and also employs a group of clandestine officers with paramilitary skills in its Special Activities Division. Micheal Spann, a CIA officer killed in November 2001 during the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, was one such individual. The CIA also has strong links with other foreign intelligence agencies such as the UK's MI6, Canada's CSIS and Australia's ASIS.

Director of the Central Intelligence Agency

The head of the CIA is given the title of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (DCIA).

The Central Intelligence Agency was created in 1947 with the signing of the National Security Act by President Harry S Truman. 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 the 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.

Historical operations

North America

In the 1950's and 60's, the CIA ran a mind-control research program code-named Project MKULTRA.

Eastern Europe

In its earliest years the CIA and its predecessor, the OSS, attempted to rollback communism in eastern Europe by supporting local anti-communist groups; none of these attempts met with much success. Attempts to instigate revolutions in the Ukraine and Belarus by infiltrating anti-Communist spies and saboteurs met with total failure. In Poland the CIA spent several years sending money and equipment to an organization invented and run by Polish intelligence. It was more successful in its efforts to limit Communist influence in France and Italy, notably in the 1948 Italian election. After WWII, the CIA was instrumental in setting up the Gladio network, a secret government network of organizations in Italy and in other parts of Western Europe. The Independent states that in the 1960s-1980s, Gladio operatives, were involved in a series of "false flag" terrorist actions in Italy that were blamed on the "Red Brigades" and other Left groups in an attempt to discredit the Italian Left — called the strategy of tension).

Developing World

With Europe stabilizing along the line of the Iron Curtain, the CIA then moved in the 1950s to try to limit the spread of Soviet influence elsewhere around the globe, especially in the Third World. With the encouragement of DCI Allen Dulles, clandestine operations quickly came to dominate the organization. Initially they proved very successful: in Iran in 1953 the CIA successfully overthrew the Mossadegh government to remove perceived communist influence from the strong Iranian Communist Party. In Guatemala in 1954, CIA operations, with relatively little funding, orchestrated the overthrow of these governments and replaced them with pro-American regimes. However, the instability created in Guatemala resulted in a long period of political instability, which had a destructive impact on the country. According to John Stockwell, former CIA high level operative, no less than six million people were killed in America's Secret Wars in many Third World countries.


In 1958, a CIA-backed coup attempt was made on Indonesia's President Sukarno, while other elements of the U.S. government backed Sukarno. The operation failed when a CIA operative, Allen Lawrence Pope, was captured after his plane was shot down by an Indonesian Air Force fighter and an anti-aircraft gun of the Indonesian Navy ship, and was found to have on his possession his actual identification as a CIA agent.

In 1965 Sukarno was ousted in a coup d''tat led by Suharto. There was much violence to take place in Indonesia under Suharto. In a 1968 report, the CIA estimated there had been 250,000 deaths, and called the carnage "one of the worst mass murders of the 20th century."

The CIA secretly supplied Suharto's troops with a field communications network. Flown in at night by US Air Force planes from the Philippines, this was state-of-the-art equipment, whose frequencies were known to the CIA and the National Security Agency.


The limitations of large scale covert action became readily apparent during the CIA organized Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba in 1961. The failure embarrassed the CIA and the United States on the world stage, as Cuban leader Fidel Castro used the botched invasion to consolidate power and strengthen ties with the Soviet Union. However, the CIA attempted unsuccessfully several times to assassinate the Cuban head of state as part of its Operation Mongoose.

The CIA became heavily embroiled in the controversy over who assassinated President John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. First, the New Orleans prosecutor tried to prosecute businessman Clay Shaw who had engaged in non-paid CIA data collection assignments overseas as being involved in the Kennedy assassination. Shaw denied any such connection with the CIA or the murder, and was acquitted. Later it was discovered that Shaw was connected to the CIA and his status after years of non-paid work is still not publicly available.[14]

In 1979, the House Select Committee on Assassinations believed there was some link between Lee Oswald and certain bizarre right-wing fanatics who purportedly worked with the CIA on its anti-Castro projects in New Orleans and were linked to organized crime figures. The HSCA identified David Ferrie as a possible link because of his associaton with Oswald that may have taken the form of a personal friendship. Ferrie himself was associated with organized crime figures and anti-Castro groups. Oswald's uncle was involved in organized crime in New Orleans.

Documents obtained and disclosed by the Assassination Records Review Board indicate that the CIA concealed documents for over 30 years regarding its knowledge that someone was impersonating Lee Oswald and tried to contact a "hit man" in Mexico City at the Cuban Consulate less than two months before Kennedy was assassinated. PBS's news show, Frontline, stated that this information that was already known by the CIA, was found out by Lyndon Johnson and J. Edgar Hoover within hours after Kennedy was assassinated and "electrified" top Washington insiders.


CIA operations became less ambitious after the Bay of Pigs, and shifted to being closely linked to aiding the U.S. military operation in Vietnam. Between 1962 and 1975, the CIA organized a Laotian group known as the Secret Army and ran a fleet of aircraft known as Air America to take part in the Secret War in Laos, part of the Vietnam War.

The CIA's Phoenix Program during the Vietnam War was described by a former official as a "a sterile depersonalized murder program. Equal to Nazi atrocities, the horrors of "Phoenix" must be studied to be believed."


After the election of Socialist President Salvador Allende in 1970, the CIA covertly worked to prevent Allende from taking office by bribing Chilean officials, which failed. Afterwards, an attempted coup was plotted by the CIA with anti-Allende factions, but it eventually was forced to abort the project.

Three years later, Allende was overthrown by military leader Augusto Pinochet. Allegations have been made that the CIA was behind the coup, although none have been completely confirmed or contradicted. The Church Committee, which investigated U.S. involvement in Chile during this period, stated that "There is no hard evidence of direct U.S. assistance to the coup, despite frequent allegations of such aid. In 2000 the CIA also denied that it assisted the coup.

The Church Report also showed that the CIA played a prominent role in Chile after the 1973 coup: The goal of covert action immediately following the coup was to assist the Junta in gaining a more positive image, both at home and abroad, and to maintain access to the command levels of the Chilean government. Another goal, achieved in part through work done at the opposition research organization before the coup, was to help the new government organize and implement new policies. Project files record that. CIA collaborators were involved in preparing an initial overall economic plan which has served as the basis for the Junta's most important economic decisions.


According to certain authors the CIA supported the 1963 military coup in Iraq against the democratically-elected Qassim government and supported the subsequent Saddam Hussein-led government up until the point of the 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. Support from the U.S. was predicated on the notion that Iraq was a key buffer state in relations with the Soviet Union. There are court records indicating that the CIA gave military and monetary assistance to Iraq during the Iran-Iraq War. The CIA was also involved in the failed 1996 coup against Saddam Hussein.

The CIA also supported the 1968 coup against the government of Rahman Arif by the Ba'ath Party, with Sadam Husein eventually taking the helm.

According to former U.S. intelligence officials, the CIA orchestrated a bomb and sabotage campaign that included civilian and government targets in Baghdad between 1992 and 1995. The civilian targets included at least one school bus, killing schoolchildren, and a movie theater, killing many people. The campaign was directed by CIA-asset Dr. Iyad Allawi, the man later installed as prime minister by the U.S.-led coalition following the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, and according to at least one official.

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.

The unreliability of U.S. intelligence on weapons of mass destruction in Iraq have been a focus of intense scrutiny in the U.S. In 2004, the continuing armed resistance against the U.S. invasion of Iraq, and the widely perceived need for systematic review of the respective roles of the CIA, FBI and the Defense Intelligence Agency are prominent themes. On July 9, 2004 the Senate Report of Pre-war Intelligence on Iraq of the Senate Intelligence Committee stated that the CIA described the danger presented by weapons of mass destruction in Iraq in an unreasonable way, largely unsupported by the available intelligence.

Support for foreign dictators

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). Particularly during the Cold War, the CIA supported a long list of dictators, including Chile's infamous Augusto Pinochet, a number of dictatorships in Central America, the Shah of Iran, and the despots in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Indonesia, who have been friendly to perceived U.S. geopolitical interests (namely anti-Communism, providing access to oil companies and other multi-national corporations and implementing a liberal economic system), sometimes over democratically-elected governments.

Often cited as one of the American intelligence community's biggest blunders is the CIA involvement in equipping and training Mujahedeen fighters in Afghanistan in response to the Soviet invasion of the country. The Mujahedeen trained by the CIA later formed Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda Islamist organization. Zbigniew Brzezinski, the National Security Advisor under President Carter, has discussed U.S. involvement in Afghanistan in several publications.

Later, the CIA facilitated the so-called Reagan Doctrine, channelling weapons and other support to Jonas Savimbi's UNITA rebel movement in Angola (in addition to the Mujahedeen and the Contras) in response to Cuban military support for the MPLA, thus turning an otherwise low-profile African civil war into one of the larger battlegrounds of the Cold War.

The CIA also supported Pol Pot's rule in Cambodia when Vietnam sought to topple the regime in 1979.


War on terror

On November 5, 2002, newspapers reported that Al-Qaeda operatives in a car travelling through Yemen had been killed by a missile launched from a CIA-controlled Predator drone (a medium-altitude, remote-controlled aircraft). On May 15, 2005, it was reported that another of these drones had been used to assassinate Al-Qaeda figure Haitham al-Yemeni inside Pakistan.

In June 2005, two events occurred that may shape future CIA operations.

Arrest warrants for 22 CIA agents were issued within the European Union (/Schengen Agreement members). The agents are alleged to have taken a suspected Egyptian terrorist, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, from Milan on 17 February 2003 for extraordinary rendition to Egypt, where according to relatives of the cleric, he was tortured. The removal of the terrorist was not unusual except that the Italian government has denied having approved the rendition. Similar operations of this sort have occurred worldwide since 9/11, the vast majority with at least tacit approval by the national government. Additionally, it allegedly disrupted Italian attempts to penetrate the terrorist's Al Qaeda network. The New York Times reported soon after that it is highly unlikely that the CIA agents involved would be extradited, despite the US-Italy bilateral treaty regarding extraditions for crimes that carry a penalty of more than a year in prison. The agents involved in the operation are also reported to have booked lavish hotels during the operation and taken taxpayer-funded vacations after it was complete.

Soon after, President Bush appointed the CIA to be in charge of all human intelligence and manned spying operations. This was the apparent culmination of a years old turf war regarding influence, philosophy and budget between the Defense Intelligence Agency of The Pentagon and the Central Intelligence Agency. The Pentagon, through the DIA, wanted to take control of the CIA's paramilitary operations and many of its human assets. The CIA, which has for years held that human intelligence is the core of the agency, successfully argued that the CIA's decades long experience with human resources and civilian oversight made it the ideal choice. Thus, the CIA was given charge of all US human intelligence, but as a compromise, the Pentagon was authorized to include increased paramilitary capabilities in future budget requests.

Despite reforms which have led back to what the CIA considers its traditional principal capacities, the CIA Director position has lost influence in the White House. For years, the Director of the CIA met regularly with the President to issue daily reports on ongoing operations. After the creation of the post of the National Intelligence Director, currently occupied by John Negroponte, that practice has been discontinued in favor of the National Intelligence Director, with oversight of all intelligence, including DIA operations outside of CIA jurisdiction, giving the report. Former CIA Director Porter Goss, himself a former CIA officer, denies this has had a diminishing effect on morale, in favor of promoting his singular mission to reform the CIA into the lean and agile counter-terrorism focused force he believes it should be.

On December 6, 2005, German Khalid El-Masri filed a lawsuit against former CIA Director George Tenet, claiming that he was transported from Macedonia to a prison in Afghanistan and held captive there by the CIA for 5 months on a case of mistaken identity. Two months after his true identity had been found out, he had been taken to Albania and released without funds or an official excuse.

Iraq War

In December 2005, ABC News reported that former agents claimed the CIA used waterboarding, along with five other "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques", against suspected members of al Qaeda held in the secret prisons. . Waterboarding is widely regarded as a form of torture, though there are reports that President Bush signed a secret "finding" that it is not, authorizing its use.

After a media and public outcry in Europe concerning headlines about "secret CIA prisons" in Poland and other US allies, the EU through its Committee on Legal Affairs investigated whether any of its members, especially Poland, the Czech Republic or Romania had any of these "secret CIA prisons." After an investigation by the EU Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, the EU determined that it could not find any of these prisons. In fact, they could not prove if they had ever existed at all. To quote the report, "At this stage of the investigations, there is no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania, Poland or any other country. Nevertheless, there are many indications from various sources which must be considered reliable, justifying the continuation of the analytical and investigative work."

On 13 December 2005 Dick Marty, investigating illegal CIA activity in Europe on behalf of the Council of Europe, reported evidence that "individuals had been abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal standards". Marty at a news conference said he believed that the United States had moved its illegally detained from Europe to North Africa in early November as a reaction to the Washington Post report. Marty's investigation has found that no evidence exists establishing the existence of secret CIA prisons in Europe, but added that it was "highly unlikely" that European governments were unaware of the American program of renditions. Marty's interim report, which was based largely on a compendium of press clippings, has been described by the British Government as "clouded in myth" and "as full of holes as Swiss cheese," and has been harshly criticised by the governments of various EU member states.

Secret CIA prisons

A story by reporter Dana Priest published in The Washington Post of November 2, 2005, reported: "The CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important alleged al Qaeda captives at a Soviet-era compound in Eastern Europe, according to U.S. and foreign officials familiar with the arrangement." The reporting of the secret prisons was heavily criticized by members and former members of the Bush Administration. However, Dana Priest states no one in the administration requested that the Washington Post not print the story. Rather they asked they not publish the names of the countries in which the prisons are located. "The Post has not identified the East European countries involved in the secret program at the request of senior U.S. officials who argued that the disclosure could disrupt counterterrorism efforts". However, a Council of Europe investigation has found no evidence that such prisons exist.

Supporting warlords in Somalia

The US has been funnelling $100000 a month to warlords fighting Islamist militia in Somalia. It is believed to involve both the CIA and the US military. The US has stated that it will prevent any country from becoming a free haven for terrorists but refuse to comment on Somalia. Although there has not been proven any link between Somalia and al Qaeda, there has been reports of al Qaeda members hiding in the war-torn country.

Highly-illegal activities

In 1996, the U.S. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence issued a congressional report estimating that the clandestine service part of the intelligence community "easily" breaks "extremely serious laws" in countries around the world, 100,000 times every year.

The Intelligence Community in the 21st Century, Staff Study, Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House of Representatives, One Hundred Fourth Congress:

"Most of the operations of the CS [Clandestine Service] are, by all accounts, the most tricky, politically sensitive, and troublesome of those in the IC [Intelligence Community] and frequently require the DCI's [Director of Central Intelligence's] close personal attention. The [Clandestine Service] is the only part of the [Intelligence Community], indeed of the government, where hundreds of employees on a daily basis are directed to break extremely serious laws in countries around the world in the face of frequently sophisticated efforts by foreign governments to catch them. A safe estimate is that several hundred times every day (easily 100,000 times a year) DO [Directorate of Operations] officers engage in highly illegal activities (according to foreign law) that not only risk political embarrassment to the U.S. but also endanger the freedom if not lives of the participating foreign nationals and, more than occasionally, of the clandestine officer himself. In other words, a typical 28 year old, GS-11 case officer has numerous opportunities every week, by poor tradecraft or inattention, to embarrass his country and President and to get agents imprisoned or executed. Considering these facts and recent history, which has shown that the DCI, whether he wants to or not, is held accountable for overseeing the CS, the DCI must work closely with the Director of the CS and hold him fully and directly responsible to him."

Criticism for ineffectiveness

The agency has also been criticized for ineffectiveness as an intelligence gathering agency. These criticisms included allowing a double agent, Aldrich Ames, to gain high position 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 and India's nuclear tests or to forestall the September 11, 2001 attacks.

Proponents of the CIA respond by stating that only the failures become known to the public, whereas the successes usually cannot be known until decades have passed because release of successful operations would reveal operational methods to foreign intelligence, which could affect future and ongoing missions. Some successes for the CIA include the U-2 and SR-71 programs, anti-Soviet operations in Afghanistan in the mid-1980s (though with the serious downsides noted earlier).

Drug trafficking

CIA and Contras

Allegations have repeatedly been made that the CIA has been involved in drug trafficking to fund illegal operations. For example, In 1996, journalist Gary Webb wrote a series of exposes for the San Jose Mercury News, entitled "Dark Alliance", in which he alleged the use of CIA aircraft, which had ferried arms to the Contras, to ship cocaine to the United States during the return flights.

Webb also alleged that Central American narcotics traffickers could import cocaine to U.S. cities in the 1980s without the interference of normal law enforcement agencies. He claimed that this led, in part, to the crack cocaine epidemic, especially in poor neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and that the CIA intervened to prevent the prosecution of drug dealers who were helping to fund the Contras. Faced with Congressional and other media criticism (especially the Los Angeles Times), the San Jose Mercury News retracted Webb's conclusions and Webb was prevented from conducting any more investigative reporting. Webb was transferred to cover non-controversial suburban stories, and he resigned.

After the Gary Webb report in the Mercury News, the CIA Inspector General Frederick Hitz was assigned to investigate these allegations. In 1998 the new CIA director, George Tenet declared that he was releasing the report.

The report and Hitz testimony showed there the "CIA did not 'expeditiously' cut off relations with alleged drug traffickers" and "the CIA was aware of allegations that 'dozens of people and a number of companies connected in some fashion to the contra program' were involved in drug trafficking"

Hitz also said that under an agreement in 1982 between Ronald Reagan's Attorney General William French Smith and the CIA, agency officers were not required to report allegations of drug trafficking involving non-employees, which was defined as meaning paid and non-paid "assets [meaning agents], pilots who ferried supplies to the contras, as well as contra officials and others.

This agreement, which had not previously been revealed, came at a time when there were allegations that the CIA was using drug dealers in its controversial covert operation to bring down the leftist Sandinista government in Nicaragua. Only after Congressional funds were restored in 1986 was the agreement modified to require the CIA to stop paying agents whom it believed were involved in the drug trade.

Kerry Committee report

In 1998 Representative Maxine Waters testified to Congress:

Senator Kerry and his Senate investigation found drug traffickers had used the Contra war and tie to the Contra leadership to help this deadly trade. Among their devastating findings, the Kerry committee investigators found that major drug lords used the Contra supply networks and the traffickers provided support for Contras in return. The CIA of course, created, trained, supported, and directed the Contras and were involved in every level of their war.

The Kerry Committee report found that the U.S. State Department had paid drug traffickers. Some of these payments were after the traffickers had been indicted by federal law enforcement agencies on drug charges or while traffickers were under active investigation by these same agencies. The report declared, "It is clear that individuals who provided support for the Contras were involved in drug trafficking...and elements of the Contras themselves knowingly received financial and material assistance from drug traffickers."

Drugs in Asia

It has also been alleged that the CIA was involved in the opium/heroin trade in Asia, which was the focus of Alfred W. McCoy's book, The Politics of Heroin: CIA Complicity in the Global Drug Trade, an earlier edition of which had already been subjected to an attempted CIA suppression. The CIA's operation, Air America, has also been accused of transporting drugs.

Mafia connections

The United States government has conspired with organized crime figures to assassinate foreign heads of state. In August 1960, Colonel Sheffield Edwards, director of the CIA's Office of Security, proposed the assassination of Cuban head of state Fidel Castro by mafia assassins. Between August 1960, and April 1961, the CIA with the help of the Mafia pursued a series of plots to poison or shoot Castro.


The CIA has been linked to several assassination attempts on foreign leaders, including former leader of Panama Omar Torrijos and the President of Cuba, Fidel Castro.

On January 13, 2006, the CIA launched an airstrike on Damadola, a Pakistani village near the Afghan border, where they believed Ayman al-Zawahiri was located. The airstrike killed a number of civilians but al-Zawahiri apparently was not among them. The Pakistani government issued a strong protest against the US attack, considered a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. However, several legal experts argue that this cannot be considered an assassination attempt as al-Zawahiri is named as terrorist and an enemy combatant by the United States, and therefore this targeted killing is not covered under Executive Order 12333, which banned assassinations.


Declassified CIA manuals


IIn 1984, a CIA manual for training the Nicaraguan contras in psychological operations was discovered, entitled "Psychological Operations in Guerrilla War".[48]

The manual recommended “selective use of violence for propagandistic effects” and to “neutralize” (i.e., kill) government officials. Nicaraguan Contras were taught to lead:

"...demonstrators into clashes with the authorities, to provoke riots or shootings, which lead to the killing of one or more persons, who will be seen as the martyrs; this situation should be taken advantage of immediately against the Government to create even bigger conflicts. "

The manual also recommended:

" ...selective use of armed force for PSYOP [psychological operations] effect.... Carefully selected, planned targets — judges, police officials, tax collectors, etc. — may be removed for PSYOP effect in a UWOA [unconventional warfare operations area], but extensive precautions must insure that the people “concur” in such an act by thorough explanatory canvassing among the affected populace before and after conduct of the mission."


On January 24, 1997, two new manuals were declassified in response to a FOIA request filed by the Baltimore Sun in 1994. The first manual, "KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation," dated July 1963, is the source of much of the material in the second manual. The second manual, "Human Resource Exploitation Training Manual - 1983," was used in at least seven U.S. training courses conducted in Latin American countries, including Honduras, between 1982 and 1987.

Both manuals deal exclusively with interrogation.

Both manuals have an entire chapter devoted to "coercive techniques." These manuals recommend arresting suspects early in the morning by surprise, blindfolding them, and stripping them naked. Suspects should be held incommunicado and should be deprived of any kind of normal routine in eating and sleeping. Interrogation rooms should be windowless, soundproof, dark and without toilets.

The manuals advise that coercive techniques can backfire and that the threat of pain is often more effective than pain itself. The manuals describe coercive techniques to be used "to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist." These techniques include prolonged constraint, prolonged exertion, extremes of heat, cold, or moisture, deprivation of food or sleep, disrupting routines, solitary confinement, threats of pain, deprivation of sensory stimuli, hypnosis, and use of drugs or placebos.

UFOs and Robertson Panel

In 1951 the US Air Force revitalized Project Grudge, a program investigating UFOs between 1948-1949. Captain Edward J. Ruppelt ran the program and recommended that the Battelle Memorial Institute, a Columbus, Ohio think tank, do a statistical analysis of existing UFO reports. The think tank released its report in late 1953. Before the final Battelle report was ready however, the CIA became interested in the UFO issue as a national security (not scientific issue) and arranged to have a secret official committee, the Robertson Panel, look into the compiled UFO data.

The Robertson Panel began in January 1953, and met for a total of twelve hours, studying twenty-three UFO sighting cases. The CIA concluded that UFOs presented little of no interesting scientific data and were only a threat to the United States if sighting reports clogged communications facilities (as had happened in the Washington DC sighting in July 1952) and created a climate of fear among the population which the enemy could exploit before launching an attack. The Robertson Panel therefore suggested, first, an active campaign of public education, perhaps using TV and radio celebrities and the services of Walt Disney Productions. Second the Robertson Panel suggested an active debunking (ridiculing) of sightings in order to de-mystify UFOs in the public mind. Implicit in this education campaign was increased air force secrecy about sighting reports so as not to support public interest. The committee also recommended covert surveillance of civilian UFO groups, in order to monitor those who would promote public interest in UFOs.

The recommendations of the Robertson Panel were implemented by a series of special military regulations. Joint-Army-Navy-Air Force Publication 147 (JANAP 146) of December 1953 made reprint any UFO sighting to the public a crime under the Espionage Act, with fines of up to ten thousand dollars and imprisonment ranging from one to ten years. This act was considered binding on all who knew of the acts existence, including commercial airline pilots. A 1954 revision of Air Force Regulation 200-2 (AFR 200-2) made all sighting reports submitted to the air force classified material and prohibited the release of any information about UFO sightings unless the sighting was able to be positively identified. In February 1958 a revision of AFR 200-2 allowed the military to give the FBI the names of people who were "illegally or deceptively brining the subject [of UFOs] to public attention". Because of the Robertson Panel the air force's Project Blue Book's procedures of investigating UFOs also changed, attempting to find a quick explanation and then file them away. Project Blue Book was a successor of Project Grudge.

In 1956 retired marine Major Donald Keyhoe founded the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), a UFO investigations organization. By 1969 Keyhoe turned his focus away from the military and focused on the CIA as the source of the UFO cover up. NICAP's board, headed by Colonel Jospeph Bryan III, forced Keyhoe to retire as NICAP chief. Bryan was actually a former covert CIA agent who had severed the agency as fonder and head of its psychological warfare division. Under Bryan's leadership, the NICAP disbanded its local and state affiliate groups, and by 1973 it had been completely closed.

After the Freedom of Information Act was made law in 1974, Ufologists involved in making FOIA requests reported that more than nine hundred pages of information released for the CIA indicated that the organization was collecting and analyzing sighting reports from as early as 1949. In 1997 the CIA came forward to admit its historical interest in UFOs.

Other controversies

Defectors such as former agent Philip Agee, who later worked with the Soviet KGB and the Cuban intelligence service, have argued that such CIA covert action is extraordinarily widespread, extending to propaganda campaigns within countries allied to the United States.

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 eighty 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."


Other Government Agency, or OGA, is the standard military and governmental euphemism for the CIA. It is used when the CIA's presence is an open secret, but cannot be officially confirmed. Other colloquial names for the CIA are The Agency and The Company.

A pejorative term for people who work for the CIA or other intelligence agencies is often "spook." Another occasionally used phrase to refer to CIA agents, "Virginia farmboys" is incorrectly believed to be in reference to the Langley, VA headquarters. In fact, the term comes from the CIA's training facility, Camp Peary, also known as "The Farm."

One of the CIA's publications, the CIA World Factbook, is unclassified and is indeed made freely available without copyright restrictions because it is a work of the United States federal government.

The CIA publishes an in-house professional journal known as Studies in Intelligence. Unclassified articles are made available on a limited basis through Internet and other publishing mechanisms. A recent compilation of unclassified and declassified articles from the Journal was made available through the Sherman Kent School for Intelligence Analysis. A further annotated collection of articles was published through Yale University Press under the title Inside CIA's Private World.

The U.S. intelligence budget, which includes the budget for the CIA, is a well kept government secret, but it was made public for a couple of years in the late 1990s. In 1998 it was $26.7 billion

On January 25, 1993, Mir Amir Kansi murdered 2 people and injured 3 others in their cars in front of CIA headquarters in Langley. Kansi was later captured and was executed by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2002.


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