The National Clandestine Service (NCS) is the American national authority for coordinating U.S. human intelligence (HUMINT) services. The organization absorbed the entirety of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)'s Directorate of Operations, and also coordinates HUMINT between the CIA and other agencies, including, but not limited to, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Defense Intelligence Agency, Air Intelligence Agency, Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM), Marine Corps Intelligence Activity, and Office of Naval Intelligence. The current Director of the NCS, Jose A. Rodriguez,Jr., was appointed on October 14, 2005. The Director of the NCS reports to the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency.
The NCS was created by a bill from U.S. Senator C. Patrick Roberts, in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks. The investigation by the 9/11 Commission reported that HUMINT had been severely degraded in the past two decades, principally because of the end of the Cold War and because of investigations by U.S. Senator Frank Church.
The NCS has analogues in the National Security Agency (signals intelligence), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (imagery intelligence), and the Defense Intelligence Agency (measurement and signature intelligence).
The Directorate of Operations was the branch of the CIA that ran covert operations and recruited foreign agents. The DO reportedly employed 1000-2000 people and was headed by a deputy director for operations (DDO). This directorate consisted of, among other subdivisions, a unit for political and economic covert action (the Covert Action Staff, or CAS), for paramilitary (PM) covert action (the Special Operations unit), for counterintelligence (the CI staff [CIS]), and for several geographic desks responsible for the collection of foreign intelligence.
The Directorate of Operations also housed special groups for conducting counterterrorism and counternarcotics, for tracking nuclear proliferation, and other tasks. Administrated by the DO, the PM group (Special Operations) maintained an elite cadre (Special Activities Division) that are highly skilled in weaponry; covert transport of personnel and material by air, sea, and land; guerrilla warfare; the use of explosives; and escape and evasion techniques. They were prepared to respond quickly to myriad possible needs, from parachute drops and communications support to assistance with counternarcotics operations and defector infiltration. Special Activities maintained a symbiotic relationship with the Special Forces, and is run largely by ex-Special Forces soldiers.
For PM tasks (special operations missions) and its other responsibilities, the Special Operations staff attempted to recruit assets with the appropriate specialized skills, though the geographic desks remain the principal units involved in the recruitment of personnel in so-called denied areas (Libya, Iraq, Iran, etc.). Special operations also provided special air, ground, maritime and training support for the Agency's intelligence gathering operations.
The DO has been subject to harsh criticism in the media, and due to its covert and independent nature did not, or could not, effectively respond. Its capabilities had been in decline since the Church Commission. Furthermore, the DO fought frequent "turf" battles amongst the Executive Branch bureaucracies, most prominently with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense. This was one of the principal reasons that the NCS was formed.