The Central Intelligence Agency, or CIA, is the main foreign intelligence service of the United States of America, tasked with the gathering and analysis of security information from around the world. It is also empowered to coordinate and execute international covert operations as directed by the President, actions deemed to be in the interests or protection of the United States and its allies.
The agency was formally launched on 18 September 1947 with the signing of the National Security Act under the direction of President Harry. S. Truman, replacing the former Office of Strategic Services.
The CIA has been active in all areas of conflict in which the United States is or has been involved and has continued to grow in size, particularly after the September 2001 terrorist attacks.
One of the most important and influential Government services, it has gone through a period of constant evolution, in response to the changing nature of external threats. Today there are five main priorities for the Agency:
Non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – in particular nuclear weapons.
Informing and updating American leaders of developing international threats
International cooperation is an important part of CIA operations, in particular with “friendly” nations with whom sensitive security information is regularly shared.
Foreign intelligence services of this nature include, amongst others:
- The Secret Intelligence Service of the United Kingdom (SIS or M16)
(b) Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure of France (DGSE)
(c) Mossad of Israel
(d) Australian Secret Intelligence Service (ASIS)
(e) New Zealand Security Intelligence Service (NZSIS or SIS)
(f) Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS)
After some 70 years of operations the CIA is expected to continue to play a vital role in world affairs, with the cyber intelligence operations in particular an area of growing importance.
Image: The seal of the Central Intelligence Agency, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.