The employees of the CIA provide intelligence (or information) to the President, the National Security Council, and all other government officials who make and carry out US national security policy.
We do not make policy or even make policy recommendations. That’s the job of the US executive branch, such as the State Department or the Defense Department. We provide these leaders with the best information possible to help them make policy involving other countries.
A lot of people still think that our employees lurk around in trench coats, send coded messages, and use exotic equipment like hidden cameras and secret phones to do their job. (You know, all those things you see in the movies or read about in spy novels.) There is a little of that, but that’s only part of the story.
We fulfill our mission in two ways:
- We give accurate and timely intelligence on foreign threats to our security.
- We conduct counterintelligence or other special activities relating to foreign intelligence and national security when the president asks us to. (Through counterintelligence, we prevent our opponents from obtaining secret information, and in some cases, we spread disinformation to confuse them.)
Though we have a lot of missions, we’re not a law enforcement organization. That’s the job of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation). But the CIA and the FBI do cooperate on many, many issues, such as counterintelligence.
This completes your top-level overview of our mission. Continue your briefing now to learn more about intelligence and to see how we are “tasked” or given a specific job. When we are tasked, we follow a procedure called the Intelligence Cycle; following the cycle ensures we do our job correctly by working through a system of checks and balances, which is subject to Congressional oversight, meaning we are held accountable by the US Congress.