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Frequently Asked Questions

How many people work for the CIA and what is its budget?

Does the CIA give public tours of its Headquarters building?

Does the CIA release publications to the public?

Does the CIA spy on Americans? Does it keep a file on you?

Who decides when CIA should participate in covert actions, and why?

What is the CIA's role in combating international terrorism?

The CIA has been accused of conducting assassinations and engaging in drug trafficking. What are the facts?

Where is the Central Intelligence Agency's Headquarters? Is it in Langley or McLean, Virginia?


How many people work for the CIA and what is its budget?
Neither the number of employees nor the size of the Agency’s budget can, at present, be publicly disclosed. A common misconception is that the Agency has an unlimited budget, which is far from true. While classified, the budget and size of the CIA are known in detail and scrutinized by the Office of Management and Budget and by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the Defense Subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees in both houses of Congress. The resources allocated to the CIA are subject to the same rigorous examination and approval process that applies to all other government organizations.

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Does the CIA give public tours of its Headquarters building?
No. Logistical problems and security considerations prevent such tours. The CIA provides an extremely limited number of visits annually for approved academic and civic groups. A virtual tour of CIA headquarters and museum is available on the CIA web site at www.cia.gov.

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Does the CIA release publications to the public?
Yes. The CIA releases millions of pages of documents each year. Much of this is material of historical significance or personal interest that has been declassified under Executive Order 12958 (a presidential order outlining a uniform system for handling national security information) or the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and Privacy Act (statutes which give U.S. citizens access to U.S. government information or U.S. government information about themselves, respectively). The Agency handles thousands of cases each year and maintains the CIA’s FOIA Electronic Reading Room, www.foia.cia.gov, to release this information to the public and to provide guidance for requesting information. Specific copies of any previously declassified records are available directly from the CIA FOIA office and may be obtained by submitting an official FOIA request. Some released information of significant public interest or historical value is also available at the National Archives and Records Administration.

The CIA frequently releases items of more general public interest on the CIA web site. The site includes general information about the CIA, current unclassified publications, speeches and congressional testimony, press releases and statements, career information, and basic reference materials, including the CIA World Factbook. Please visit the Library section of our public web site, www.cia.gov, to view unclassified publications available to the public. Many documents, including the CIA World Factbook, reports on foreign economic or political matters, maps, and directories of foreign officials are also available in hard copy and may be purchased from the Government Printing Office, the National Technical Information Service, and the Library of Congress.

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Does the CIA spy on Americans? Does it keep a file on you?
CIA’s mission is to collect information related to foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence. By law, the CIA is specifically prohibited from collecting intelligence concerning the domestic activities of U.S. citizens. By direction of the President in Executive Order 12333, as amended, and in accordance with procedures approved by the Attorney General, the CIA is restricted in the collection of intelligence information directed against U.S. citizens. Collection is allowed only for an authorized intelligence purpose; for example, if there is a reason to believe that an individual is involved in espionage or international terrorist activities. The CIA’s procedures require senior approval for any such collection that is allowed, and, depending on the collection technique employed, the sanction of the Director of National Intelligence and Attorney General may be required. These restrictions on the CIA, or similar ones, have been in effect since the 1970s.

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Who decides when CIA should participate in covert actions, and why?
Only the President can direct the CIA to undertake a covert action. Such actions usually are recommended by the National Security Council (NSC). Covert actions are considered when the NSC judges that U.S. foreign policy objectives may not be fully realized by normal diplomatic means and when military action is deemed to be too extreme an option. Therefore, the Agency may be directed to conduct a special activity abroad in support of foreign policy where the role of the U.S. government is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged. Once tasked, the intelligence oversight committees of the Congress must be notified.

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What is the CIA's role in combating international terrorism?
The CIA supports the overall U.S. government effort to combat international terrorism by collecting, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence on foreign terrorist groups and individuals. The CIA also works with friendly foreign governments and shares pertinent information with them.

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The CIA has been accused of conducting assassinations and engaging in drug trafficking. What are the facts?
The CIA does neither. Executive Order 12333, as amended, explicitly prohibits the CIA from engaging, either directly or indirectly, in assassinations. Internal safeguards and the congressional oversight process assure compliance.

Regarding past allegations of CIA involvement in drug trafficking, the CIA Inspector General* found no evidence to substantiate the charges that the CIA or its employees conspired with or assisted Contra-related organizations or individuals in drug trafficking to raise funds for the Contras or for any other purpose. In fact, the CIA plays a crucial role in combating drug trafficking by providing intelligence information to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the State Department.

* See “Overview of Report of Investigation Concerning Allegations of Connections Between CIA and The Contras in Cocaine Trafficking to the United States,” available on www.cia.gov.

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Where is the Central Intelligence Agency's Headquarters? Is it in Langley or McLean, Virginia?
Technically, you could say CIA headquarters is in both. “Langley” is the name of the McLean neighborhood in which the CIA resides.

In 1719, Thomas Lee acquired the land where the CIA headquarters is located today from the Fairfax family and named it Langley after his ancestral home. The town of McLean was founded in 1910 and despite the name change “Langley” still lingers today.

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Historical Document
Posted: Sep 10, 2009 10:32 AM
Last Updated: Jun 18, 2013 01:16 PM