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What’s the Meaning Behind the CIA Seal?

The CIA seal is one of the most recognizable images in the world. You’ve probably seen it on book covers, T-shirts and in the movies.

But what’s the meaning behind the seal? What does it represent to the CIA, its employees and the US citizens we serve?

Section 2 of the Central Intelligence Agency Act of 1949 provided for a seal of office for the CIA. The seal’s design was approved on Feb. 17, 1950 in President Harry Truman's Executive Order 10111.

In this Order, the CIA seal is described in heraldic terms as follows:

   
    SHIELD:
Argent, a compass rose of sixteen points gules.

    CREST: On a wreath argent and gules an American bald eagle's head
    erased proper.

    Below the shield on a gold color scroll the inscription "United States of
    America" in red letters and encircling the shield and crest at the top
    the inscription "Central Intelligence Agency" in white letters.

    All on a circular blue background with a narrow gold edge.

    AND WHEREAS it appears that such seal is of suitable design and is
    appropriate for establishment as the official seal of the Central
    Intelligence Agency


But the formal verbiage in President Truman’s Executive Order does not clearly explain what the various parts of the seal mean.

Here’s how we interpret our seal:

  • The American Eagle is the national bird and is a symbol of strength and alertness.
  • The radiating spokes of the compass rose depict the convergence of intelligence data from all areas of the world to a central point.
  • The shield is the standard symbol of defense and the intelligence we gather for policymakers.

 

For an interactive look at the CIA seal, visit https://www.cia.gov/kids-page/k-5th-grade/the-cia-seal/index.html

 

 

 


Historical Document
Posted: Sep 12, 2007 02:06 PM
Last Updated: Jun 20, 2008 08:59 AM