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Think you know the real CIA?

Secret gadgets? Sneaking around in trench coats? Danger around every corner? There’s a little of that, but the real CIA is more complex and interesting than you can imagine.

Calling all Spy Kids

My name is Bill Burns, Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), and I am excited to welcome you to the Spy Kids website!

Here at CIA, we are on the frontlines of keeping our country safe. What exactly does that mean? It means hiring our country’s smartest people from all walks of life. It means using technology to develop some of the coolest gadgets. It means traveling the world and building relationships to find information and uncover secrets. We bring all of that together to make sure the President of the United States and other senior leaders have the information they need to make tough decisions.

It’s a difficult job, but it is one that the CIA can handle. Like you, our officers are curious about the world around them and excited by new challenges. They are also deeply committed to keeping you and our country safe.
If you want to learn more about our work, I’d like to invite you to explore the Spy Kids website. Visit the “Stories” section for some inside information about CIA or, for a real treat, head over to the “Spy Dogs” section to meet some of the CIA K9s.

To those parents and teachers out there, we haven’t forgotten about you. Head to the “Parents and Teachers” section of the site to find a few handy lesson plans that can be used in the home or in the classroom.

Finally, I wouldn’t be a very good Director if I didn’t send you on a mission, would I? Check out the “Games” section to put your spy skills to the test and get a taste of what it’s like to serve at CIA.

All the Best,
Bill Burns

A Message from the Director

CIA Director Burns took some time out of his busy schedule to write a letter to everyone here at Spy Kids. Check it out!

Pigeons as… spies?!

Yes we did! In one of our more “feather-brained” schemes, we sent pigeons out with secret cameras to gather intel during the Cold War. Learn more about these birds here.

Who are we?

A lot of people think that CIA 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 movies or read about in spy novels.)

There’s a little of that, but that’s only part of the story. The CIA is a US government agency that provides information (what we call “intelligence”) on foreign countries to the President, the National Security Council, and other US government officials to help them make good decisions about national security issues.

We were created by President Harry S. Truman and the National Security Act of 1947. He wanted to create a central hub to coordinate all of America’s intelligence activities. That’s why we’re called the Central Intelligence Agency.

We are the Nation's first line of defense. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.

Where do we get our intelligence?

We collect intelligence from all kinds of places! Once we figure out an issue of national security concern to our government, we look for ways to collect information about that problem. We have tons of different methods for collecting intelligence, but a few big ones are: recruiting people in foreign countries to provide us with information; translating foreign newspapers, magazine articles, radio shows and TV programs; studying images taken by satellites; and cracking codes and secret messages sent by other countries.

After we collect the information, we have experts (called intelligence analysts) who try to figure out what is really happening, why it’s happening, what might happen next, and what it means for our country.

It’s like solving a giant jigsaw puzzle—except with a bunch of missing pieces, a bunch of extra pieces, and not knowing what the final image will be before you solve it.
Once our analysts have solved enough of the puzzle and have good answers to those questions, they provide their assessments to US government officials, sometimes even the President! It’s kind of like turning in a big research project or book report to your teacher at the end of the semester.

The government officials then use the information we provide to help them make policy toward other countries.

We can see in the dark

Night vision goggles are just one of the many cool inventions CIA uses on missions. In fact, we have secret gadgets so advanced, they’re classified.

Meet Virginia

She snuck behind enemy lines during WWII. She ran secret missions and was hunted by the Nazis. And she did it all with a wooden leg. Meet a true American hero, Virginia Hall.

We don’t make policy

One very important thing to remember is that we do not make policy or even make policy recommendations. That’s the job of the US executive branch, such as the State Department and the Defense Department. We provide these leaders with the best information possible to help them make policy involving other countries.

And although we have a lot of missions, we’re not a law enforcement organization. That’s the job of the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) or your local police. But the CIA and the FBI do cooperate on many issues, such as counterintelligence (preventing our enemies from obtaining our secret information).

Something else that might surprise you about the CIA is that we are just regular people like you. Our work may be secret, but our lives are pretty normal. We have kids and pets, we exercise, watch movies, eat out, spend time with friends, and do volunteer work.