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Home  > Article

What is the CIA?

By Experience

You may have heard of the CIA but are you familiar with the history of the CIA?

What is the CIA?

The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an independent agency responsible for providing national security intelligence to senior US policymakers. The Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (D/CIA) is appointed by the President with the advice and consent of the Senate. The Director manages the operations, personnel, and budget of the Central Intelligence Agency.

History of the CIA

The United States has carried out intelligence activities since the days of George Washington, but only since World War II have they been coordinated on a government-wide basis. President Franklin D. Roosevelt appointed New York lawyer and war hero, William J. Donovan, to become first the Coordinator of Information, then, after the US entered World War II, become head of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) in 1942. The OSS-the forerunner to the CIA-had a mandate to collect and analyze strategic information. After World War II, however, the OSS was abolished along with many other war agencies and its functions transferred to the State and War Departments.

It did not take long before President Truman recognized the need for a postwar, centralized intelligence organization. Truman reviewed several plans and soon created a small office, Central Intelligence Group (CIG), to screen and evaluate the large amount of information and reports flowing into the White House. The Truman administration later decided this new office didn't meet all their needs; plus, it was never fully accepted by the military or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). President Truman also feared another Pearl Harbor and that the Russians would attack the US. To make a fully functional intelligence office, Truman signed the National Security Act of 1947, establishing the CIA. The National Security Act charged the CIA with coordinating the nation's intelligence activities and correlating, evaluating, and disseminating intelligence affecting national security.

On December 17, 2004, President George W. Bush signed the Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act which restructured the Intelligence Community, abolishing the positions of DCI and DDCI and creating the position of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Act also created the position of Director of National Intelligence, which oversees the Intelligence Community.

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