1997 Factbook on Intelligence

Frequently Asked Questions

What is so distinctive about the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)?

The Central Intelligence Agency's primary mission is to collect, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence to assist the President and senior US Government policymakers in making decisions relating to the national security. The Central Intelligence Agency does not make policy; it is an independent source of foreign intelligence information for those who do. The Central Intelligence Agency may also engage in covert action at the President's direction in accordance with applicable law.

Who works for the Central Intelligence Agency?

The CIA carefully selects well-qualified people in nearly all fields of study. Scientists, engineers, economists, linguists, mathematicians, secretaries, and computer specialists are but a few of the professionals continually in demand. Some are specialists--physical and social scientists, doctors of medicine, lawyers, and others. Many are generalists who have demonstrated their qualifications to hold the many varied positions that make up the bulk of the domestic and overseas staffs. The Agency endorses equal employment opportunity for all employees.

How many people work for the Central Intelligence Agency and what is its budget?

The Director of Central Intelligence recently disclosed the Intelligence Community's total budget. 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 daily by the Office of Management and Budget and by the Intelligence Oversight and Defense Subcommittees of the Appropria-tions Committees in both houses of Congress. The resources allocated to the CIA are subject to the same rigorous examination and approval that applies to all other government organizations.

Does the Central Intelligence Agency give public tours of its headquarters buildings?

No. Logistical problems and security considerations prevent such tours. The CIA provides an extremely limited number of tours annually for approved academic and civic groups.

Does the Central Intelligence Agency release publications to the public?

The CIA occasionally issues unclassified publications. The majority of these reports contain foreign or international economic and political information or are directories of foreign officials. They are available from the Government Printing Office, the National Technical Information Service, and the Library of Congress (see page 34). Some recently released information, including publications, speeches, and congressional testimony, is available on the CIA home page at www.odci.gov/cia. The CIA cannot, however, release most of its reports because they are derived from sensitive sources and classified accordingly. For additional information, contact the Public Affairs Staff, Central Intelligence Agency, Washington, DC 20505; (703) 482-0623.

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

The CIA's mission is to collect information related to foreign intelligence and foreign counterintelligence. The CIA is specifically prohibited from collecting foreign intelligence concerning the domestic activities of US citizens. By direction of the President in Executive Order 12333 and in accordance with procedures issued by the Director of Central Intelligence and approved by the Attorney General, the CIA is restricted in the collection of intelligence information directed against US 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 Attorney General and Director of Central Intelligence may be required. These restrictions on the CIA have been in effect since the 1970s.

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 US 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 US Government is neither apparent nor publicly acknowledged. Once tasked, the Director of Central Intelligence must notify the intelligence oversight committees of the Congress.

Does the Central Intelligence Agency engage in assassinations?

No. Executive Order No. 12333 explicitly prohibits the Central Intelligence Agency from engaging, either directly or indirectly, in assassinations. Internal safeguards and the congressional oversight process assure compliance.

Does the Central Intelligence Agency engage in drug trafficking?

No. In fact, the Central Intelligence Agency assists the US Government effort to thwart drug trafficking by providing intelligence information to the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the State Department.

What is the Central Intelligence Agency's role in combating international terrorism?

The Central Intelligence Agency supports the overall US 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.