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Central Intelligence Agency - The Church Committee Hearings, The Iran-contra Affair, The Ames Scandal, The End Of The Cold War

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The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was established following WORLD WAR II, from which the United States and the Soviet Union emerged as superpowers with vast military might and sharply conflicting world views. To protect the nation's security in all international matters and to ensure continued democracy and freedom for the United States, Congress created the CIA with the National Security Act of 1947 (ch. 343, 61 Stat. 495 [1947]). Gathering information from other countries relevant to national security is a sensitive task requiring considerable secrecy and covert activity. Unlike most other organizations, the CIA receives comparatively little media coverage when it is doing its job well. For this reason, most of the information that reaches the media concerning the CIA is negative.

All intelligence information collected by the CIA is reported to the NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL, under whose direction the CIA acts. The CIA is headed by the director of central intelligence, who is a member of the president's cabinet and the presidential spokesperson for the agency and the intelligence community. The director and deputy director of the CIA are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate.

The CIA is headquartered at a 258-acre compound in Langley, Virginia, and maintains twenty-two other offices in the Washington, D.C., area. The main compound includes a printing plant that produces phony documents, such as birth certificates, passports, and driver's licenses, for use by its agents. The plant also produces the President's Daily Brief, an eight-page CIA document that is presented to the president every morning. Another facility is used exclusively for recruiting spies to work for the CIA; another houses the Foreign Broadcast Information Service, which monitors and translates broadcasts from forty-seven countries. Several other facilities recruit officers of the former Komitet Gosudarstvennoi Bezopasnosti (KGB)—the State Security Committee for countries in the former Soviet Union, now known as the Russian Federal Security Service—to spy on their own countries. The agency also maintains facilities in 130 countries throughout the world. Of the $28 billion that is budgeted annually to the U.S. Intelligence Committee, $3 billion goes to the CIA. The official number of individuals employed by the CIA is sixteen thousand, but many believe the actual number to be closer to twenty-two thousand.

Although all aspects of the CIA revolve around gathering intelligence and maintaining the security of the nation, the actual responsibilities of the agency are many and varied; they include

  • Advising the National Security Council in matters concerning national security
  • Gathering and disseminating foreign intelligence (The CIA coordinates with the FEDERAL BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION (FBI) to gather intelligence within the United States.)
  • Conducting counterintelligence activities outside of the United States (The CIA coordinates with the FBI to conduct intelligence and counterintelligence activities within the United States.)
  • Gathering and disseminating intelligence on the foreign aspects of narcotics production and trafficking
  • Conducting other special activities approved by the president.

In its earliest days the CIA operated in a shroud of secrecy. In recent years, however, increased media attention has made the country more aware of CIA activities. Since the mid 1970s, the CIA has received more attention for breaking the law than it has for upholding national security. Four events focused unwanted attention to the CIA: the Church committee hearings, the IRAN-CONTRA AFFAIR, the Aldrich Ames scandal, and the end of the COLD WAR.

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