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National Security involves both national defense and foreign relations. This involves protecting the liberty and safety of the United States of America. This includes diplomacy, civil defence operations, the armed forces, economic protections, policies and procedures, the protection of infrastructure, and most importantly, intelligence and counterintelligence services.

This is where the CIA fits in.

What Is The CIA?

The Central Intelligence Agency is the intelligence arm of national security. They acquire, analyze, and share information about things that might impact national security with US government policymakers. This helps policymakers make informed decisions about international affairs.

Who has weapons that might be a risk? Is there a political movement that might grow into a terrorist organisation? Is one of our allies doing something a bit odd? Is there a food shortage?

The CIA asks questions about other countries and peoples. It questions whether something is happening that might affect the United States of America.

It then sources information to build a picture of what might be going on. This could be:

  • Human intelligence (talking to people)

  • Open-source intelligence (looking at media, newspapers)

  • Signals intelligence (intercepting communications)

  • Electronic intelligence (radar signals and electronic oddities)

  • Imagery intelligence (satellite imagery)

The CIA focuses on Human Intelligence.

The CIA analyzes intelligence information, reaches a conclusion about what it means and shares that with policymakers. Sometimes they are then given tasks to promote and secure the National Security of America

Quiz

What would be an example of CIA focused intelligence?

Talking to agents

Intercepting phone calls

Looking at photographs

Reading newspapers

What Is The Role Of The CIA?

The CIA can:

  • Carry out covert actions on behalf of the president

  • Analyze information about foreign affairs

  • Support foreign groups in resources, training, and technology to promote US interests overseas

The CIA isn't:

  • Always right - sometimes they get it wrong

  • Able to make policy decisions

  • Able to enforce laws

  • A team of only spies

Quiz

As a CIA agent, responsible for advising on a foreign nation's attitudes toward nuclear power, what would your first steps be in an investigation?

Look at satellite imagery of changes

Read publicly available media

Detain and interrogate civilians

Personally investigate on the ground

Summary

  • The CIA provides information about international affairs.

  • The government makes decisions based on that information.

  • Some of these decisions result in further CIA action, military action, or humanitarian action.

  • All of the CIA's work aims to help policy makers make decisions that will benefit the United States and its allies.

If you're interested in what measures are taken to ensure national security, investigate!

What's the difference between MI6 and the CIA, or between the CIA and the FBI? What do other countries do to source intelligence?

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This Byte has been authored by

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Sara Perley

Learning Designer and Education Storyteller