Have you ever watched crime dramas and wondered what agencies were handling the investigation? Have you thought about the difference between the FBI, CIA, Police, and Military? 

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It seems like there's always a jumble of letters with no explanation of what the agency actually does.

United States Military

The military has 6 branches that protect the country's borders and interests.

  • Defends against land, sea, space, air, and water based threats

  • Headquarters in the US, with many bases stationed around the world

  • Collects data to support national defense missions

  • Does not investigate or make arrests

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Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

An intelligence agency that focuses on collecting, analyzing, evaluating data and information

  • Passes information on to the appropriate parties such as the FBI or military

  • Collects information from international sources regarding matters of national security

  • Does nothave the authority to makearrests

  • Collects information to aid agencies who make arrests

Federal Bureau Of Investigations (FBI)

A security and intelligence service that aims to protect the USA from domestic threats.

  • Has the authority to make arrests and press charges against individuals

  • Investigates crimes committed on the federal level

  • Sometimes works with local police to help solves crimes together

FBI vs CIA vs Police vs Military: The Ultimate Comparison


Law enforcement officers that protect and defend, usually at the local level.

  • Can only work within their specified county

  • Able to make arrests

  • Have jurisdictions (or borders) that they are allowed to work within

  • State troopers are allowed to work within an entire state's borders

FBI vs Police vs CIA vs Military: The differences compared


Allen is a uniformed officer. He routinely patrols the counties of Ballard and Colleton. Is Allen a county police officer or a State Trooper?

A Quick Guide: FBI vs CIA vs Police vs Military

 FBI vs CIA vs Police vs Military: Comparison Chart

FBI vs Police:

Even tho both agencies work domestically, collect data and information, and have a right to make arrests, there are some differences:

  • The FBI is the United States government’s domestic law enforcement agency, and the Police, on the other hand, handle the day-to-day maintenance of law and order.

  • The FBI has its role as the custodian of US national security, and it will go to any extent to achieve that goal. The Police forces, on the other hand, perform the crucial arms and legs functions.

  • If the FBI could be likened to the brain, the Police forces are the body parts which perform critical functions.


The FBI and the CIA are a part of the American Intelligence Community. However, the CIA does not engage in law enforcement. Instead, it gathers and evaluates data that is essential to the development of American policy, particularly in areas that influence the country's security. The CIA collects only data on foreign nations and their individuals. It is forbidden to gather information about "U.S. Persons," which includes U.S. citizens, resident aliens, legal immigrants, and U.S. companies, wherever they may be, comparing the FBI vs CIA.


Marianne works for the federal government. She helps collect data and information to investigate criminals who have committed federal offences. She does not make arrests. Who does Marianne work for?

FBI vs CIA History


The FBI was founded from a group of specialized agents assembled in 1908 by Attorney General Charles Bonaparte under Theodore Roosevelt's administration. This occurred at a period when interstate law enforcement was required and liberalism was on the rise in America. In reality, the first FBI employees were Secret Service employees. When it was first established, the agency was known as the Bureau of Investigation. It was renamed the Federal Bureau of Investigation in 1935 after being dubbed the Division of Investigation (DOI) in 1933 and the United States Bureau of Investigation in 1932. (FBI). The first FBI Director, J. Edgar Hoover, held the position for 48 years. Later, legislation was passed limiting the tenure of the FBI director to ten years.


The Office of Strategic Services (OSS) served as the CIA's predecessor. During World War II, it was founded as an intelligence organization; however, it was disbanded and its duties transferred to the State and War Departments after the war. President Truman approved the National Security Act of 1947, creating the CIA, in 1947. The National Security Act gave the CIA the responsibility of coordinating the country's intelligence operations as well as correlating, assessing, and disseminating intelligence that could have an impact on national security.

FBI vs CIA Structure

The CIA is led by an executive office and divided into four principal directorates:

  • The Directorate of Intelligence is in charge of conducting and analyzing all sources of intelligence.

  • The National Clandestine Service conducts covert operations and collects clandestine intelligence.

  • The Directorate of Support performs important administrative "housekeeping" tasks.

  • The Directorate of Science and Technologies develops and uses cutting-edge technology to assist in the job of intelligence gathering.

Justice Department comprises the FBI. Five functional branches and the Office of the Director, which handles administrative duties, make up its organizational structure.

  • National Security Branch

  • Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Services Branch

  • Human Resources Branch

  • Science and Technology Branch

  • Information and Technology Branch

Take Action

The next time you're watching a crime movie or TV show - challenge yourself to identify which agencies you are seeing on screen.

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