The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is a civilian foreign intelligence agency of the U.S. Government, tasked with gathering, processing and analyzing national security information from around the world, primarily through the use of human intelligence (HUMINT). A component of the 17-member U.S. Intelligence Community (IC), CIA reports to the Director of National Intelligence.
Unlike the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), which is an internal intelligence and security service, CIA has no domestic law enforcement function and is focused on overseas intelligence collection. As one of several IC members specializing in HUMINT operations, CIA serves as the national manager for coordination and deconfliction for HUMINT activities. Moreover, it is the only agency authorized to carry out and oversee covert action, unless the President finds that another agency is better suited for such operations. It can, for example, exert foreign political influence through its tactical divisions, such as the Special Activities Division.
In 2013, The Washington Post reported that in fiscal year 2010 CIA had the largest budget appropriation in the Intelligence Community, exceeding previous estimates. The CIA has increasingly taken on offensive roles, including covert paramilitary operations. One of its largest divisions, the Information Operations Center (IOC), has shifted focus from counter-terrorism to offensive cyber-operations.
Several CIA activities have attracted criticism. They include nonconsensual human experiments, extraordinary rendition, enhanced interrogation techniques (torture), targeted killings, assassinations and the funding and training of militants who would go on to kill civilians and non-combatants.
When the CIA was created, its purpose was to create a clearinghouse for foreign policy intelligence and analysis. Today its primary purpose is to collect, analyze, evaluate, and disseminate foreign intelligence, and to perform covert actions.