The 1947 National Security Act created the Central Intelligence Agency as the core of a network of government agencies responsible for collecting overseas information of interest to policy-makers. The law called for a director of central intelligence to head the CIA and also to coordinate the activities of the intelligence community as a whole. The director is appointed by the president, subject to Senate approval. The intelligence community today is comprised of 13 departments or agencies, eight of them within the Defense Department, which receives about 90 percent of the intelligence budget:
Central Intelligence Agency - The CIA is an executive branch agency made up of four directorates, or departments. The directorate of administration oversees the agency's day-to-day operations. One of its functions is counterintelligence, protecting the agency's security and preventing infiltration by double agents such as Aldrich Ames. The directorate of intelligence employs experts in many fields to evaluate the mountains of data - known as HUMINT, or human intelligence - that are collected in the field by overseas agents. Scientists in the directorate of science and technology assess foreign technological advances and devise equipment and processes designed to counter the use of those advances against American interests. The directorate of operations conducts covert operations overseas using some 5,000 agents.
The eight Defense Department intelligence agencies are:
Defense Intelligence Agency - The DIA is the military counterpart to the CIA, collecting information of use to the military services and coordinating the activities of all Defense Department intelligence agencies.
National Security Agency - From its headquarters at Fort Meade, Md., the highly secretive NSA collects SIGINT, or signals intelligence, from spy satellites and sophisticated bugging equipment that enables officers to listen in on conversations and peek at virtually any spot on the globe. Although it is not well known, the NSA employs far more people and uses much more money than the CIA. The NSA is Maryland's largest employer, with about 20,000 employees, and with its $8 billion budget is the biggest spender of all the intelligence agencies.
Army, Air Force, Naval and Marine Corps Intelligence Agencies - The four branches of the armed services each collect intelligence relevant to their particular needs.
National Reconnaissance Office - Coordinates the collection and analysis of information from airplane and satellite reconnaissance by the military services and the CIA.
Central Imagery Office - Coordinates the dissemination of satellite and air reconnaissance data to military commanders during combat. The office was set up in 1992 after the military complained about delays in getting key intelligence data during the Persian Gulf War.
In addition to the Defense Department agencies, four other executive branch departments and agencies collect intelligence information:
State Department - Seeks a wide range of information affecting U.S. foreign policy.
Energy Department - Collects data on nuclear energy, including the possible diversion of civilian nuclear materials for weapons.
Treasury Department - Collects information that may affect U.S. fiscal or monetary policy.
Federal Bureau of Investigation - Seeks information for cases involving international crime.