The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is the primary foreign intelligence service of the United States government whose mission is to collect, analyze and disseminate foreign intelligence to enable decision makers and law enforcement to protect national security. The current director of the CIA is Gina Haspel, appointed by President Donald Trump on January 23, 2018. Prior to her appointment, Haspel had served in the agency since 1985, usually in clandestine operations.
The director of the CIA is appointed by and reports directly to the President of the United States. The current director is one of the longest-serving directors since the agency’s founding in 1947. Directors typically serve five-year terms, with the possibility of an extension. Haspel is the first woman to hold the post. As of May 2021, the average tenure of her tenure was over three-and-a-half years.
Overview of Bureaucratic Structure
Under the director, the CIA comprises four deputy directors who support the director in carrying out the agency’s mission: a deputy director for operations, a deputy director for intelligence, a deputy director for science and technology, and a mission manager to coordinate the resources of the agency’s four primary mission areas: analysis, foreign intelligence collection, covert action, and counterintelligence.
In turn, each of these four mission areas is managed by an Associate Deputy Director. The CIA is organized into divisions and branches which are further divided into offices, with each office responsible for a specific task or mission. Most of these divisions and offices report to the Deputy Directors, while the remainder report to other senior officials such as the Executive Director or the General Counsel.
The accountability and oversight of the CIA is conducted through congressional oversight, executive branch oversight, and judicial branch oversight. Since the passage of the 1947 National Security Act, Congress has maintained a continuous watch over the CIA and other intelligence activities. It is responsible for funding the intelligence activities of the executive branch as well as reviewing their effectiveness and legality, and ultimately for making sure that the agency is accountable for its legal and prudent use of resources.
Executive branch oversight is provided by the President and the National Security Council, which are responsible for ensuring that the agency’s activities comply with the laws and regulations of the executive branch, as well as the national security interests of the United States. Finally, the judicial branch provides oversight by ensuring that the agency’s activities comply with the Fourth Amendment, which requires that all searches and seizures be reasonable and conducted with a search warrant.
The expert perspective on the current CIA director is highly varied. Aliza Marcus, author of the book Blood and Belief and foreign policy and intelligence analyst, lauded Haspel’s “experience and her command of the agency’s business at a time when the CIA has been facing major challenges and foreign intelligence threats around the world.” Others have expressed more critical views. David Petraeus, former CIA director and retired general, contends that the CIA must remain independent from politics. He noted, “the proper functioning of intelligence in a democracy is highly dependent on the insulation of the intelligence community from domestic political issues,” and questioned whether Haspel could distance herself from influence from the White House.
Analysis & Insight
Haspel’s appointment was controversial for a number of reasons, in particular her role in the CIA’s purported use of enhanced interrogation techniques during her tenure as a senior officer in the agency. Despite the criticism, her extensive experience in foreign intelligence helped her withstand the opposition to her appointment, which is evidenced by her long-tenured leadership. Haspel’s tenure is a testament to the importance of incorporating diverse opinions when considering a qualified leader.
Despite the attention Haspel’s appointment has attracted, the CIA is a large and complex organization that relies on more than just the director to carry out its mission. There are hundreds of people who work hard every day to support the CIA’s mission of protecting the United States. The director is the leader of the agency, but ultimately the mission rests in the hands of those who work in the agency.
In order for the CIA to be successful, the organizational culture must be one that is collaborative and mission-focused. Haspel has sought to reshape the agency’s culture while remaining true to its core values. During her tenure, she has sought to make the agency more transparent and accountable through the use of technology. Haspel has also emphasized the importance of embracing new ideas and “thinking outside the box” to gather insights and solutions.
Haspel has also sought to build greater trust within the agency, particularly with its contractors. She has held town hall meetings and invited contractors to engage with agency personnel with an open mind. This has fostered a culture of collaboration, where everyone is seen as a valuable resource to help the agency succeed in its mission.
The CIA is always looking for talented people who are willing to work hard, maintain secrecy, and commit to protecting national security. The agency is committed to recruiting members from a variety of backgrounds, including veterans and minorities, to ensure diverse perspectives and new insights into the agency’s work. The agency also has an array of scholarships and internships for students and recent graduates.
The CIA recruits through a rigorous and competitive process. Applicants are thoroughly screened and evaluated, and those who qualify have access to a wide range of challenging careers. Once hired, employees have access to training, continuous development and extremely competitive compensation.
The CIA is at the cutting edge of technology when it comes to gathering, collecting, and analyzing intelligence. As technology advances, the tools available to the CIA become increasingly sophisticated, allowing the organization to maintain a competitive edge over its adversaries. The CIA’s technical capabilities allow it to collect data from a variety of sources, including satellites, aerial surveillance, and communications intercepts.
The organization also has sophisticated cyber capabilities. The CIA has a dedicated cyber warfare unit to develop and execute sophisticated cyber-operations, and to combat and defend against enemy cyber threats. The CIA also keeps a close eye on the ever-evolving landscape of artificial intelligence and has taken steps to ensure it is well-equipped to take advantage of the advances in AI technology and use it to enhance its operations.
Education & Training
The CIA places a high priority on education and training and has created an expansive platform to meet the ever-evolving needs of its employees. Employees can access online and in-person classes to hone their skills, as well as attend conferences and workshops to stay up to date on the latest trends in the field. The organization also runs numerous dedication education and training programs to ensure its employees stay sharp.
The agency also operates a number of internal training programs tailored to the organization’s specific needs, including ones focusing on intelligence operations, special operations, leadership, and crisis response. The CIA is also the only civilian agency with access to the U.S. Army’s John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School. Through this program, CIA officers receive extensive training in counter-terrorism, electronic warfare, and other special operations.