Mission

The Intelligence Community's mission is to collect, analyze, and deliver foreign intelligence and counterintelligence information to America's leaders so they can make sound decisions to protect our country. Our customers include the president, policy-makers, law enforcement, and the military.

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Intel Stories

Some IC successes are behind the scenes, while others are front-page news. Read our featured Intel Stories to learn the story behind key IC victories.

Our Values

Accountability

The IC’s activities are governed by the Constitution and numerous laws and regulations. Of primary importance is Executive Order 12333, United States Intelligence Activities. Most recently amended...

Collaboration

To carry out its mission, the IC relies heavily on collaboration among its constituent elements and with external partners. Examples of these activities are below.

Diversity & Inclusion

Intelligence Community senior leaders believe strongly that diversity is a mission-critical imperative, essential to ensuring our Nation's security and success in the war on terror. The IC is united...

Ethics

The Principles of Professional Ethics for the Intelligence Community serve public-facing and internally-focused purposes. They reflect the core values common to all elements of the Intelligence...

Innovation

To stay one step ahead of our adversaries, the Intelligence Community must constantly develop new tools and techniques that give us an advantage. Innovation encompasses more than just technology: it's...

Objectivity

The Intelligence Community’s role is to provide timely, insightful, objective, and relevant intelligence about the activities, capabilities, plans, and intentions of foreign powers, organizations,...

Transparency

In 2015, the Principles of Intelligence Transparency for the IC and the Transparency Implementation Plan were developed to institutionalize transparency; at the same time, the ODNI Civil Liberties and...

History

The history of the IC is a reflection of America's history. The IC has grown and evolved over time as the needs of the country changed.

Pre-1910

1910-1930

1930-1950

1950-1970

1970-1990

1990-2005

2006-2010

 

1882—Office of Naval Intelligence

In 1882, Lt. Theodore Bailey Myers Mason suggested that the U.S. Navy needed an intel office to gather technological and shipbuilding intelligence. At the time, the U.S. Navy was still primarily a wooden fleet. Mason hoped that an Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) would keep America apprised of naval innovations around the world. ONI provided insights into new ways to build ships, helping transform the American Navy into a modern, naval power.

The ONI played a critical role in WWII by gathering tactical and technological intelligence on German U-Boats, assisting with prisoner interrogations, developing ship and aircraft recognition manuals, and creating 3D terrain models for operational planning. These capabilities were critical to victory in the Battle of the Atlantic.

Over time, ONI expanded and adapted its capabilities to meet emerging threats. They built a capability around acoustic intel during the Cold War to protect against the threat of Soviet submarines carrying nuclear weapons.

In 2009, the ONI transformed again, adapting the organization to focus on four key Centers of Excellence: Scientific and Technological Intelligence, Operational Intelligence, Information Services and Technology, and Expeditionary and Special Warfare Support. Today, more than 52,000 military and civilians support the naval intelligence community.

1908—Federal Bureau of Investigation

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has a long history of gathering, analyzing, and disseminating intelligence to support investigations that help prevent attacks and protect the nation from terrorists, spies, and criminals of all kinds.

The FBI played central roles in U.S. counterintelligence in both World Wars, even operating a full-blown foreign intelligence collection effort in the Western Hemisphere from 1940-1947. During the Cold War, FBI agents used intelligence and cooperation with U.S. and international intelligence services to track down spies. For example, exploitation of Army/NSA signals intelligence led to the identification and disbanding of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg's spy ring that shared nuclear secrets with the Soviet Union in the 1940s. The FBI also has used extensive intelligence operations, including dangerous undercover work, to disrupt and dismantle major organized crime groups across the United States.

The rise of domestic and international terrorism in the 1970s and 1980s led to the creation and growth of FBI Joint Terrorism Task Forces, which integrate federal, state, and local counterterrorism personnel and operations. The FBI created the first such task force in New York in 1980 and, since then, the Bureau has gathered and shared vital intelligence with federal agencies and state and local law enforcement partners.

Following the attacks of 9/11, the FBI evolved its intelligence mission by enhancing the role of analysis in the Bureau, adding new resources and organizational components, and working to integrate FBI intelligence activities into every aspect of its mission.

 

1915—Coast Guard Intelligence

The Coast Guard’s first Chief Intel Officer started work in 1915. Over the next 15 years, the Coast Guard expanded its intelligence capabilities to include human intelligence collection and cryptology.

Coast Guard Intelligence’s first adversaries were the rum runners along a 12,000-mile coastline. The cryptology team decrypted coded messages from the rum runners and helped the Coast Guard forces reduce illegal smuggling by 60 percent in just one year.

During WWII, 23 Coast Guard Intelligence cryptologists, including 12 women’s Coast Guard reservists, partnered with the U.S. Navy to break enemy codes. The Coast Guardsmen solved the German Abwehr cipher, enabling them to break 85 percent of the 10,000 encrypted messages they intercepted.

Today, Coast Guard Intelligence personnel are divided into the Law Enforcement Intelligence Element and the National Intelligence Element. They focus on Maritime Access, Maritime Emphasis, and Maritime Expertise from the unit level up to the Intelligence Coordination Center.

 

1945—Department of State Bureau of Intelligence and Research

After World War II, the Department of State established the Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), replacing the Office of Strategic Services Research and Analysis Branch. INR, the oldest civilian intelligence branch, provides intelligence support to State Department employees and policy-makers.

INR focuses on three key intelligence activities: all-source analysis, intelligence policy and coordination, and analytical outreach. These efforts include reviewing intelligence, counterintelligence, and law enforcement activities for consistency with foreign policy.

INR’s Analytic Exchange Program connects the IC to the private sector, academic researchers, and non-governmental organizations on foreign policy and intelligence topics. INR coordinates the IC Associates Program, the Title VIII grant program on Eurasia and East Europe, and the Global Futures Forum.

While one of the smallest intelligence offices within the IC, INR is often recognized for the quality of its analysis. INR analysts focus on analyzing foreign events, media and public opinion, organizing conferences, and analyzing humanitarian issues.

1947—Central Intelligence Agency

Whether in its current form or its earlier incarnations as the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) and the Central Intelligence Group (CIG), the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is one of the most recognizable IC agencies. Formally established in 1947, the CIA coordinates American intelligence activities and collects, analyzes, and shares intelligence pertaining to national security.

Over the past 70 years, CIA analysts have gathered information from a myriad of sources, including satellite photographs, foreign media, and reports from human sources. The CIA played a key role during the Cold War by identifying trends, responding to crises, and sharing critical intelligence analysis to help decision-makers respond to foreign threats and issues. To support these efforts, in 2016 the CIA created 11 Mission Centers to address high-priority functional and geographic issues such as counterterrorism, counterintelligence, global issues, and weapons and counterproliferation.

While many of the CIA’s victories cannot be disclosed, the successful hunt for Osama Bin Laden was a culmination of 10 years of intelligence-gathering and analysis by CIA officers, in coordination with partner IC agencies. The search required a combination of intelligence sources, including GEOINT, HUMINT and SIGINT, to track down the Al-Qaeda leader in 2011.

Today, the CIA is the largest producer of all-source intelligence on foreign threats to national security and defense.

1947—Department of Energy Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence

In August 1947, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) formalized the establishment of its Office of Security and Intelligence, based on the recommendation of Admiral Sidney Souers, the first Director of Central Intelligence. The AEC Office of Security and Intelligence leveraged the technical and nuclear expertise developed during the Manhattan Project to address the nuclear-related intelligence problems the nation faced in the post-World War II nuclear era. This expertise derived from both the development of the US nuclear capability and the Manhattan Project’s secretive ALSOS mission, which sought to understand what progress the Nazis had made in the pursuit of a nuclear weapon.

As Souers put it in a July 1947 report on the AEC’s potential intelligence contributions, entitled Atomic Energy Intelligence, “[t]he best reservoir of personnel trained to evaluate scientific and technical developments in atomic energy is within the commission itself.” The following month, the AEC brought onboard Admiral John Gingrich, a World War II naval hero from his command of the USS Pittsburgh, to head the newly created intelligence function.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence traces its roots in an unbroken chain directly to that office. Today’s office analyzes nuclear terrorism, nuclear counterproliferation, energy security, and foreign technical threats and cyber threats in support of policy decisions and Intelligence Community activities.

The Office’s mission is to protect national security information, intellectual property, and important technology. Using scientific and technological expertise, the Office provides insights and capabilities to other IC agencies on energy topics and related national security operations.

1948—Twenty-Fifth Air Force

A year after its creation in 1947, the Air Force established a Security Service to oversee intelligence activities. Now called the 25th Air Force, it provides multisource intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, including cryptologic, cyber and geospatial activities.

While the use of drones for intelligence-gathering has increased in recent years, the USAF deployed the first drone system, Combat Dawn, in 1970. During the Cold War, the first unmanned drone reconnaissance squadron gathered photographic intelligence.

The 25th Air Force is responsible for coordinating with other IC agencies and performing tasks related to the other IC specialties. For example, intelligence Airmen perform cryptologic analysis in concert with the NSA and the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) performs research and development of new proliferation detection technologies to enhance or assist treaty verification to limit the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, the 25th Air Force is also responsible for cyber effects and space superiority operations.

Today, more than 29,000 Airmen support intel activities with the 25th Air Force, providing warfighters with key intelligence to make strategic decisions and execute operations globally.

 

1952—National Security Agency

The National Security Agency (NSA) can trace its lineage to 1917 when the U.S. Army created a Cipher Bureau to support American troops during WWI. Since 1952, the NSA has led the government’s cryptology work, including Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) and Information Assurance (IA) efforts.

A part of the Department of Defense, the NSA supports military operations around the world. The Central Security Service (CSS), established in 1972, is also a key part of the NSA mission and encourages collaboration between NSA cryptology experts and military cryptologic teams. The CSS develops SIGINT and IA policy to support integration across military intelligence missions.

NSA's SIGINT and cryptology work focuses on gathering intelligence about international terrorists and foreign powers, organizations, or persons. NSA analysts gather SIGINT from electronic signals and systems used by foreign targets, including communications and weapons systems.

Today, the NSA continues to build on its cryptology heritage through both SIGINT and IA capabilities. The NSA's work gives critical information to the nation's decision-makers to support strategic planning and protect national security.

1961—National Reconnaissance Office

In the 1950s, President Eisenhower approved the use of reconnaissance tools, including airplanes and satellites, to gather strategic intelligence. In 1961, these efforts consolidated under the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).

The NRO began using signals intelligence satellites with the development of the GRAB-1 (Galactic Radiation and Background) signals intelligence satellite in 1960 and POPPY in 1962. GRAB and POPPY collected key information, including tracking Soviet radar emissions. When the United States launched the first CORONA imagery intelligence satellite in 1960, the first photo taken from space launched a myriad of photographic intelligence efforts. The satellites captured more than 800,000 images of areas that military and other intelligence collectors couldn’t reach.

Later in the 1960s, the NRO operated 38 KH-7 film-return satellite missions and 12 Mapping Camera System (MCS) missions to gather imagery of Soviet and Chinese nuclear installations and missile sites. In the 1970s, the program had evolved to the KH-11 which transmitted electro-optical images in near real-time.

Today, the NRO relies on increasingly advanced signals and imagery intelligence technology to gather key information from around the world. NRO analysts integrate the information into broader Intelligence Community activities and continue to lead the way in the collection of overhead intelligence.

1961—Defense Intelligence Agency

In 1961, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) began its work as the intelligence agency responsible for gathering and disseminating foreign military intelligence across the Department of Defense, including to the Secretary of Defense, Joint Chiefs of Staff and military forces.

DIA played an important role in Vietnam, providing intelligence about Prisoners of War (POWs) and helping evacuate Americans and children. They continued to spearhead the search for POWs for two decades following the Vietnam War.

In response to terrorist attacks on U.S. military installations in the 1980s and 1990s, DIA built new counterterrorism capabilities to respond to the threat. The DIA established an all-source terrorism analysis cell as well as the Office for Counterterrorism Analysis. During this time, the DIA received a Joint Meritorious Unit Award for “unparalleled intelligence support” with a special focus on counterterrorism operations.

Today, the DIA provides intelligence to warfighters and Department of Defense decision-makers to support military operations, weapon systems acquisition, and in-theater activities.

 

1977—U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command

The U.S. Army has gathered intelligence on combatants since the American Revolution but it wasn't until 1977 that the Army formally established the Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM). INSCOM consolidated the U.S. Army Security Agency, U.S. Army Intelligence Agency, and other command intelligence units.

Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, INSCOM developed new intelligence capabilities and designated five intelligence units as brigades to emphasize a focus on gathering intelligence to support warfighting. In 1994, INSCOM established a new type of intelligence, the Land Information Warfare Activity (LIWA). INSCOM designed this intelligence collection to defend the Army’s communications and data systems.

Today, INSCOM quickly gathers, analyzes, and disseminates actionable intelligence to share it with commanders and national law enforcement agencies. More than 17,500 soldiers, civilians, and contractors gather all-source intelligence, conduct operations, and deliver linguistic support in 180 locations around the world.

1978—Marine Corps Intelligence

Intelligence collection has been a part of Marine Corps operations since 1776 but they officially formed an Intelligence Department in 1978. Marine Corps intelligence collects and analyzes geospatial intelligence, human intelligence, counterintelligence, and signals intelligence.

Over its history, the Marine Corps has used innovative tactics for intel activities. In WWII, the Navajo Code Talkers created the only unbreakable code. In Korea and Desert Storm, the Marine Corps used battlefield deception to spread false intelligence to the enemy, helping Marines successfully invade territories.

In recent years, human intelligence has proven critical in the War on Terror. In 2009, the Marine Corps developed Female Engagement Teams to gather intelligence and perform community outreach with women and children in Afghanistan.

Today, intelligence Marines are actively supporting Marine Corps operations from the company in the field to headquarters elements determining strategic direction, striving to provide the right intelligence to the right people at the right time.

 

1996—National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency

In 1996, the creation of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) consolidated imagery and geospatial analysis assets within one agency. NIMA brought together the National Photographic Interpretation Center, the Defense Mapping Agency, and other government units. In 2003, NIMA became the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA).

NGA integrates multiple sources of imagery and geospatial information, or GEOINT, to assess terrain, buildings, and human activity. This information helps build a complete picture of the landscape that intelligence officers, warfighters, and other organizations can use for operational planning.

During Hurricane Katrina, NGA analysis helped first responders better understand the issues throughout the area and build a crisis response plan. In 2011, NGA analysts helped identify the location of Osama Bin Laden and provided information to the team that successfully completed the raid on his compound.

Agency analysts continuously adapt and expand capabilities to meet the needs of policy-makers and military partners.

2003—Department of Treasury Office of Intelligence and Analysis

The Intelligence Authorization Act of 2003 established the Treasury Office of Intelligence and Analysis (OIA) to protect information, programs, and personnel with access to sensitive intelligence information. OIA publishes analysis and intelligence reports to support operations throughout Treasury and other federal agencies.

OIA intelligence gathering and analysis has helped the Treasury Department track terrorist financiers, drug traffickers, and money launderers. OIA also provides expertise and analysis to support Treasury efforts to combat threats to American financial systems.

In addition, OIA officers have supported the Iraq and Afghanistan Threat Finance Cells (ITFC and ATFC) to identify and disrupt funding to terrorist organizations. OIA’s intelligence analysis supports Treasury counterthreat finance programs and provides leads to law enforcement and military operations.

Today, OIA is comprised of intelligence officers with varied skills, approximately half of whom serve as intelligence analysts, economists, and advisors working on a range of intelligence products. OIA officers provide all-source intelligence analysis to support policy development and responses to national security issues.

2005—Office of the Director of National Intelligence

In 2005, Congress established the role of Director of National Intelligence to create an oversight and strategic body to facilitate collaboration across IC entities.

Initially, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) focused primarily on human capital planning, IT management and systems acquisitions, and facility planning. In addition, ODNI took over responsibility for the President's Daily Brief and the National Intelligence Council.

Since then, ODNI has taken on additional responsibilities, including the establishment of the Inspector General for the IC and the operation of four mission-focused intelligence centers: the National Counterterrorism Center, the National Counterintelligence and Security Center, and the National Counterproliferation Center; and the Cybersecurity Threat Intelligence Integration Center. Today, the ODNI continues to evolve in its role by enhancing IC collaboration, providing oversight of IC activities, and increasing transparency of the IC for the American people.

 

2006—Drug Enforcement Administration Intelligence Program

The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) began collecting, analyzing, and disseminating drug-related intelligence in 1973. The Intelligence Program helps investigate drug organizations and provides decision-makers with key drug trends and information.

The mission of the DEA’s Intelligence Program is to provide drug intelligence to policy makers and interagency groups leading the anti-drug effort. The Program also leads efforts to build relationships with federal agencies and law enforcement groups that gather and produce drug-related intelligence.

Analysts gather tactical intelligence for arrests, seizures, and interdictions; investigative intelligence to support prosecutions of criminal organizations; and strategic intelligence to help shape key decisions and policies.

DEA Intelligence Analysts support field offices, the El Paso Intelligence Center, and the Intelligence Division at DEA headquarters. In addition, they provide drug intelligence training to state, local, federal, and foreign agencies to share best practices and theories.

 

2007—Department of Homeland Security Office of Intelligence and Analysis

In 2007, the Department of Homeland Security launched the Office of Intelligence and Analysis (I&A) to provide intelligence support for homeland security missions, especially preventing and deterring threats and terrorist attacks.

The I&A also leads the national network of fusion centers that support two-way sharing of intelligence and information between the IC and state, local, tribal, and territorial partners. The fusion centers gather and analyze intelligence and share information with homeland security partners to better protect communities and prevent and respond to crime and terrorism.

In addition, the I&A supports the Interagency Threat Assessment and Coordination Group (ITACG) to facilitate information-sharing on counterterrorism, homeland security, and weapons of mass destruction.

The I&A continues to develop predictive intelligence and analysis on threats to aviation security, border security, and cyber networks. Similarly, it gathers intelligence to help IC agencies and decision-makers identify and counter violent extremist threats.