The Limits of the Power of the CIA

The CIA is an intelligence agency cloaked in mystery. For people around the world, it is often seen as the ultimate spy organization whose powers and capabilities are virtually limitless. The truth is that the CIA is not omnipotent and the agency is answerable to entities within the U.S. government, including the Executive and Judicial branches.

But just how much power does the CIA have and how can they use it?

  • The CIA Does Not Operate With Impunity – It is a common misconception that CIA agents have unlimited authority and operate above the law. But everything that the agency does must be authorized and monitored by several different government agencies that are in place to ensure that operations are carried out legally. The House Permanent Selection Committee on Intelligence, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and the CIA Office of the Inspector General all have a hand in overseeing the activities of the CIA and its agents.
  • The CIA Does Not Generally Arrest Suspects – It may come as a surprise to most people but the Central Intelligence Agency has no law enforcement power. The agency’s primary function is as a foreign intelligence gathering and analyzing entity. As such, it does not carry out arrests, particularly in a domestic capacity.
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  • The CIA Does Not Spy On United States Citizens – There are countless conspiracy theories circulating all over the internet, and in various social circles, about the CIA spying on US citizens. The truth of the matter, however, is that the CIA is not in the business of spying on domestic citizens. Its concentration is on foreign intelligence. The FBI is responsible for gathering intelligence on US citizens, and even then it is only in the event that there might be a threat to U.S. national security.