The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is one of the principal intelligence-gathering agencies of the United States federal government. The CIA's headquarters is in Langley, Virginia, 2 miles (3.2 km) west of Washington, D.C. along the Potomac River. Its employees operate from U.S. embassies and many other locations around the world. Being the only independent U.S. intelligence agency, it reports to the Director of National Intelligence.
The CIA has three traditional principal activities, which are gathering information about foreign governments, corporations, and individuals; analyzing that information, along with intelligence gathered by other U.S. intelligence agencies, in order to provide national security intelligence assessment to senior United States policymakers; and, upon the request of the President of the United States, carrying out or overseeing covert activities and some tactical operations by its own employees, by members of the U.S. military, or by other partners. 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 the CIA had by far the largest budget 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.