Difference between the FBI and the CIA

Updated on October 3, 2017

Movies and books with secret agents and conspiracies are intriguing. Yet not everybody knows how to tell the difference between an FBI and a CIA agent. Are you be able to spot such a mistake in a book or in a movie and stop reading or watching it because you know the creators did not do their homework? If the answer is no, then you need to read this article.

Descriptions

FBI badge and gun
An FBI badge and gun

The FBI stands for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This is an agency of the US federal Government tasked with law enforcement. Its headquarters are in Washington DC. The FBI’s motto is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity.

It was created in 1908 by Attorney General Charles Bonaparte to fill the need for interstate law enforcement. The first agents to work for the agency were from the secret service and they were in charge of tackling interstate crime and the cases the local police could not handle. Also, the agency was not always called the Federal Bureau of Investigation. This was the name they settled on under the presidency of J. Edgar Hoover, which began in 1935.

The FBI is mainly tasked with collecting intelligence regarding domestic threats as well as enforcing the law. They usually handle cases classified as federal crimes such as kidnapping, securities fraud, interstate crimes, tax evasion and public corruption, protecting civil rights, and preventing terrorist attacks within US borders.

Admission into the FBI requires a college degree, passing a polygraph test, a physical test, and a background test. All applicants must complete a training course at the FBI Academy.

In terms of organization, the FBI is part of the Justice Department and it has 6 branches: the Office of the Director and the Human Resources branches (administrative branches), the National Security Branch, the Information and Technology Branch, the Science and Technology Branch, and the Criminal, Cyber, Response, and Service Branch.

CIA
The logo of the CIA

The CIA stands for the Central Intelligence Agency. This is an agency of the US federal Government that is tasked with the collection of foreign intelligence and with assisting the US Government in making decisions based on the collected information. The headquarters are in Langley, Virginia, and the motto of the agency is “Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free.”

A first version of the agency was created during World War II but it was only operational during the conflict years. Later on, in 1947, President Truman signed the National Security Act and officially established the Central Intelligence Agency. The institution was tasked with coordinating all intelligence-gathering efforts and correlating them with internal efforts to maintain peace and stability.

The main purpose of the CIA is that of collecting information about foreign governments, non-state actors, individuals and corporations, and assisting elected officials in making decisions and coming up with policies based on that information. Their main points of concern lie with foreign actors on the international scene. The information provided by the CIA helps in making major political and military decisions.

Admission into the CIA is possible to any US citizen who is a high school graduate. Overseas officers, analysts, and top positions require a college degree. Knowledge of foreign languages is also a plus.

The CIA is divided into four directorates and one executive office. The Directorates are the Directorate of Intelligence, the National Clandestine Service, the Directorate of Support, and the Directorate of Science and Technology.

FBI vs CIA

So what is the difference between the FBI and the CIA?

The main difference between the FBI and the CIA is that one is an agency tasked with handling domestic threats (FBI) while the other is tasked with gathering information on external threats (CIA). The FBI is in charge of investigating cases that go beyond the jurisdiction of the local police and that are of federal interest. The CIA, on the other hand, is in charge of collecting intelligence.

The FBI has the right to enforce the law. On the other hand, the CIA must only collect information and report it. This information will then be used by decision-makers.

The FBI was founded in 1908, while the CIA was founded during WWII, shut down at the end of the war, then reopened at the beginning of the Cold War. Admission into the FBI and the CIA differs as well. The CIA accepts high-school graduates, whereas the FBI is a bit more demanding and asks for a college degree, as well as for the completion of a special training course.

In terms of internal organization, the FBI has 6 branches and it is a part of the Justice Department. The CIA, on the other hand, has four directorates and one executive office.

Comparison Chart

FBICIA
Short for Federal Bureau of InvestigationShort for Central Intelligence Agency
Its motto is “Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity”Its motto is “Ye shall know the truth and it shall set you free”
Founded in 1908Founded in 1947
Tasked with collecting intelligence regarding domestic threats and enforcing the lawTasked with collecting information about foreign governments, non-state actors, individuals, and corporations, as well as assisting policy makers with informed advice
Admission requires a college degree, passing a polygraph test, a physical test, and a background test as well as passing a training course at the FBI AcademyAdmission is possible to any US citizen who is a high school graduate. Overseas officers, analysts, and top positions require a college degree and a foreign language
Is part of the Justice Department and has 6 branchesIs divided into four directorates and one executive office
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