Episode 41: CIA vs. FBI

In this series, I present the agencies of the United States that collect and analyze intelligence to determine whether they may disrupt the country’s law and order. Using comprehensive scenarios, I drill down on the different roles and responsibilities of the CIA and the FBI. Without further ado, let’s begin.

To protect national security and sensitive information, the United States government conducts Peeping Tom operations on foreign governments and their citizens as well as on American citizens. 

In this series, I present the agencies of the United States that collect and analyze intelligence to determine whether they may disrupt the country’s law and order. Using comprehensive scenarios, I drill down on the different roles and responsibilities of the CIA and the FBI. Without further ado, let’s begin. 

Officially since 1947, The United States has been strategically spying and investigating foreign nations and their citizens and American citizens to evaluate beforehand domestic and foreign threats to U.S. national or homeland security. 

In 1947, the United States government enacted the National Security Act to establish the Intelligence Community. The Intelligence Community conducts cyber intelligence, counterterrorism, counterproliferation, and counterintelligence operations to deter threats posed by state and non-state actors challenging U.S. national security and interests worldwide. 

The Intelligence Community utilizes strategic and anticipatory intelligence to support current operations. It comprises several branches, but the two most popular are the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI). The CIA has no law enforcement function, whereas the FBI does. This means that CIA agents do not arrest citizens whereas FBI agents do. The CIA collects and analyzes information from foreign nations while the FBI investigates the actions of American citizens in the United States. After September 2001, the government extended the FBI jurisdiction to authorize its agents to conduct covert operations and assist foreign governments in investigations of which the United States or American citizens may be a party. For both the CIA and the FBI to get involved, the intelligence to be collected must be vital to the formation of U.S. policy, particularly in areas that impact the security of the nation.

Let me explain to you more straightforwardly. The CIA has jurisdiction outside the United States, whereas the FBI has jurisdiction inside the United States. Therefore, the CIA does not spy on American citizens, and the FBI does not spy on foreign nations and their citizens even if they are operating in the United States unless the actions they committed or are about to commit violate the American constitution or federal laws. 

Let’s go over these following examples to drive the point home. 

Say that the United States learns that Iran is planning to conduct an attack on the U.S embassy in Jerusalem. The CIA would deploy covert operations either in Iran or Israel to collect and analyze intelligence to establish their authenticity and accuracy. If they are, the CIA would apply random anti-terrorism measures to protect the embassy, or ultimately, counterterrorism actions to deter the attack. 

Let’s take another example. Let’s say that the United States learns that a group of Afghan migrants living in California is laundering money to ISIS or Boko Haram. That falls directly under the jurisdiction of the FBI, who at that point, will adopt measures to investigate the Afghan migrants. 

Let’s see this example: The United States learns that the Russian government is sending three citizens to the United States to infiltrate and disrupt American airport operations. The CIA would do anything necessary to prevent these citizens from entering the United States. However, if the CIA fails to prevent the Russian citizens from enter the United States, guess who has the authority to investigate them: Good job, it is the FBI. 

Now, let me tell you about the extended mission of the FBI. To make you understand, I will examine two situations. 

For the first example, let’s consider Joe, who committed a crime in New York and fled to Texas. After you listen to this example, you will make sense of the posters you see almost everyday on TV “FBI most wanted.” In theory, homicides are investigated by state police departments, but because Joe crossed state lines, the New-York police state department no longer has jurisdiction. Therefore, the FBI will take over the investigations because Joe is no longer in the state he commîted his crime. 

For the second example. Let’s consider Mona who owns and operates a business with branches in New-York, Wisconsin, and North Dakota but the headquarters is in Pennsylvania. Suppose the Branch Manager in Wisconsin was assassinated, and rumors were that Mona could be behind the assassination. In that instance, Wisconsin’s State police department may initiate the investigation for finding and discovery. However, the Pennsylvania State Police Department would not have the authority to investigate Mona. The FBI would have such power and a federal court will hear and resolve the case. Practically, the FBI and federal courts have jurisdiction over infractions that involve citizens living in two states or more or citizens who had crossed state lines. 

To recap, the National Security Act of 1947 established the Intelligence Community to conduct intelligence operations to deter threats to US national security on foreign nations and citizens living in the US. The CIA and FBI are both members of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The CIA is prohibited from collecting intelligence regarding “U.S. Persons,” The National Security Act defines “US Persons” as U.S. citizens, resident aliens, legal immigrants, and U.S. corporations, regardless of where they are located. The FBI also has an extended jurisdiction meaning it investigates interstate violations even when such infractions do not directly pose any threat to the country’s national or homeland security.