The Central Intelligence Agency is a United States Government Agency that conducts espionage, clandestine and covert operations, as well as paramilitary actions abroad. From 1947 to 2004, the CIA was the US's primary intelligence organization, and provided direction to all other intelligence agencies. After 2004, most of it's leadership and oversight roles have been transferred to the DNI (Director of National Intelligence), and since 2001 the U.S. Intelligence Community has grown immensely. Within the CIA itself, some of the most interesting work is done by the Special Activities Division of the CIA's National Clandestine Service. The main duty of the CIA is to provide intelligence reports.
The CIA is also sometimes referred to as The Agency, The Company, or OGA - which stands for Other Government Agencies, a term used when folks outside the CIA (but within the Government) are talking behind the CIA's back.
The CIA is the successor to the wartime Office of Strategic Services. The CIA was created as part of the National Security Act of 1947, which was signed into existence by U.S. President Harry S. Truman on July 26, 1947. It was tasked with spying on other countries, and specifically with providing support to anti-communist organizations within other nations.
Here's a list of events that the CIA can be tied to, or can allegedly be tied to. It's mostly compiled from a book published in the 90's, so I'm sure it's missing several of their more recent schemes and exploits.
- 1960 U-2 Incident that derailed a planned major Peace Summit with the Russians
- 9/11 Conspiracy Theories
- Al-Qaeda - trained and armed by the US during the Russian occupation of Afghanistan
- Assassinations and attempted assassinations vs a variety governments around the world
- Bank of Credit and Commerce International, Nugan Hand Bank, and other corrupt banking institutions.
- Bay of Pigs Invasion of Cuba
- Coups and attempted coups in Cambodia, Chile, the Dominican Republic, Fiji, Greece, Guatamala, Indonesia, Iran, Laos, Vietnam, Zaire
- Drug Trafficking
- False Flag Operations in numerous countries
- Fodor's Travel Guides - originally a CIA front
- Gehlen Org - an ex-nazi intelligence agency in Germany
- Gulf War - both of them
- Iran-Contra Affair - selling weapons to Iran and funneling the money into a secret war and drug-trafficking in Nicaragua
- John F. Kennedy Assassination Theories - via people such as Guy Bannister, Clay Shaw, David Ferrie, David Atlee Phillips, Howard Hunt
- Jonestown - may have been part of MK-Ultra
- Lee Harvey Oswald's "defection" to Russia, and his return
- MK-Ultra - mind-control and LSD experiments
- October Surprise
- Operation Ajax in Iran
- Operation Chaos inside the US
- Operation Gladio in Italy, and related False Flags
- Operation Northwoods - a plan to conduct terrorist bombings inside the US and blame it on Cuba - JFK vetoed this plan
- Operation Paperclip - started by the OSS, but lead by Allen Dulles, who would later become a CIA director
- Operation Phoenix in Vietnam
- Pan Am Flight 103
- Propaganda both domestic and foreign, including influence over most major newspapers
- SAVAK - the brutal security force of the Shah of Iran
- School of the Americas - informally known as the "School of Dictators" or "School of Assassins"
- Spying on US Citizens, especially civil rights figures such as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King
- Stargate Project - conducting research into remote viewing
- Vietnam War - and the 1963 coup that deposed Ngo Dinh Diem
- Watergate scandal - James McCord, the plumber who botched the job, was a former security-chief for the CIA
Game and Story Use
- The CIA is a staple of the espionage genre, especially during the Cold War.
- In the post-9/11 landscape, US espionage activities are conducted by an alphabet soup of different 3-letter Government Agencies, assisted by all sorts of private contractors. Choose three letters at random, and you're good to go. But if the game is set between 1947 and 2001, all the real action is with the CIA.
- The CIA (and now the larger intelligence community) is labyrinthian and secretive. You can have good-guys and bad-guys within the organization. Even agents who are officially on the same side, and have similar morality, could easily end up working at cross purposes - at least until someone higher up realizes what's going on. Of course, it's all so compartmentalized, that it's no one has the big picture and an inter-agency conflict could run indefinitely. Complex plotlines with plenty of confusion, betrayal, and double-agents are perfect.
- The CIA was signed into existence less than a month after the Roswell UFO incident. This fact is certainly intriguing, and has lots of potential for gaming. Is the CIA a smokescreen for Majestic Twelve, or is it the other way around? You could add all sorts of UFO-related topics to that big list of CIA projects.
- The CIA publishes a World Factbook which is a useful source of information about other countries.
Building This Character
According to WikiHow, CIA case officers all must be physically fit US Citizens, with at least one college degree. Of course, the Agency also employs numerous contacts, informants, and assets beyond just case officers, and some of these will vary significantly from what's described below.
- This can vary a bit, depending on your take on the espionage genre, and how they're going to interact with the PCs. Often, CIA agents are presented as powerful, high-level operatives with great skill and limitless resources. Other times, they're shown as blundering incompetents.
- Intelligence (or similar mental attributes) is highly prized by the CIA. They recruit only the best and brightest.
- CIA agents are expected to be in good physical condition as well, and will need to solid social attributes, too. So, the character has to be well-rounded, and probably an over-achiever.
- Linguistics is a must. Give every CIA Case Officer the ability to speak at least one of the following languages in addition to English: Arabic, Dari, Farsi, Greek, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Pashto, Russian, Serbo-Croatian and/or Turkish.
- Science, Repair and Engineering are useful skills, too, as CIA Case Officers end up in all sorts of unusual situations, and may need to understand technical specs or field-strip bizarre equipment.
- Every agent has at least a bachelor's degree. They should have a well-rounded base of skills, and one or two high specialties.
- Stealth, Security, Surveillance, and combat skills such as marksmanship or melee, are taught (along with many other subjects) in a 6-to-8-week training course Camp Peary, but then have to be honed "on the job". Established agents in the field will be quite skilled, but new recruits or those working a desk job might have just a few days of instruction in any given topic. Those who work for the Special Activities Division or National Clandestine Service will have such skills at very high levels.
- Most CIA Case Officers probably don't have magic or supernatural abilities. But the Agency is tangled in all sorts of Conspiracy Theories, and has done research in Remote Viewing and Mind Control. If your setting has Psionics or Imported Alien Phlebotinum, the CIA could have access to it.
- Photographic Memory is of particular value to the CIA (and other spies) as it allows you to compile detailed reports without visibly taking notes as things happen.
- Depending on the lens you're using to look at the genre, you could easily see corruption or overzealous patriotism.
- Most agents know lots of secrets they can't discuss. Some are bound to have powerful enemies. A web of connections and betrayals can certainly help to keep the campaign lively.
- In systems with Sanity or Humanity rules, the agent who's "seen too much" may be a little unstable.
- CIA agents will often carry credentials placing them as working for the US State Department, giving them a generic official-ity but retaining plausible deniability about exactly which agency, department or office they work for.
- Those crazy gadgets you see in spy movies? A lot of them are real, or inspired by something real. Lock-picks built into belt buckles, one-shot disposable guns built into fountain pens or toothpaste tubes, knives hidden in shoe soles, etc. Any agent in the field is likely to have a couple such clever devices in their hotel room or personal kit.