The CIA at Langley: Turmoil Amongst Spies

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What does the CIA do? What is the CIA Langley headquarters like? How have agents felt about CIA operations and the agency’s reputation over the years?

The CIA is one of the key US intelligence agencies. After 9/11, CIA operations and control were reduced in response to its intelligence failure.

Read about the CIA and its current responsibilities, reputation, and issues.

Headquarters for the CIA: Langley?

Contrary to what you see in movies, CIA headquarters isn’t in the building in Langley, Virginia with the agency seal on the floor. That’s the Old Headquarters Building. The New Headquarters Building is in McLean, Virginia, and that’s where most CIA employees work.

Reorganization of the CIA

9/11 was a massive CIA operations and intelligence failure and as a result, Congress and the executive branch reorganized the CIA and adjusted its powers. Previously, the director of the CIA was in charge of the whole American intelligence community. Congress reduced the director’s power to control of only the CIA, and forced out the existing director, George Tenet. They replaced him with Porter Goss, who was a former CIA officer but also a politician, a Florida Republican congressman. 

The CIA was reorganized into five directorates, the Directorates of:

  • CIA Operations. The DO did the actual spying.
  • Intelligence. The DI analyzed and synthesized the information gained from the DO spying.
  • Science and Technology. The DST was like the Q character in James Bond films—they supplied, built, and taught spies how to use weapons, communication devices, and computers. CIA technology is essential to its mission.
  • Administration. The DA liaised with the government and included departments like HR and law.
  • Support. The DS was the largest and included everyone who supported the agency, including tech workers, doctors, cafeteria workers, and so on. The DS’s main function was to work with the CIA’s global communications infrastructure—basically, ensuring that the other directorates could communicate with each other and agencies, but only as much as allowed. DS maintained security and controlled digital access to CIA servers.

Morale at CIA Langley or HQ

After 9/11, morale at the CIA was at an all-time low. CIA employees viewed the reorganization and other political maneuverings as betrayal. They felt blamed for some of the Bush administration’s mistakes and they didn’t like Goss as a director because he was a politician. They felt that having a partisan director was an attempt to weaponize the agency. Additionally, Goss was unpopular because he forced retirements, laid people off, and fired people. The CIA, now understaffed, used even more contractors than before. 

The CIA was also unpopular with the public because information about black site prisons and other activities was leaked around the same time.

CIA Technology

The CIA has its own intranet and versions of Facebook, Wikipedia, and Google. CIA technology and its intranet contain far more detail than the media about current events and the government.

Whenever someone uses a computer at the CIA, she has to consent to her activities being monitored by checking a box. The author suspects this is the reason people working in intelligence aren’t very concerned about online tracking. They don’t give mass surveillance a pass because they think it protects the country; they’re just so used to not having any privacy that they don’t empathize with the public’s desire for it.

CIA Langley Faces Changes

When the author entered the CIA, it was during a time of change. The older generation of CIA employees (not contractors), hadn’t or didn’t want to keep up with new CIA technology, and were working at tech jobs such as the help desk. The young, incoming contractors were doing the work that required high-security clearances. The younger generation generally had low opinions of the career civil servants.

The CIA at Langley: Turmoil Amongst Spies

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Permanent Record summary:

  • What Ed Snowden discovered that caused him to completely lose faith in the government
  • How Snowden led the bombshell reports of US mass surveillance
  • How Snowden is coping with his treatment as both patriot and traitor

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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