"And Ye Shall Know The Truth And The Truth Shall Make You Free."
After World War II
, the OSS
was disbanded. With the onset of the Cold War
, it was decided that a new intelligence agency was needed. The name "Central" reflects that it was originally supposed to be a clearinghouse among various other agencies. However, it became effectively a new OSS and acquired many veterans from that previous service. Originally the agency hired people from Ivy League
agencies with agents that had a Foreign Culture Fetish
for England. They dressed, talked, and acted like the English. In this period of desk gathering intelligence, the pipe-smoking professor was seen as the ideal agent.
The CIA has been controversial, having at times been accused of incompetence, immoral actions, or both. In some fictional portrayals, they are often regarded as being The Men in Black
. This portrayal, at least, is an exaggeration, as if the CIA was really that skillful, we might ask why it took us so long to win the Cold War. Of course, maybe that's what they wanted
Nonetheless, the CIA has had its successes. For instance, a large part of the reason for the United States succeeding in the gigantic Death Glare
contest during the Cuban Missile Crises was that America had a mole
telling the U.S. government that the Soviets had less capacity than they claimed. Then again, said mole, Oleg Penkovsky, was later ratted out and executednote
, and was first discovered and contacted by MI6
The typical depiction of the CIA in both fiction and the more speculative forms of conspiracy theory, usually portrays them as being somewhere between spies and assassins, as well as at times being allegedly responsible for the overthrow of anti-American foreign governmentsnote
. Liam Neeson's portrayal of a possible former CIA man in Taken
is very standard, as is Harrison Ford's portrayal in Patriot Games
. The Agency's adventures in Nicaragua, among other places, can also make for particularly interesting reading; as can Peter Joseph's interview with John Perkins. It is at times implied that they are additionally a research organization of sorts, with an interest in experimental tactics that would usually be considered impossible by the mainstream public. (Such as MK-Ultra, the Psychic Warrior program(s), etc) The CIA, or at least many of its personnel, is also usually depicted as having a severe case of Chronic Backstabbing Disorder
, with agents and administrators constantly betraying each other for various reasons, both good and badnote
. This of course means agents have to live with the constant fear of betrayal.
Although it says "The Agency" up top here, actual CIA employees (and those in the know) tend to call it "The Company;" calling it "The Agency" is acceptable, but calling it "The CIA" in anything except perhaps first reference is hitting a Fandom Berserk Button
. Other federal government types might call it the "Other Government Agencies
" (OGA), typically when its involvement in something or other is an open secret
. In exceptionally double-cross-intensive stories you might see "The Company" and
"The Agency" used to represent different factions of the CIA.
When they appear in fiction alongside the FBI
, America's other famous intelligence agency, expect to see CIA Evil, FBI Good
The CIA is headquartered in Langley, Virginia just a few miles west of Washington, D.C.
A lot of fiction has references to the CIA. Here are just some:
- One of the main employers of Golgo 13.
- Appears in Detective Conan investigating the Black Organization.
- Eda from Black Lagoon is secretly a CIA agent.
- In Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, the American Empire has an identical espionage agency also called the CIA that fits all the tropes. They are most prominently featured in the episode "A Perfect Day For A Jungle Cruise" assisting Section 9 in tracking a serial killer. Turns out they trained him for use in a Phoenix Program-style operation in Latin America and are only co-operating with Section 9 in the hopes they would kill him and they could cover it all up. They don't.
- The Barracuda miniseries has several covert ops agents meeting to discuss Barracuda's actions. The CIA agents are actually represented as competent, if somewhat fixed in the past, especially compared to the NSA guy, who's a moronic Armchair General.
- The CIA created The Boys to monitor superheroes, and eliminate those who have gone rogue.
- Fire, an early graphic novel by Brian Michael Bendis, sits firmly on the "never trust the CIA" side of the fence.
- The Blackford Oakes series by William F. Buckley is a series of tales about the adventures of the CIA operative Blackford Oakes.
- Much of Tom Clancy's work, particularly the Jack Ryan series.
- In The Bourne Series, the agency is what created and ran the program that made Jason Bourne into what he is.
- The Assignment series (every book has the word assignment in the title), features CIA agent Sam Durell.
- John Wells series.
- The "Mrs. Pollifax" series by Dorothy Gilman. Mrs. Pollifax tends to refer to the CIA as "the Department".
- In Tom Kratman's Caliphate, the agency is renamed to the Office of Strategic Intelligence after a reorganization and purge.
- NCIS: Los Angeles.
- Burn Notice: Main character Michael Westen himself was a CIA agent, considering remarks made in the pilot he was under unofficial cover until he was burned. The titular "burn notice" is a document sent out to intelligence agencies that an agent is unreliable or even traitorous. The show has a retired CIA agent Michael Wilson as a consultant.
- Season 5 has Michel working with the CIA again after providing ironclad evidence of the organization that burned him existing and assisting in dismantling it. Thus after 4 seasons of helping random people around Miami you see Michael and crew actually participate in matters of government security.
- Covert Affairs: Actually set at a rather fictionalized version of the CIA.
- The Agency
- Homeland: The main character is a CIA agent and intelligence and counter-terrorism is the main focus of the series.
- Castle and Kate got tangled with the CIA, who shanghaied them to help them with a case of theirs which could trigger world war III.
- One episode of Deadliest Warrior featured CIA agents versus those of the KGB.
- On Person of Interest, Reese was a CIA assassin; a couple of his old coworkers were recurring antagonists in the first two seasons.
- Modern Warfare 2. They only appear on one level but that level probably was enough.
- Naturally, they play a much more prominent role in Black Ops, including a main playable character who is a CIA agent.
- They get a mention in Alpha Protocol, though the main group is a Government Agency of Fiction.
- The CIA is heavily featured in the Big Boss prequels of the Metal Gear series. Metal Gear Solid 3 showcases Big Boss's time as a CIA agent and his eventual deserting of the organization as a protest towards its corruption, MPO and Peace Walker showcase the CIA trying to get Big Boss back on their side and when he refuses conspiracies abound.
- Rico in the Just Cause series is a CIA operative who overthrows anti-American regimes. In the first game, he uses drug lords to help overthrow a Caribbean nation. In the second game, he enlists the help of Dirty Communists, The Mafia, and a brutal ethnic gang to overthrow the local dictator of a South East Asian Island called Panau, which amusingly has a large reserve of oil.
- One of the factions in Spec Ops: The Line, playing an Agent Provocateur role.
- American Dad!! has its main character, Stan Smith, as a CIA agent.