FBI vs. CIA vs. NSA

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Difference between FBI, CIA and NSA

When it comes to matters of natural security, the CIA follows closely behind the FBI as the organization that is most commonly discussed. Both organizations have been depicted countless times in cinema and media of course, but there is one other organization that hasn't received quite as much attention: the NSA. This comparison article takes a look at the more significant characteristics of each.


In Brief

The FBI is basically a domestic law enforcement organization that seeks to collect domestic intelligence, and works to counter threats that originate from within the country. If there is a threat to United States security from anyone within its borders, the FBI has jurisdiction over any other police or government agency. The CIA on the other hand, collects information from a variety of international sources and determines its relevance to United States security. In the event of an impending terrorist attack for example, the CIA would primarily be in charge of investigation. As for the NSA, it is undoubtedly one of the least known government intelligence organizations. It is primarily involved in “information assurance”, which basically means that they try to break foreign intelligence codes while maintaining the security of U.S. government information.

In Action

The FBI often works in conjunction with local police agencies in major cases. The organization has a highly advanced evidence lab, and many local law enforcement agencies often send evidence for analysis to the FBI if they are unable to process evidence. The FBI is in charge of major murder and kidnapping cases and crimes that involve crossing state borders. The CIA basically operates all over the world, relying mainly on ground agents to provide intelligence information back to Virginia central office. CIA agents often work in conjunction with government intelligence agencies from other countries. The NSA is affiliated with the Central Security Service or CSS, and deals mainly with cryptological issues. They essentially decrypt foreign intelligence from various sources and also develop encryption keys that secure information related to the United States.


The FBI and the CIA regularly work together, particularly in instances requiring information on people in the United States. The CIA for its part is called in for attacks involving terrorists from outside the United States for instance. The NSA often works closely with the U.S. Armed Forces in securing military information.



  • A domestic law enforcement agency
  • Main objective is to gather domestic intelligence and to address threats originating from within the country
  • Responsible for dealing with threats to the security of the United States


  • Gathers security information relevant to United States concerns
  • Gather information from international sources
  • Evaluates security information and takes action against risks to the United States
  • Addresses planned and potential terrorists attacks on the United States government from outside the country


  • The least known intelligence agency of the government
  • Has the primary goal of “information assurance”
  • Involved in the security of American information
  • Accomplishes its goals by way of encryption, secure computer systems, and access control


comments 2 Comments

  • christopher . 3+ yrs. ago

well the "internet" is a broad example, but if we are talking about a source originating and/or found on US soil, its original jurisdiction will go to the FBI, not the NSA or CSS, because the NSA and CSS primarily work with terrorist attacks or cryptological threats and the conflict via the "internet" could just be website or blog that has issue in a domestic incident, thus making it FBI jurisdiction, though it can also lead to CSS or NSA jurisdiction as well. Though anything that has to do with our nations security, it is the job of all 3 agencies to work together. like i said before, the "internet" is a broad subject. all those agencies have a job to do when it comes to a cybercrime....especially when it threatens our nations security. there are many answers to this question; it depends on the instance of the current situation!..:D

  • Will B. Watching . 3+ yrs. ago

There is no way the NSA is the least known intelligence agency of the government anymore...someone needs to update this thing.

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