The CIA vs. The KGB

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Difference between CIA and KGB

For history buffs and those with an affinity for all things related to espionage, the CIA and the KGB are undoubtedly two of the most interesting government agencies to have ever existed. The air of mystique, mystery and danger that surrounds these two has no parallel, and the fact that they were for many years on two sides of an intense conflict further inspires comparisons between them. Let's see how the CIA and the KGB measure up against each other.



The CIA or Central Intelligence Agency is a United States government agency run by civilians. Its primary role is to provide intelligence pertaining to national security to senior policymakers in the country. The CIA also regularly undertakes covert activities at the behest of the President of the United States. The KGB or Committee for State Security was the national security agency of the Soviet Union, until its dissolution in 1991. It was established in 1954, and was primarily involved in internal security, intelligence, and secret police activities. Many of the archives of the KGB remain classified to this day, although there are two documentary sources that may be read on the Internet.


The main purpose of the CIA is to collect information on foreign governments, corporations, and individuals, and to use this information to advise public policymakers. In the pursuit of these goals, the agency engages in covert operations and paramilitary missions, and even influences foreign political groups and/or individuals by way of its Special Activities Division. 2004 saw a shift in the CIA’s responsibilities, in which time gave over some of its duties to the Director of National Intelligence or DNI. It is this organization that consolidates the information collected by the 16 IC agencies and presents the findings to the President of the United States. The KGB for its part was known to be the most effective information-gathering organization in the world, particularly during the 1980s. Back then the organization was involved in various legal and illegal espionage activities in certain countries. A common method was to have a spy who was a legal resident of the target country carry out espionage activities from the Soviet embassy, where he or she could be protected by diplomatic immunity. At the same time, illegal spies would work covertly from the community itself. During the Cold War, the KGB was involved in what it called "ideological subversion". This effectively covered dissenting political and religious groups in the country.


The CIA is comprised of an executive office, under which are four major directorates:

  • The Directorate of Intelligence
  • The National Clandestine Service
  • The Directorate of Support
  • The Directorate of Science and Technology


  • A civilian run government organization
  • Main objective is to gather intelligence relevant to national security and foreign policy
  • Often undertakes missions on orders of the President of the United States
  • Often involved in non-official activities in other countries

The KGB for its part was comprised of:

  • The Chairman of the KGB
  • 1 or 2 First Deputy Chairmen
  • 4 to 6 Deputy Chairmen
  • Several Directorates


  • Was established in 1954
  • Was the national security agency of the Soviet Union
  • One of the most effective information-gathering organization in the world during its time
  • Was dissolved in 1991

Which organization has released more secrets to the public?
  • CIA
  • KGB

Discuss It: comments 2

  • Guest
  • Chris Rubel wrote on June 2013

I am struggling to understand the differences or similarities between the **** Gestapo, the American CIA, the KGB, etc. In light of the way our CIA is working, especially with the capturing, imprisoning, and torturing suspected people with no due process. Are there reliable/valid books or articles available on this subject.

  • Guest
  • Jacob Mainhart wrote on June 2017

The gestapo were merely secret police, designed to hunt Jews and minorities, while the CIA and KGB were "intelligence" agencies.

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