Difference between FBI and CIA

By Jaxson

Main Difference

FBI and CIA both are federal investigation agencies of the United States. But the way of doing work and ultimate purpose of both creation is entirely different from each other. The main difference between these two agencies is that FBI works domestically as it is a law enforcement agency while CIA works globally and collects the data from inside and outside the United States and works for the safety and security of the United States.


The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the domestic security agency of the United States that is considered as the biggest law enforcement agency in the United States. It works under the jurisdiction of U.S. Department of Justice and is member of the U.S. Intelligence Community. It doesn’t work outside United States. Its duties are to investigate the violations of federal criminal laws like dealing in illegal drugs, cyber crimes, domestic terrorist activities, Medicare fraud, money laundering cases, hate crimes and other like violations and crimes. It was formed on July 26, 1908 by the name of Bureau of Investigation (BOI) and is the world largest law enforcement agency as well. It was replaced by the name of FBI in 1953. It has around 56 field offices in metropolitans of US and over more than 400 resident agencies in areas across the nation.


The Central Investigation Agency (CIA) is the largest external intelligence service of the United States that is associated with the duties of gathering evidences, processing and analyzing the security information regarding U.S. around the world. It works under the supervision of National Intelligence (NI) and is answerable to Director of NI. It has no domestic law enforcement role and is mainly focused on external intelligence information collection. Two things about CIA are important to remember: First it is not a law enforcement agencies, so, it doesn’t arrest anyone or implement law. It only collects the information relevant to U.S. security purpose; Second, it only work in foreign matters not domestic. It is not allow to CIA to look into or in any way investigate into the matter of U.S. citizens or any company or body inside the U.S. unless investigation is linked with any foreign intelligence matter.

Key Differences

  • FBI is a domestic law enforcement agency of united States that work inside the U.S. to investigate in the matter violating the criminal law. While CIA is an external intelligence service of the U.S that collects and analyze the information around the world regarding U.S. national security.
  • FBI can arrest the criminals but CIA can’t arrest the criminal and can’t the enforce the law. Its duty is to only provide information.
  • FBI is not allowed to operate outside U.S. While in some cases CIA can operate investigate in domestic matters like any link of citizen or company of U.S. with any foreign intelligence matter.
  • Both FBI and CIA are vital for U.S. security but the fact is that scope of CIA is far larger than FBI.
  • CIA is an independent agency and reports only to Director of National Intelligence. FBI is answerable to both Director of National Intelligence and Attorney General.

Leave a Comment