The recently commissioned Linac Coherent Light Source is an X-ray free-electron laser at the SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory. It produces coherent soft and hard X-rays with peak brightness nearly ten orders of magnitude beyond conventional synchrotron sources and a range of pulse durations from 500 to <10 fs (10-15 s). With these beam characteristics this light source is capable of imaging the structure and dynamics of matter at atomic size and timescales. The facility is now operating at X-ray wavelengths from 22 to 1.2 Å and is presently delivering this high-brilliance beam to a growing array of scientific researchers. We describe the operation and performance of this new `fourth-generation light source'.