CIA Analysts Must Watch Videos Of ISIS Beheadings, Horrific Attacks, And Child Abuse

While most people turn their heads from the grotesque videos posted by terrorist groups from across the globe, there are groups of analysts working for the U.S. Intelligence Agencies that sometimes spend days at a time watching ISIS beheadings, graphic videos of attacks, and hardcore child pornography.

These analysts working for the NSA, CIA, or National Counterterrorism Center, are watching the videos in hopes of gaining clues about future attacks, terrorist identities, or identifying information of interest. However, the job comes at a great toll on the viewers mental and sometimes physical health. Therefore, these analysts have a dedicated team of psychologists who work with them to deal with the emotional trauma they may experience while watching some of these horrific acts play out.

The Daily Beast reports that the CIA, NSA, and other counterterrorism organizations within the United States have top-secret facilities, where analysts work at uncovering secrets hidden withing terrorist propaganda videos or videos and photographs obtained from terrorist computers. The reports indicate that the vast majority of these videos are pornographic in nature and many times feature children. These are videos that the vast majority of people in the United States are not typically exposed to and many CIA agents find the videos difficult to watch. Despite the horrific nature of many of the videos, teams of analysts must watch the scenes unfold in an attempt to find hidden messages within the videos to identify faces or places and to look for possible clues about future attacks.

These videos are watched in a dedicated “porn room.” While in many offices this may be seen as an “employment perk,” it is anything but an office perk at the CIA. In fact, former CIA analysts say that the videos featuring hardcore child pornography were some of the hardest and most emotionally taxing to watch.

“It turns out terrorists love watching porn. Stacks of hard core videos were found in Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. And terrorists have been known to embed encrypted messages inside digital porn clips and photos. U.S. analysts have to examine the material to ensure that it doesn’t contain any useful intelligence. Some of the material features children. Those videos, a former officer said, were harder to watch than anything else.”

Since the job is so demanding, the CIA has a team of psychologists who offer support to the individuals who sometimes must watch the gruesome videos for days on end. Most of the psychologists themselves have seen the videos and offer ways for the individual to process what they are seeing in the least emotionally traumatic way.

The Daily Mail notes that a senior physician with the CIA’s Office of Medical Services says that before any member of the antiterrorism team watches a graphic and disturbing video, they are reminded that they have psychological support services available. The response to the videos can be mixed, according to doctors. Some people become grief-stricken for long periods of time after watching the video, an agent may become depressed or even physically ill. However, some analysts use their feelings to channel a strong feeling of accountability. They get a strong and sudden urge to “hold responsible parties accountable.”

“Analysts often suffer sensations of sickness, bouts of grief, and periods of depression. It is also common for analysts to feel angry or want to hold responsible parties accountable.”

NSA spokesperson Vanee Vines notes that the job is hard but is vitally important to antiterrorism measures. She notes that extensive psychological testing is done before putting an analyst into a room with this type of material and that psychological support is a vital part of the program.

“The NSA has long offered psychological consultation and intervention services to support our employees’ important work against today’s increasingly complex global threats.”

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