But for some, watching this graphic material is all in a day’s work. Imagery analysts and terrorism experts at U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, the NSA, and the National Counterterrorism Center, sit in banal warrens of cubicles or in closed rooms in top-secret facilities scrutinizing the details of a nightmarish gallery of prisoner beheadings, attacks on U.S. military forces, and sexual abuse of children. It’s their job to find clues in the material that might indicate how an attack was carried out, when another might be coming, and where terrorists are holding their hostages.
The work can take an extraordinary toll on the analyst’s’ emotional state, Five current and former intelligence officers told The Daily Beast. And so the CIA, NSA, and other intelligence agencies employ a cadre of psychiatrists and therapists to help analysts cope with the onslaught of often horrific, sometimes pornographic images they’re seeing.