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US Intelligence Used Porn to Break Down Iraqi Detainees

A National Security Agency (NSA) staffer deployed to Iraq led a counterterrorism and counter-intelligence mission involving forensic investigations on computers seized in raids. The staffer’s “Media Exploitation” team claimed they found pornographic videos and photos alongside thousands of audio files of the Quran and sermons, and recruitment and training CDs with video of bombings, torture, and beheadings. The team “jokingly” referred to the content as the three big P’s: “porn, propaganda and prayer.”

Reports and files were distributed to the NSA, CIA, and the Defense Intelligence Agency. Among the material gathered by the team were military units interrogating captured Iraqi prisoners. The Special Forces interrogators found the pornography “extremely useful in breaking down detainees who maintained that they were devout Muslims, but had porn on their computers.” Marines also gave the staff seized computers, CDs, phones, and radios directly from the battlefield—some covered in blood. Pornographic material was said to be used in interrogations to help keep the “bad guys” behind bars.

The use of pornography as a tool for covert operations is not a new story. A former interrogator at the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba said that pornography was used at the facility to reward some detainees and as a tool against others, who were forced to look at the material. The intelligence community has also used seized pornography as a form of propaganda. In November 2017, the CIA released files recovered from the deadly raid of Osama bin Laden’s hideaway in Pakistan in an effort to further enhance public understanding of Al-Qaeda. The agency noted that the trove recovered from the compound contained pornography. The discovery of pornography on bin Laden’s computers was leaked to the media within days of the raid. A New York Times story reported that the adult material “will be welcomed by counterterrorism officials because it could tarnish his legacy and erode the appeal of his brand of religious extremism.”

Given their Muslim faith, it is a breach of humane treatment to manipulate the Iraqi detainees using pornography—guilty or not. Although it remains unclear whether the pornography was actually on the Iraqi detainees’ computers before they were seized, this is one of the many instances where US intelligence personnel have used pornography for psychological warfare purposes.

There has been no mention of this story on any establishment media platforms. The Intercept so far is the only place where this story has been reported.

Sources:

“NSAer Investigates Computers Seized in Raids in Iraq,” The Intercept, March 1, 2018, https://theintercept.com/snowden-sidtoday/4389680-nsaer-investigates-computers-seized-in-raids-in.

Margot Williams, Talya Cooper, and Micah Lee, “NSA Used Porn to ‘Break Down Detainees’ in Iraq – and Other Revelations From 297 Snowden Documents,” The Intercept, March 1, 2018, https://theintercept.com/2018/03/01/iraq-porn-nsa-snowden-files-sidtoday.

Student Researcher: Khari McKendell (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Researcher: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

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