How to Become a Counterterrorism Analyst with the Central Intelligence Agency

Counterterrorism analysts with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) are responsible for assessing the intentions and motivations of foreign terrorist groups. From understanding the plans and capabilities of these groups to identifying specific threats to the U.S. and its interests, counterterrorism analysts are the CIA professionals who are called up to preempt attacks and disrupt foreign terrorist networks, thereby defeating them.

These intelligence analysts perform any number of duties, including:

  • Analyzing information on terrorist groups as to gain an understanding of their activities, objectives, and plans
  • Producing written intelligence products regarding their findings
  • Briefing U.S. policymakers and foreign partners
  • Briefing military officials and intelligence partners
  • Providing analytic support to law enforcement and U.S. partners
  • Supporting intelligence operations by highlighting counter terrorism targeting opportunities

As experts of analysis, counterterrorism analysts are called upon to study and evaluate information from a wide variety of sources. Intelligence received may include foreign newspapers, foreign broadcasts, human intelligence, and satellite surveillance, just to name a few. These professionals must be able to take often incomplete or conflicting information and develop “meaningful and usable” intelligence assessments.

The CIA’s Counterterrorism Center

The CIA’s war on terror and all of its related activities and actions are conducted through the CIA Counterterrorism Center, which is designed to meld operational and analytical components ato thwart terrorist plots and organizations through all-source analyses.

The Counterterrorism Center works with a number of U.S. government agencies and foreign liaison partners to target terrorist leaders and cells, disrupt their plots, destroy their safe havens, and sever their ties to finances and logistics.

All-source analyses is vital to the successful operations of the Counterterrorism Center, as it supports and drives counterterrorism operations. One of the fundamental objectives of the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center is to wage a high-stakes war against al-Qaida and other terrorist groups that threaten the U.S., its partners, and its interests.

The analysts of the CIA are revered for their honor, integrity, and objectivity, as well as their commitment to our nation’s security.

Becoming a Counterterrorism Analyst

Individuals who want to become a counterterrorism analyst with the CIA must be a United States citizen, and they must possess, at a minimum, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in national security studies, international affairs, or a related field.

Individuals with the most desirable qualifications have:

  • Specific regional expertise/foreign area knowledge
  • A foreign language proficiency
  • A high GPA in their college degree program
  • Relevant experience as an analyst
  • Strong verbal presentation skills
  • Strong written skills
  • Excellent analytical abilities
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • The ability to think creatively
  • The ability to work under strict deadlines

All counterterrorism analysts with the CIA are encouraged to maintain and build upon their expertise by pursuing additional studies in relevant field; by pursuing academic study in their field of expertise; and by attending professional meetings.  The CIA often provides counterterrorism analysts with opportunities for foreign travel, language training, other assignments in the Agency, and analytic and management training.

Candidates for counterterrorism analyst jobs with the CIA must complete a number of assessments as part of the pre-employment process, which includes a medical examination, a psychological examination, and a polygraph examination. All candidates must be able to pass the CIA’s extensive background investigative process, as well.

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