• 09.28.11

The Netflix Of Terrorism

Terrorist organizations are notorious videographers–particularly when it comes to uploading clips to the web to spread messages or recruit sympathizers. Now private company IntelCenter has assembled one of the world’s largest collections of streaming terrorist videos for viewing on demand.

The Netflix Of Terrorism
Osama bin Laden

Terrorist organizations love making videos and uploading them to the Internet. It’s a quick and effective way of getting their message across–and not just for potential recruits and sympathizers. A private company, IntelCenter, has assembled one of the world’s largest collections of streaming terrorist videos for viewing by the military, intelligence, and academic communities.


The video archive, called IntelCenter Database: Video Component, contains approximately 15,000 terrorist and rebel-produced propaganda videos. According to IntelCenter’s Ben Venzke, the archive mainly contains video from “non-nation state actors, be they small or large, that are actively involved in bombings, kidnappings, shootings, insurgencies, and the like.” In other words: More FARC and al-Qaeda and fewer creepy, angry teenagers in their bedrooms. Users who subscribe to the service can instantly watch the videos and search by keywords and (terrorist) content creators, just as they could on Netflix or YouTube.

Homeland Security–the sprawling conglomeration of counter-terrorism, intelligence gathering, surveillance, and fearmongering that arose after the September 11 attacks–is big business. According to the left-leaning National Priorities Project, a staggering $69 billion dollars was allocated by the federal government for homeland security during fiscal year 2011. This is a massive source of revenue for the many private firms creating services and products used by federal and local governments. Access to IntelCenter’s video archive doesn’t come cheap; individual accounts for government users go for $9,995/year apiece or $65,000 for group licenses of 6-10 users. Substantially more affordable packages are available for private security and academic subscribers that begin at $2,320 annually. The cheaper levels give the user access to the same content but limit the number of search fields that can be used.

Subscribers to IntelCenter’s services are not limited to the United States; according to the company, their products are also designed to service intelligence analysts and military in Canada, Australia, Europe, and other regions worldwide.

IntelCenter’s Venzke tells Fast Company that his company offers intelligence service-level video archives to researchers, private security professionals, corporate securities, universities, and the media. The archive grew out of the previously existing IntelCenter Database, which offers text-based background information and reference materials on militant groups.

Users can search terrorist videos on the site by release date, the militant organization that created it, video producer (ironically enough, jihadists have formed their own media organizations such as as-Sahab Media), speaker, language, main themes, and regional focus. Although thousands of terrorist and militant-produced videos are currently available on the Internet–ironically mainly through mainstream content archivers such as YouTube–the considerable time spent searching video archives in both English and foreign languages for a particular video does present a difficulty. One of IntelCenter’s strongest selling points is that they reduce the manpower hours needed to retrieve older propaganda videos.

Videos viewed through the site stream up to HD quality and can be watched either in a window or full-screen. Users can also view videos on their smartphones or tablets; the service is compatible with Android devices as well as the iPhone or iPad and offers both HTML5 and Flash video. According to Venzke, the archive “grows at a rate of about 3-20 new videos a day.”

Thankfully for intelligence agencies and counter-terrorism investigators, militant organizations love producing video clips and Internet propaganda. Hezbollah has their own satellite television network with a huge Internet presence and terrorist groups worldwide use YouTube to reach sympathizers before their videos are (sometimes) pulled down. Just this week, al-Qaeda in Yemen released the latest issue of their English-language propaganda magazine online–the PDF-format magazine encouraged readers to target “the populations of countries that are at war with the Muslims.”


The growth market in Homeland Security means that a streaming video site aimed at intelligence and corporate security is smart business. Police departments and regional law enforcement around the country generally have generous funds to spend on Homeland Security; the New York Police Department’s counter-terrorism unit is currently dealing with fallout from an Associated Press expose. Those big budgets translate into money to spend on all sorts of tools developed by private firms. More importantly, there are relatively few public-access databases archiving videos from militant organizations that can be easily searched without bouncing between English, Arabic, Spanish, Urdu, and other foreign-language queries. Promoting that capability, for IntelCenter and the many other small companies serving the Homeland Security industry, can be very profitable.

[Story images: IntelCenter]

For more stories like this, follow @fastcompany on Twitter. Email Neal Ungerleider, the author of this article, here or find him on Twitter and Google+.