Somewhere in Virginia, hundreds of CIA analysts are hunched over computers right now, reading Twitter and Facebook posts. This team—affectionately dubbed the “vengeful librarians”—monitors some 5 million social media posts a day, looking for signs of unrest and a general read on the zeitgeist overseas, the AP reports. They predicted the Egyptian revolution, let Barack Obama know how his policies are perceived abroad, and can provide the US with reports during traditional media blackouts, such as during last spring's riots in Bangkok.
The unit’s director describes his ideal operative as a little like Lisbeth Salander from the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, a quirky hacker who “knows how to find stuff other people don’t know exist.” He targets multilingual library science majors in particular. Because it’s often impossible to track tweets to a specific location, their analysis is broken down by language. It winds up in President Obama’s security briefing nearly every day.