The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), one of the world’s foremost spy organisations, stepped into a rather public domain for the first time on Friday — Twitter.
After a lengthy legal battle against an apparent impostor who cornered the “@CIA” handle on the micro-blogging site, which the Agency clearly won, it announced its arrival on Friday with the chuckle-inducing message: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.” The agency scooped up an impressive 100,000 followers in a couple of hours. It however follows only 25 accounts, all of them U.S. federal agency handles, including the FBI, Department of Homeland Security, NASA, Library of Congress, DARPA, Department of State, White House, ODNI and various military wings.
The CIA’s Twitter entry was greeted with a mix of humour, enthusiasm and disapprobation.
Top secret revelations
Most striking was the response of WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website that has in the past published online vast troves of confidential U.S. government data.
Responding to the CIA’s first tweet WikiLeaks said, “.@CIA We look forward to sharing great classified info about you,” and posted several links to top-secret CIA documents on two controversial subjects.
The first was the Agency’s report into shoring up Afghan war support in Western Europe in 2010 by exploiting PR weaknesses in allied forces nations, and the second related to the so-called “Red Cell” Memorandum which worried about combating the international reputation that the U.S. might get that it was “exporting terrorism,” also from 2010.
The Agency’s Twitter bio reads: “We are the Nation’s first line of defence. We accomplish what others cannot accomplish and go where others cannot go.”
Reports on the legal challenge for the “@CIA” handle quoted the Agency’s public affairs director Dean Boyd saying, “There was someone out there impersonating CIA via Twitter. CIA filed an impersonation complaint with Twitter and they secured the @CIA account for us, which is routine for government agencies.”