The CIA has been earning rave reviews for the pitch-perfect comedy of its newly created Twitter account.
But while facetious tweets like “No, we don’t know where Tupac is” or “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet” have lent a little levity to an intelligence community buried by Edward Snowden’s airing of its spy-program laundry, the comedy has not dissuaded journalists from fact-checking at least one of the account’s claims.
In a lengthy article Friday, Washington Post journalist Barton Gellman attempted to answer some questions that have surfaced since he reported last week on a new Snowden leak. Buried deep in the report is a two-paragraph gem that says the CIA’s Twitter, while funny, is also propagating misinformation.
The CIA opened a Twitter account last month and has used cheeky humor to win a large following in a short time. On Monday, the account sent out this announcement: “No, we don’t know your password, so we can’t send it to you.” It went viral, with more than 12,000 retweets.
As it happens, the [National Security Agency] files we examined included 1,152 “minimized U.S. passwords,” meaning passwords to American e-mail and chat accounts intercepted from U.S. data links. Don’t expect tech support from Langley, but the CIA does have access to that raw traffic.
Those numbers come from a batch of 160,000 intercepted communications provided by Snowden, a tiny sample of the Internet data the NSA routinely collects. U.S. communications that are incidentally collected during surveillance of a foreign target are required to be “minimized,” meaning there are limits to how they can be searched. But such searches are not forbidden, and, Gellman notes, agencies can distribute U.S. identities in reports to one another.
Gellman’s big NSA exposé last week claimed that the vast majority of Internet accounts monitored by U.S. intelligence agencies do not belong to overseas targets, but instead to ordinary Internet users who communicate directly with those targets.
The implications of Gellman’s story are profound and serious, and partially refute some findings in a report from the president’s independent privacy-watchdog panel, which declared the NSA’s foreign surveillance techniques legal and effective.
The CIA Twitter account’s may be attempting to leverage levity for flexibility with the facts, but that’s unlikely to quell the horde of anti-surveillance activists who claim the intelligence community has persistently been misleading and dishonest about the true magnitude of its spy programs.
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The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals "has upheld the nationwide block of President Donald Trump's executive order restricting travel from several predominantly Muslim countries. ... It upholds the suspension of a revised version of the executive order that the Trump administration crafted to better hold up to legal scrutiny than an earlier version."
"American spies collected information last summer revealing that senior Russian intelligence and political officials were discussing how to exert influence over Donald J. Trump through his advisers." The conversations centered around Paul Manafort, who was campaign chairman at the time, and Michael Flynn, former national security adviser and then a close campaign surrogate. Both men have been tied heavily with Russia and Flynn is currently at the center of the FBI investigation into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
"Former FBI Director Robert Mueller has been cleared by U.S. Department of Justice ethics experts to oversee an investigation into possible collusion between then-candidate Donald Trump's 2016 election campaign and Russia." Some had speculated that the White House would use "an ethics rule limiting government attorneys from investigating people their former law firm represented" to trip up Mueller's appointment. Jared Kushner is a client of Mueller's firm, WilmerHale. "Although Mueller has now been cleared by the Justice Department, the White House may still use his former law firm's connection to Manafort and Kushner to undermine the findings of his investigation, according to two sources close to the White House."