How Did The White House Find Its Twitter Mole?

The same way leakers are always surfaced ““ with misinformation.

Logos for the microblogging site Twitter, displayed on the internet on September 13, 2013 in London, England.
National Journal
Tom DeFrank
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Tom DeFrank
Oct. 24, 2013, 10:25 a.m.

The sting that helped furi­ous White House plumb­ers un­mask the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil of­fi­cial driv­ing them crazy with snarky Tweets is a time-honored device of­ten em­ployed at high levels of gov­ern­ment to identi­fy leak­ers.

“It’s an easy way to nail some­body who talks too much,” laughed a former seni­or polit­ic­al ad­viser to a Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­ent ex­pert in such ploys. “You drop a harm­less little nug­get in­to a meet­ing where every­one is in on the scam ex­cept the sus­pec­ted leak­er. Then when the in­form­a­tion pops up some­where - bingo.”

Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Coun­cil staffer Jofi Joseph was fired last week after be­ing ex­posed as the cre­at­ive tal­ent be­hind @nat­sec­wonk, an an­onym­ous Twit­ter ac­count that routinely trashed such Obama heavy-hit­ters as coun­selor Valer­ie Jar­rett (“vacu­ous cipher”), NSC chief Susan Rice and UN am­bas­sad­or Sam­antha Power - not to men­tion former sec­ret­ary of state Hil­lary Clin­ton and oth­er Obama­World stal­warts.

Pub­lished re­ports say that top Obama ad­visers, en­raged and em­bar­rassed by the com­ment­ary, de­cided to leak in­noc­u­ous ma­ter­i­al to Joseph to see if it turned up on the no­tori­ous snark-site. It’s not clear the ploy pro­duced the pro­ver­bi­al “smoking gun,” but sud­denly Joseph was fired. In a state­ment, he ad­mit­ted to be­ing the an­onym­ous agent- pro­vocateur and apo­lo­gized to “every­one I in­sul­ted.”

There’s a fam­ous co­rol­lary to this prac­tice that helped un­der­mine White House chief of staff Don­ald Regan. Dur­ing Ron­ald Re­agan’s second term, some seni­or White House of­fi­cials eager to grease the skids un­der Regan con­cocted snappy one-liners cer­tain to make it in­to print from ap­pre­ci­at­ive journ­al­ists. But there was a twist: the an­onym­ous quotes of­ten con­tained a fa­vor­ite Regan phrase (“and the like”). When Nancy Re­agan, nev­er a Regan fan, saw some of the pro­voc­at­ive quotes she im­me­di­ately as­sumed Regan was the leak­er. Nancy’s rage was a prime factor in Regan be­ing forced out of his job in 1987.

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