Why the Pentagon Announced the U.S. Airstrike in Iraq in a Tweet

These days, the Obama administration is trying to make its own national security announcements before everyone else does.

Iraqis who fled violence in the northern city of Tal Afar, walk at the Bahrka camp that hosts displaced people in the Kurdistan region on July 12.
National Journal
Marina Koren
Aug. 8, 2014, 7:23 a.m.

No press brief­ing by the Pentagon is ex­pec­ted on Fri­day. But there may be tweets.

The Pentagon press sec­ret­ary an­nounced Fri­day that U.S. forces launched an air­strike against Is­lam­ic mil­it­ants in Ir­aq, us­ing just 132 char­ac­ters and giv­ing Twit­ter the news of the United States’ reen­gage­ment in that coun­try first.

It’s a mo­ment­ous tweet, and one that shows an ad­min­is­tra­tion that is in­creas­ingly try­ing to get ahead of its own ma­jor na­tion­al se­cur­ity an­nounce­ments through so­cial me­dia. When The New York Times re­por­ted that U.S. forces had car­ried out air­strikes on at least two tar­gets of the Is­lam­ic State in Ir­aq and Syr­ia, the Pentagon went first to Twit­ter to deny it, sev­er­al hours be­fore Pres­id­ent Obama gave an of­fi­cial state­ment lay­ing out his plans.

On Twit­ter, where people spread in­form­a­tion faster than the fast­est news­wire, the White House is just an­oth­er user. That much be­came clear in 2011, when news of the killing of al-Qaida lead­er Osama bin Laden by U.S. spe­cial forces broke on the so­cial-me­dia plat­form be­fore the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion could an­nounce it.

The White House at that time had sug­ges­ted something big was com­ing when its com­mu­nic­a­tions dir­ect­or, Dan Pfeif­fer, tweeted that Obama would soon ad­dress the na­tion. So­haib Ath­ar un­know­ingly beat them to it when he began live-tweet­ing the spe­cial forces raid in the city of Ab­bot­tabad, where he lived. Minutes be­fore the sched­uled ad­dress, Keith Ur­bahn, a former chief of staff un­der Don­ald Rums­feld, tweeted, “So I’m told by a reput­able per­son they have killed Osama Bin Laden. Hot damn.” The news spread rap­idly from there, and with­in half an hour, the me­dia was re­port­ing on bin Laden’s death.

The Pentagon re­leased an of­fi­cial state­ment Fri­day shortly after its tweet, de­scrib­ing the air­strike. Two com­bat jets struck ar­til­lery Fri­day morn­ing that U.S. of­fi­cials say IS­IS was us­ing to shell Kur­d­ish forces de­fend­ing the city of Er­bil, where U.S. per­son­nel are loc­ated. Obama said Thursday night that the U.S. mil­it­ary will con­tin­ue to con­duct air­strikes against IS­IS if the group con­tin­ues its ad­vance in Er­bil.

Pentagon of­fi­cials will not take dir­ect ques­tions from re­port­ers on Fri­day. But should any­thing hap­pen that war­rants an alert to the pub­lic, they know where to go.

What We're Following See More »
AT LEAST NOT YET
Paul Ryan Can’t Get Behind Trump
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

Paul Ryan told CNN today he's "not ready" to back Donald Trump at this time. "I'm not there right now," he said. Ryan said Trump needs to unify "all wings of the Republican Party and the conservative movement" and then run a campaign that will allow Americans to "have something that they're proud to support and proud to be a part of. And we've got a ways to go from here to there."

Source:
STAFF PICKS
Preet Bharara Learned at the Foot of Chuck Schumer
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

In The New Yorker, Jeffrey Toobin gives Preet Bharara, the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the longread treatment. The scourge of corrupt New York pols, bad actors on Wall Street, and New York gang members, Bharara learned at the foot of Chuck Schumer, the famously limelight-hogging senator whom he served as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee staff. No surprise then, that after President Obama appointed him, Bharara "brought a media-friendly approach to what has historically been a closed and guarded institution. In professional background, Bharara resembles his predecessors; in style, he’s very different. His personality reflects his dual life in New York’s political and legal firmament. A longtime prosecutor, he sometimes acts like a budding pol; his rhetoric leans more toward the wisecrack than toward the jeremiad. He expresses himself in the orderly paragraphs of a former high-school debater, but with deft comic timing and a gift for shtick."

Source:
DRUG OFFENDERS
Obama Commutes the Sentences of 58 Prisoners
5 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

President Obama has announced another round of commutations of prison sentences. Most of the 58 individuals named are incarcerated for possessions with intent to distribute controlled substances. The prisoners will be released between later this year and 2018.

STAFF PICKS
Trump Roadmapped His Candidacy in 2000
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

The Daily Beast has unearthed a piece that Donald Trump wrote for Gear magazine in 2000, which anticipates his 2016 sales pitch quite well. "Perhaps it's time for a dealmaker who can get the leaders of Congress to the table, forge consensus, and strike compromise," he writes. Oddly, he opens by defending his reputation as a womanizer: "The hypocrites argue that a man who loves and appreciates beautiful women (and does so legally and openly) shouldn't become a national leader? Is there something wrong with appreciating beautiful women? Don't we want people in public office who show signs of life?"

Source:
‘NO MORAL OR ETHICAL GROUNDING’
Sen. Murphy: Trump Shouldn’t Get Classified Briefigs
6 hours ago
THE LATEST
×