The CIA hasn’t gotten a lot of good press lately. The agency is embroiled in a brutal fight with the Senate Intelligence Committee over the content of a report documenting the use of torture under the Bush administration. Much of the public is wary of its drones that strike militants around the globe, particularly when the targets are American citizens. And just last month the White House accidentally revealed the identity of the CIA’s top spy in Afghanistan.
But on Friday, the agency scored an incredible psychological operations victory: The CIA joined Twitter, and with a clever first tweet managed to engineer a public relations coup (see what I did there?):
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.
— CIA (@CIA) June 6, 2014
That message has been retweeted more than 100,000 times and for anyone who has ever tried to write anything about the agency, it is a dark joke. In its capacity as America’s premier intelligence agency, the CIA is very good at controlling information about itself and its work. The phrase "neither confirm nor deny" is wonderful shorthand for the agency’s frequent refusal to reveal information about its operations, and its use on Twitter isn’t so much humorous as it is smugly ironic about the power vested in the agency.
In addition to Twitter, the agency also joined Facebook and in so doing says that it hopes to better communicate with the public. "By expanding to these platforms, CIA will be able to more directly engage with the public and provide information on CIA’s mission, history, and other developments," CIA Director John Brennan said in a statement. "We have important insights to share, and we want to make sure that unclassified information about the Agency is more accessible to the American public that we serve, consistent with our national security mission."
Needless to say, that pledge is highly unlikely to include greater transparency, making the CIA’s first tweet at best a smug jibe at those who have tried to pry the agency’s secrets into the open:
— Jon Schwarz (@tinyrevolution) June 6, 2014