Desperate bid by CIA to spruce up image


WHAT does it mean when an intelligence organisation officially makes itself available on social media networks?
The Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, recently opened its first official accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
The CIA also has accounts on YouTube and Flickr.
Within the first hour of its account, the CIA had already gained almost 85 200 followers.
Five hours later it had generated more than 200 000 followers.
The first tweet had been by then retweeted 70 000 times.
The Agency says this will help it to engage more directly with the public and make unclassified information more accessible.
In a press release, CIA director said by expanding to social media platforms, the agency will not only engage more with the public, American citizens, but also provide information on CIA, its history and other developments.
“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.”
According to the agency’s spokesperson, Dean Boyd, the CIA’s coming on to twitter had been a lengthy process.
Among the hurdles faced was the agency reclaiming its handle from an individual who was impersonating the CIA.
Before that, the handle @CIA belonged to the Cleveland Institute of Art, which ditched it because a lot of angry tweeters confused it with the spy agency.
There has been a hive of activity on the CIA’s twitter account.
Some of the account’s followers have dared the CIA to ‘follow’ Angela Merkel after Germany opened an investigation into the hacking of her phone by American spies.
Others have simply asked for help recovering their lost email passwords.
The New York Review of Books reacted to the launch of the CIA’s twitter account by tweeting links to articles about CIA interrogation methods for ‘high value detainees’ held since the 9/11 attacks.
As you know the CIA has been accused of violating human rights of detainees by using unorthodox forms of torture to extract information from them.
The tweet blasts by the journal were an apparent attempt to remind the Twitterverse that behind the CIA’s new social media façade lies a controversial history.
Other twitter followers are now using the CIA account to get their own kind of attention.
Tweets have been pouring into the agency’s timeline from all over the world, journalists, comedians, conspiracy theorists, companies all wanting a piece of the action.
One person tweeted to the CIA that “@CIA @twitter im a terrorist”.
He then added by placing a photo of a message purporting that the CIA had responded informing him that it had taken his information for security reasons and directing the user to delete their tweet.
Another person tweeted asking the whereabouts of the Malaysian plane. One twitter handle that spoofs the terror group Al-Qaida wrote “Newcomers@CIA have a verified account while we still don’t.
“Does @twitter prefer sinister govt spooks to honest terrorist? #favouritism”
Interestingly, Wikileaks, the whistleblower website, has also followed the CIA and welcomes the agency to twitter with a hilarious tweet, “@CIA We look forward to sharing great classified info about you.”
Especially when you know the CIA has been thanking those that have followed its account with this message, “We look forward to sharing great #unclassified content with you.”
The move by the CIA to open up as it were and expand into the social media networks are a public relations exercise to give it a face in light of the negative publicity it has been receiving.
The CIA is riddled with controversy over its ‘information gathering’ tactics that are in direct violation of human rights, the bugging of several international political figures has seen it being lambasted, recent reports that the agency also gathers financial information and personal data of Americans have turned the American public against it.
By opening its doors, to the ordinary American the CIA is trying to soothe things over.
Will coming to the social networks mark an improvement on the CIA’s image? I really do not think so.
The CIA will continue to be regarded with suspicion because of the loss of trust between it and the people it claims to be protecting.
Fear instead of mutual respect will continue to govern the relationship between the American public and the CIA unless it redeems itself and gives assurances that it will not infringe on the rights of Americans.


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