On Friday afternoon, America's top spy agency announced its arrival on Twitter with this pithy tweet:
We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.— CIA (@CIA) June 6, 2014
The Glomar Explorer, as WNYC’s Radiolab explains, was built by the CIA with help from Howard Hughes for the six year (1968-1974) Project Azorian. Project Azorian was a secret, ambitious endeavor to salvage and examine a Soviet Golf-II class submarine — and its three one-megaton nuclear missiles — which had sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor 1,560 miles northwest of Hawaii. As Project Azorian developed, Seymour Hersh sniffed a story, but the CIA successfully convinced The New York Times to suppress publication.
A year later a journalist, Ann Phillippi, filed a Freedom of Information Act request for documents about the Glomar Explorer and the CIA’s attempts to censor press coverage. The CIA, questionably citing FOIA law, claimed it could “neither confirm nor deny” that documents about either the ship or the censorship existed; a judge agreed. The term “Glomar response” stuck. And so did the the ability for the CIA (and the entire US government) to refuse to confirm or deny the existence of documents in response to FOIA requesters.
Funny tweets, one of the best ways to get people's attention on the increasingly busy social Web (see: this story you're reading right now), are a content monkey's best friend. Naturally, every digital journalist with a pulse raced to get a story up about this hilarious tweet and how hilarious it is. Awl proprieter Choire Sicha summed up the digital gold rush nicely (and yes, in a tweet):
Fire everyone. pic.twitter.com/Bh4qoR3KPO— Choire (@Choire) June 6, 2014
Gawker's Adam Weinstein had the fastest and most on-the-nose response to this kneejerk fawning, but it's actually the New York Review of Books — a publication not necessarily known for it's Internet savvy — that laid out the perfect welcome for the Central Intelligence Agency:
Each tweet links to a New York Review of Books article entitled "U.S. Torture: Voices From the Black Sites", a lengthy review of the International Red Cross's 2009 Report on the Treatment of Fourteen “High Value Detainees” in CIA Custody.
The NYRB's mocking tweets hold an important message we should all remember: This Twitter account is a messaging arm of a spy agency, not a real channel for transparency or, yes, a silly source for Internet jokes.