Trump’s Twitter feed is ‘gold mine’ for foreign spies, says ex-CIA analyst

Trump 2016With nearly 53 million Twitter followers, United States President Donald Trump could easily be described as the most social-media-friendly American leader in our century. It is clear that Trump uses Twitter to communicate directly with his followers while circumventing mainstream media, which he views as adversarial to his policies. However, according to former Central Intelligence Agency analyst Nada Bakos, foreign intelligence agencies are among those paying close attention to the president’s tweets. Bakos spent 20 years in the CIA, notably as the Chief Targeter of the unit that tracked down Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the founder of al-Qaeda in Iraq, which later evolved into the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. In a June 23 editorial in The Washington Post, Bakos argues that President Trump’s “Twitter feed is a gold mine for every foreign intelligence agency”.

All intelligence agencies, explains Bakos, build psychological profiles of foreign leaders. These profiles typically rely on information collected through intelligence operations that are “methodical, painstaking and often covert”. The final product can be crucial in enabling countries to devise strategies that counter their adversaries, says Bakos. But with Trump, covert intelligence-collection operations are not needed in order to see what is on his mind, since “the president’s unfiltered thoughts are available night and day”, she claims. The former CIA analyst points out that President Trump’s tweets are posted “without much obvious mediation” by his aides and advisors, something that can be seen by the frequency with which he deletes and reposts tweets due to spelling and grammatical errors. These unfiltered thoughts on Twitter offer a “real-time glimpse of a major world leader’s preoccupations, personality quirks and habits of mind”, says Bakos.

Undoubtedly, she argues, foreign intelligence agencies are utilizing President Trump’s tweets in numerous ways while building his personality profile. The most obvious ways are by performing content analysis of his tweets, which could then be matched against information collected from other sources about major US policy decisions. Additionally, foreign intelligence agencies could identify media sources that the US president seems to prefer, and then try to feed information to these sources that might sway his views. Countries like Saudi Arabia and Russia may have done so already, claims Bakos. The US president’s views, as expressed through Twitter, could also be compared and contrasted with the expressed views of his aides or senior cabinet officials, in order to discern who he agrees with the least. It is equally useful to analyze the issues or events that the US president does not tweet about, or tweets about with considerable delay. One could even derive useful information about Trump’s sleeping patterns based on his tweets, says the former CIA analyst.

Bakos does not go as far as to suggest that the US president should abstain from social media. But she clearly thinks that the US leader’s use of social media is too impulsive and potentially dangerous from a national-security perspective. She also laments that, throughout her career in the CIA, she and her team “never had such a rich source of raw intelligence about a world leader, and we certainly never had the opportunity that our adversaries (and our allies) have now”, thanks to Trump’s incessant social media presence.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 03 July 2018 | Permalink

4 Responses to Trump’s Twitter feed is ‘gold mine’ for foreign spies, says ex-CIA analyst

  1. US President Donald Trump has 53.2 million Twitter followers as per his profile on July 4, 2018. Please check the figure you have mentioned in the article.

  2. intelNews says:

    @Shubham Ghosh: Thanks for the correction. Nada Bakos used 33 million in her article, but that was clearly in error. [JF]

  3. niekro2 says:

    The authors of this article, in my opinion, missed a great opportunity by utilizing only linear thinking in this article. President Trump Tweets and uses social media more than any other US President thus allowing our adversaries valuable intelligence into how he thinks, how he articulates policy, and who his supporters and non supporters are allowing adversaries to utilize those relationships to their benefit. This is an ‘obvious’ observation without orientation. I agree 100% and those who need to know these things must be aware of exactly what you’re talking about.

    President Trump despite this plethora of free unfiltered human intelligence has somehow managed to best his republican establishment, democrat, and media adversaries to further his domestic policy with great success.

    On the world stage Pres. Trump has used his tweeting and social media to best our foreign adversaries and better America’s standing with our neighbors and foes alike.

    The non-linear side of this story is that Pres. Trump understands public opinion, media, and Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs better than his adversaries, consultants, friend and foe alike. Pres. Trump, since he through his hat in the ring, has used social media to talk directly with whomever he feels he must send a message in a direct or indirect fashion and the rest of the world has not quite caught up yet.

    Our intelligence communities have been so focused on tech intel the human intel side has been sorely underutilized much to our detriment. Trump is using a sophisticated yet simple technique Observe, orient, decide, act.

    This administration is dealing with spies both inside and outside the walls. As we all know it is the spies inside the walls that bring down civilizations and governments. Spies like good Presidents rely on human relationships to practice their craft. The world is an interconnectivity with many disciplines from hard science, business, arts, poetry, classics, coding, sports, music, cooking, auto repair, surgery, trading commodities, writing articles, and world history of civilizations. All these strings are connected and social media is just a new seat and sound in the orchestra except maybe our President is playing Jazz while everyone else is just reading notes off of a rigid piece of sheet music.

    Remember a whole boatload of fundamental and technical things must happen before bond futures move up or down. Life is when the unexpected little things happen, especially on those rare occasions when you get a glimpse into those empty spaces where conventional people aren’t always looking and something new comes into focus.

  4. Shubham Ghosh says:

    Thanks so much intelNews

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