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, her 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

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News you may have missed #759 (analysis edition)

Carter HamBy IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
►►What goes on in the mind of a spy? An interesting article on the psychology of espionage operatives and those who handle them. It includes several insightful observations, including this one: “Just as they face outward physical dangers, agents face many inner psychological adversities. These pressures in the psyche are as taxing as physical hardships. Furthermore, while physical hazards and hardships disappear once the active espionage is over, the psychological toll can linger”. IntelNews has covered psychological and psychiatric issues around espionage before.
►►Researchers propose using decoys to detect leaks. A group or researchers working for the US Pentagon’s research wing have come up with a new plan for busting leakers: spot them by how they search, and then entice the secret-spillers with decoy documents that will give them away. Computer scientists call it it “fog computing”, and it is seen as part of a broader assault on so-called “insider threats”, launched by the Pentagon in 2010, after the WikiLeaks imbroglio. In a related development, the US federal government announced recently that it spent over $11 billion to protect its secrets last year, double the cost of classification a decade ago. The total does not include the costs incurred by the US Intelligence Community, which remains classified.
►►US General says US military spies ‘across Africa’. America’s top commander in Africa, General Carter Ham, has revealed that the US military has conducted spy operations all over the continent as part of the fight against international adversaries from al Qaeda-allied terror groups that target the homeland to suspected war criminals like Joseph Kony. “Do we collect information across Africa? Yes, we do”, the commander of US Africa Command said in a leadership conference at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Ham noted that US troops do at times go on “short-term deployments of capabilities” in various African nations, but always with the permission of the host country.

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Post-9/11 torture sparked internal dissent, rift between FBI and CIA

Abu Zubaida

Abu Zubaida

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Citing interviews with almost “two dozen [anonymous] current and former US officials” The Washington Post has revealed crucial new background information on the CIA’s torture methodology after 9/11. The exposé, by reporters Joby Warrick and Peter Finn, helps piece together some of the complex puzzle of internal decisions that led US interrogators to resort to waterboarding and other forms of torture against “war on terrorism” detainees. The article focuses on Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, two psychologists who were hired by the CIA to design an elaborate ten-stage harsh interrogation program (see previous intelNews report). According to The Washington Post, Mitchell, who was the program’s mastermind, told associates he had modeled it on the theory of “learned helplessness”, used by professional psychologists “to describe people or animals reduced to a state of complete helplessness by some form of coercion or pain, such as electric shock”. Read more of this post

Psychologists behind CIA torture named

By IAN ALLEN | intelNews.org |
Two American psychologists behind the CIA’s “enhanced interrogation” program, which the President of the United States has described as torture, have been named by ABC News. They are Jim Mitchell and Bruce Jessen, former military officers and partners in Mitchell, Jessen and Associates, a company based in Spokane, WA. The two psychologists were hired by the CIA to design an elaborate ten-stage interrogation program, which culminated in waterboarding. Interestingly, the Agency hired the two scientists, offering them a lucrative $1000-a-day contract, without checking whether they had any experience in interrogation techniques. Agency officials later discovered that Mitchell and Jessen has significantly less professional experience in the psychology of interrogation than they had led the CIA to believe. The two psychologists were contacted by ABC News, but declined to comment, citing non-disclosure contracts with the CIA.