Obama Officials Set Up a Sting to Catch a Twitter Renegade and Office Gossip

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Oct. 24 2013 10:43 AM

To Catch a Twitter Renegade: National Security Council Edition

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This picture taken on February 9, 2010 in Paris shows the internet homepage of the microblogging website Twitter

Photo by Loic Venance/AFP/Getty Images

National Security Council staffer Jofi Joseph was fired this week after being exposed as the anonymous tweeter behind @natsecwonk, a handle that produced a steady stream of criticism and personal attacks directed at officials within the White House and the State Department. At fewer than 1,600 followers, the since-discontinued account didn't have a national audience. It did, however, have a powerful one: namely those Obama administration officials who were often the target of his 140-character-or-less zingers.

Just how much did Joseph's previously secret alter ego frustrate those within the administration? The Washington Post offers this anecdote to sum things up:

Three weeks ago, [a group of White House and State Department officials] hatched a plan to trick the suspected NSC staffer into revealing himself. They would intentionally plant inaccurate, but harmless, information with him to see if it would pop up as a 140-character tweet, according to a U.S. official with knowledge of the effort.
It is not clear whether the sting led directly to the unmasking last week of Jofi Joseph, 40, who was ... fired from his position on the administration’s Iran negotiations team. But the lengths to which White House officials went to find Joseph reveal how much of an embarrassment his Twitter feed had become inside the West Wing and across the street at the stately Eisenhower Executive Office Building, where Joseph worked alongside his NSC colleagues while secretly skewering them online.
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The Post, which has much more on Joseph and his Twitter account, also has a mini slide show of @natsecwonk's best/worst tweets that's worth a look. They range from the simple ("'Has shitty staff.' #ObamaInThreeWords") to the specific ("It's pathetic how @AmbassadorPower keeps tweeting on Syria when her own President refuses to do anything about it. You've sold out, Sam.").

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

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