You may recall seeing movies where spy agencies use public outlets such as coded classified ads or numbers stations to deliver secret messages to their agents on missions where getting in touch with them through other means could end up blowing their cover. This isn’t something that Hollywood dreamt up. There’s a long history of spy agencies actually using such methods to get in touch with their contacts and according to a new report, the U.S. National Security Agency used Twitter to send such coded messages to a Russian contact.
The New York Times and The Intercept have both reported that the National Security Agency used Twitter to send coded messages to a Russian contact “nearly a dozen times.” According to the report, the Russian contact claimed to have the stolen NSA hacking tools and even compromising material on President Trump.
The NSA would reportedly inform their contact in advance to expect public tweets which would either give him a signal to make contact or to let him know that they were open to further communication.
It’s also mentioned in the report that these tweets were sent in throughout last year and included the usual self-promotion messages as well as tweets advocating for the FISA section that authorizes the agency to conduct warrantless mass surveillance.
The agency didn’t really get much out of the time that it spent dealing with the Russian contact. He wanted $1 million as payment in return for the tools and other information. The NSA had $100,000 delivered to him but the deal was cut off when he instead provided information that claimed to link President Trump and his associates to Russia.
According to reports, only some of the information provided by the contact was verifiable and that the NSA was concerned about getting caught up in a Russian government operation to sow discord in the U.S. administration.