After five years, CIA relives OBL operation on Twitter
ISLAMABAD – United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Monday relived the Navy SEALs operation to kill Al-Qaeda founder Osama Bin Laden by live tweeting the action five years after it actually happened in Pakistan’s garrison city of Abbottabad.
The live tweeting, however, was slammed on social media as ‘inappropriate’ and ‘distasteful.’ More, Twitter users criticised the agency.
Many others took to Twitter, using the agency’s hashtag, to express their discontent. One Twitter user called the move ‘grotesque and embarrassing.’ Others posted memes and gifs of people rolling their eyes and putting their heads in their hands. Still, the account boasts 1.33 million followers as of Sunday’s bin Laden commemoration.
The CIA’s first live tweet hashtagged #UBLRaid, begins: “1:25 pm EDT-@POTUS, DCIA Panetta, & JSOC commander Admiral McRaven approve execution of op in Abbottabad.”
At 1:15pm “Helicopters depart from Afghanistan for compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan.” Just under 90 minutes later, “2 helicopters descend on compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. 1 crashes, but assault continues without delay or injury.” Osama Bin Laden is “found on third floor and killed” at 3:39pm.
The last tweet, at 7:01pm, reads: “@POTUS (President Barrack Obama) receives confirmation of high probability of positive identification of Usama Bin Laden.”
Speaking on the fifth anniversary of his death, CIA director John Brennan said the United States had destroyed a large part of Al-Qaeda but “it’s not completely eliminated, so we have to stay focused on what it can do.”
He said removing Bin Laden had a great symbolic and strategic effect on Al-Qaeda and it was important to do the same thing with Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, head of the so-called Islamic State.
Bin Laden – March 10, 1957 – May 2, 2011 – was the founder of Al-Qaeda, the organisation that claimed responsibility for the September 11 attacks on the United States, along with numerous other mass-casualty attacks against civilian and military targets.
On May 2, 2011, Bin Laden was shot and killed inside a private residential compound in Abbottabad, where he lived with a local family from Waziristan, during a covert operation conducted by members of the United States Naval Special Warfare Development Group and CIA operators on the orders of President Obama.
The US President had told CNN he entered the Situation Room to watch the raid on Osama Bin Laden’s compound just in time to see one of the specially equipped Black Hawk helicopters hit the ground. Obama remembered thinking it was ‘not an ideal start’.
Five years after the raid, the administration continues to point to it as an example of Obama’s willingness to take aggressive action overseas to protect American interests – often in response to criticism that the President’s foreign policy is too hands-off.
The CIA’s Twitter account has long been a hotbed of controversy. From its inception in 2014, when it tweeted, “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet,” the CIA Twitter feed has been criticised for its tone by various outlets.
“They should put as least as much effort into following the law as they do into social media,” Zeke Johnson, an Amnesty International program director, he said after the agency posted that first tweet.
About a month after the agency’s first tweet in mid-2014, The Guardian published an opinion piece by a former CIA employee arguing that the agency shouldn’t be on Twitter in the first place. “Ridiculously glib tweets from the CIA paint the entire agency in a smug light, which is exactly the persona it so badly needs to avoid,” the piece read.
“The CIA knows what everyone else knows: it’s in desperate need of a makeover. We haven’t forgotten about Benghazi or torture, and painfully awkward tweets — like watching-your-dad-dance-to-CeeLo-at-your-wedding awkward — won’t make the CIA appear soft and fuzzy, just woefully disconnected from reality. The CIA does not need to be on Twitter, because it can’t be transparent,” it said.
According to BuzzFeed, the account is run by a woman named Carolyn Reams, who is the agency’s social media manager and who is referred to around the agency as ‘the social Khaleesi’ — a reference to the “mother of dragons” from the popular “Game of Thrones” book and television series. The agency’s tweets have earned a reputation for being self-deprecating and even goofy.
In January, the Twitter account of the US military’s Central Command was hacked by people who claimed allegiance to the Islamic State. Just days later, the CIA sent out a tweet written in Russian. CIA denied it later.
Once, the agency even accidently led some of its followers to believe that North Korea was invading South Korea. That did happen, but it was in 1950. On the anniversary, Reams chose to tweet the following – “Morning Mix newsletter. Stories that will be the talk of the morning – but forgot to add a hashtag, letting users know it was an “on this day in history” tweet rather than breaking news.”
CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani told ABC News the takedown of Bin Laden stands as one of the great intelligence successes of all time. “History has been a key element of CIA’s social media efforts,” he added. “On the fifth anniversary, it is appropriate to remember the day and honour all those who had a hand in this achievement,” he said.
He added that the CIA has done a similar exercise to mark other events, including the Glomar operation, Argo, U-2 shoot down, and the evacuation of Saigon. The tweet announcing the death of “Usama Bin Ladin” had been retweeted 2,400 times and favourited 1,700 times until now.