Say what you will about their role in U.S. foreign policy — what with the drone program and the torture and the coups — but the CIA has proven itself to be very, very good at Twitter.
Its first tweet was the second most shared inaugural tweet ever, drawing both applause and eye-rolling.
Their Twitter (and Facebook) is run by a woman named Carolyn Reams, the Agency's social media manager.
She recently sat down for an interview with a podcast called DigitalGov — which is produced by the General Services Administration's Office of Citizen Services and Innovative Technologies, "a program that works with agencies across government to help improve citizen services and reduce their cost " — to talk about her internet successes and failures.
You can listen to the podcast here, or take a look at six amazing highlights below:
1. CIA Director John Brennan hand-picked the CIA's first tweet.
It took 11 months for the CIA to get onto Twitter, thanks to security concerns and the bureaucratic process. A few weeks before launch, Reams said, they realized they needed a tweet that would actually be better than "Hey, we're on Twitter!"
"The first tweets were a group project," she revealed, "we presented four and five, [and Brennan] picked that one as the favorite."
2. Reams is apparently referred to in the halls of the Agency as "the social Khaleesi."
(For non-nerds/people who live under a rock, that is a reference to one of the main characters on Game of Thrones, Daenerys Targaryen. She is the Mother of Dragons and generally a badass, so the fact that all these spies refer to Reams that way shows that they both respect her and are huge nerds themselves.)
3. This tweet about cat pictures is the sort of thing that requires the head of one of the most secretive organizations in the world's approval before it's sent out.
4. The CIA was really proud of how many people they trolled the one time they tweeted in Russian.
The tweet, which was a quote from Boris Pasternak about his novel Doctor Zhivago, was sent out as part of a series discussing the CIA's role in helping disseminate the book in Russian when it was banned in the Soviet Union. Reames initially wanted to do several tweets in Russian, but was talked down to just one.
"I was discussing it with the Director, and he asked 'what were you going to do next week?'," Reames recalled. "'We'd really like to tweet out this quote in Russian.' 'Wait, won't people think we've been hacked.' I said, 'Yeah, thats the idea.'"
5. Reams is always looking for fun ways to tell the CIA's history, like this tweet about how Julia Child helped invent shark repellent while working as a spy.
6. But there are misses too. Like that one time she accidentally made people think North Korea was invading South Korea because she had a dental appointment.
When the anniversary of North Korea invading South Korea, we did some tweets on that; and it was a very busy day and I just really hadn't focused quite frankly, that much on it, which again a huge lesson learned, please do; focus before you send things out, to 850,000 people. I wasn't thinking and I forgot to hashtag everything. And It wasn't one of those days where I could link them all and do it live, I had to schedule them and I had forgotten to hashtag everything. So I think I was at the dentist office, and I was sitting there in the chair and my phone is blowing up. So I finally pick it up and it's my co-worker saying, "Oh my god, people think that North Korea has invaded South Korea" because that's what the tweet said: North Korean forces have amassed on a South Korean border. If you read it in context, it all made perfect sense. But because I hadn't put it in context and if you're just logging on to Twitter, and that's the first thing you see, that's a little terrifying.