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Sources: Top Clinton Aide Was Instrumental In @NatSecWonk Unmasking

The Clinton legacy project.

Posted on December 19, 2013, at 6:22 p.m. ET

AP Photo/ Evan Vucci

WASHINGTON — Top Hillary Clinton adviser Philippe Reines played a key role in the investigation into and eventual unveiling of an anonymous Twitter account that was run by a White House official, according to sources close to the investigation.

One source familiar with the investigation into @NatSecWonk, who was eventually revealed to be top White House nonproliferation official Jofi Joseph, said that Reines was a "central player" in the feed's unmasking and in spreading the story to the media.

"It was the NSC press shop and the State Department press shop (current and former staffers in both operations)" that conducted the hunt, the source said, "and at some point, perhaps from the very beginning, this search was fused together."

Reines, sources say, was enraged by the often caustic @NatSecWonk's comments about him and his patron, Hillary Clinton. A common theme of Joseph's feed was to accuse Clinton of having not accomplished much as Secretary of State — a criticism that the Clinton apparatus is said to be especially sensitive to — a subject perhaps second only to attacks on Chelsea Clinton as a source of ire.

A sample Joseph tweet on the Clintons: "Loved, LOVED the @NYTimesDowd column eviscerating the Clintons today. @ChelseaClinton seems to be assuming all of her parents' vices ..."

The story of how Joseph was caught as the author of the feed has been detailed in the Washington Post; a coterie of administration staffers set up a sting operation, planting false information with Joseph and others and then confirming Joseph as @NatSecWonk when the feed tweeted out the information.

But Reines' role has flown under the radar.

Joseph was fired on October 17th. On October 22nd, Foreign Policy's Gordon Lubold wrote a story noting that @NatSecWonk had disappeared from Twitter. That evening, the Daily Beast's Josh Rogin broke the news that @NatSecWonk was Jofi Joseph and that he had been fired from his job at the White House.

According to a source close to the investigation, the Daily Beast was not the only outlet that received word of @NatSecWonk's identity; three different news organizations received the tip.

Reines did not respond to numerous requests for comment about his role in the search for @NatSecWonk.

Joseph himself has largely withdrawn from the public eye since his unmasking, though he has begun to occasionally write blog posts for the Atlantic Council. His Twitter feed was a frequent source of exasperation and speculation in Washington foreign policy and national security circles, as he made everyone a target — from President Obama himself, to colleagues in the White House, to the reporters that sought to reveal his identity.

He apologized for the feed, telling Politico, "What started out as an intended parody account of DC culture developed over time into a series of inappropriate and mean-spirited comments. I bear complete responsibility for this affair and I sincerely apologize to everyone I insulted."

A spokesperson for the White House declined to comment.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.