recommended reading

How Did the White House Find Its Twitter Mole?

kropic1/Shutterstock.com

The sting that helped furious White House plumbers unmask the National Security Council official driving them crazy with snarky Tweets is a time-honored device often employed at high levels of government to identify leakers.

"It's an easy way to nail somebody who talks too much," laughed a former senior political adviser to a Republican president expert in such ploys. "You drop a harmless little nugget into a meeting where everyone is in on the scam except the suspected leaker. Then when the information pops up somewhere - bingo."

National Security Council staffer Jofi Joseph was fired last week after being exposed as the creative talent behind @natsecwonk, an anonymous Twitter account that routinely trashed such Obama heavy-hitters as counselor Valerie Jarrett ("vacuous cipher"), NSC chief Susan Rice and UN ambassador Samantha Power - not to mention former secretary of state Hillary Clinton and other ObamaWorld stalwarts.

Published reports say that top Obama advisers, enraged and embarrassed by the commentary, decided to leak innocuous material to Joseph to see if it turned up on the notorious snark-site. It's not clear the ploy produced the proverbial "smoking gun," but suddenly Joseph was fired. In a statement, he admitted to being the anonymous agent- provocateur and apologized to "everyone I insulted."

There's a famous corollary to this practice that helped undermine White House chief of staff Donald Regan. During Ronald Reagan's second term, some senior White House officials eager to grease the skids under Regan concocted snappy one-liners certain to make it into print from appreciative journalists. But there was a twist: the anonymous quotes often contained a favorite Regan phrase ("and the like"). When Nancy Reagan, never a Regan fan, saw some of the provocative quotes she immediately assumed Regan was the leaker. Nancy's rage was a prime factor in Regan being forced out of his job in 1987.

(Image via kropic1/Shutterstock.com)

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    View
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.