NATION NATION

CIA can't confirm or deny that it has joined Twitter

The Central Intelligence Agency can now conduct covert ops at 140 characters a minute.

The nation's spymasters joined Twitter on Friday morning, letting thousands who quickly "followed" know the agency "can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet."

The post has already been retweeted more than 100,000 times, and the account ballooned from 4,000 followers to nearly 70,000 in less than an hour. The agency has deigned just 25 accounts worthy of a follow back, largely other government agencies.

Claiming to be based in Langley, Va., the agency describes itself as "the Nation's first line of defense."

For those wondering if the famously secretive operation would really join Twitter, the verified account does appear to actually belong to the agency.

The CIA essentially confirmed the validity Friday with a short statement about a new social media push.

The account will provide the "latest CIA updates, #tbt (Throwback Thursday) photos, reflections on intelligence history, and fun facts from the CIA World Factbook," the agency wrote.

The CIA’s first tweet received more attention from social media users than the first tweets issued by the White House, Federal Bureau of Investigation and President Obama combined, according to data compiled by Simply Measured, a social media analytics agency.

The spy agency’s cheeky message garnered more than 100,000 retweets and over 75,000 favorites, compared to just 393 retweets and 190 favorites for Obama’s first missive, a message about ending the war in Iraq.

According to the data, the initial tweets sent by the FBI and White House garnered just eight retweets.

The Twitterverse quickly had some fun with its newest member, with some posting fake tweets under the CIA’s name. One of the tweets wondered if this would be the latest surveillance arm of the cryptic agency: "Would it be terrifyingly awesome or awesomely terrifying if @CIA started following you?"

A better question might be: Would you ever even know?

But not everyone was amused.

In response to the CIA's first tweet, Zeke Johnson, Director of Amnesty International USA's Security & Human Rights Program, called on the agency to release "the full truth about the CIA torture and drone strikes."

"The CIA's first Tweet would be funny if it weren't for the agency's use of torture and extrajudicial executions. They should put as least as much effort into following the law as they do into social media," Johnson said in a statement.

Here's a look at reaction on Twitter.

Los Angeles Times staffer Katie Landan contributed to this report.

Follow @JamesQueallyLAT for breaking news

UPDATE:

12:07 p.m.: This post was updated with additional information about the account's rapid growth, as well as reaction on Twitter.

1:54 p.m.: This post was updated with a statement from Amnesty International and new figures on retweets.

4:05 p.m.: This post was updated with comparative statistics from the first tweets sent by the White House, the F.B.I. and President Obama Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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