Director of the CIA John Brennan expressed his disappointment at Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey today for refusing to allow the intelligence service access to the website’s raw feed service “Dataminr.”
The CIA had previously been granted access, and it is still available to private companies including an entity owned by Russian President Vladimir Putin. However, the social network cut their agreement with the U.S. government in May.
“I do not know his motivation for any corporate decision he may have made,” said Brennan. “I’m disappointed that there is not more active cooperation with our legal authorities that may be available from the U.S. private sector.”
The CIA had been using the service to monitor tweets from Muslim extremists and other national threats in real time, giving them the ability to spot important data and information before anyone else.
“These real-time tactical warnings are especially useful in the case of multiple attacks when even if we only get a little bit of warning, it can make a big difference,” said a former top U.S. Counter Terrorism expert. “Dataminr alerted us ahead of the news in these cases by 15 minutes to half an hour, which meant we could make more effective responses to the attacks.”
“We have never authorized a third party to sell data to an intelligence agency for surveillance purposes. Twitter data is largely public, and governments may review accounts on their own, like any user,” said a Twitter spokesperson, hinting at the CIA’s use of the service for surveillance as the reason they cut ties. “If DHS wanted to buy Dataminr news alerts to surveil Black Lives Matter activists, we would decline. But if the DHS wanted to buy data to assist with disaster preparedness, [we] would permit that.”
New York Times reporter Nick Bilton called the lack of cooperation “diabolical,” stating, “I think it is diabolical that Twitter has cut off the CIA when you have Russians breaking into the Democratic National Convention computers to steal their strategies against Trump, which could affect the election.”
Jack Dorsey has not publicly responded to CIA Director John Brennan’s statement.