Dead Drop: December 30

BAD TRADECRAFT: The crack crew at the UK’s Daily have figured out what’s wrong with a number of social media platforms.  Apparently, it’s U.S. intelligence alumni. In a story posted Dec 22, the Mail published the headline: “Spooks infiltrate Silicon Valley: Facebook is riddled with ex-CIA agents – including President’s briefer who now runs ‘harmful content’ team – so many ex-FBI work at Twitter, they have Slack channel and Google is rife with ex-CIA.” Wow, long headline.  And with words like “infiltrate,” “riddled,” and “rife” you might get the correct impression that The Daily Mail isn’t keen on former officials finding post-government employment. Among the former “agents” that alarm them, is Aaron Berman who they identify as ‘the president’s former CIA briefer’.  Berman was among those featured in one of those goofy Meta commercials not long ago, with people standing around holding framed pictures of themselves and their families. The Daily Mail reports that Berman is now involved in “misinformation policy” for Facebook.  We were so unintrigued by the story that we decided to launch our own 30-second investigation and it turns out that Berman’s LinkedIn profile says he used to write and edit for the President’s Daily Brief (PDB) –  it doesn’t say he delivered it.  In any case, our conclusion is that it was pretty bad tradecraft on Meta’s part if they featured some of the crafty CIA “agents” who have “infiltrated” them, in their TV commercials.  But it was also pretty bad tradecraft by The Daily Mail to present former Intel officers working in the private sector as a bad thing.

THE PERILS OF LIVE TV:  Volodymyr Zelensky’s recent in-person speech to a joint session of Congress got a lot of attention around the world.  Too much for the liking of Putin propagandist Vladimir Solovyov, who was hosting a program on Russian TV the morning after the event.  The folks in the control room elected to show video in a loop of Zelensky’s rapturous welcome while Solovyov was interviewing a Russian-born, U.S. resident who was willing to trash the event. The incident, described in The Daily Beast by Russia Media Monitor Julia Davis, shows Solovyov furiously texting something and then interrupting his guest to loudly complain: “Guys, get rid of this video, if you can’t read what is being written to you!” The guest, by the way, Dmitri Simes, used the occasion to favorably compare a world leader to Winston Churchill.  But the leader he found worthy of that comparison was Vladimir Putin.  No, really.

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