- American spies sent coded messages on the public National Security Agency Twitter account during negotiations with a shady Russian who wanted to sell them compromising material on President Donald Trump.
- The NSA fired off roughly a dozen coded tweets over a period of months last year, each time giving the Russian advance notice of the messages they intended to tweet.
- The deal ultimately fell through, but not before the Americans paid out the first $100,000 installment of a $1 million agreement.
The National Security Agency used its public Twitter account to send roughly a dozen coded messages to a shadowy Russian who had attempted to sell them dirt on President Donald Trump, The Intercept and The New York Times reported on Friday.
It was all part of a tentative deal American spies struck with a Russian who had ties to Russian intelligence and had promised to sell back stolen NSA cyberweapons.But the deal eventually fell apart after the Russian failed to deliver the hacking tools and instead kept pushing unverified and compromising information on Trump, which US officials said they were uninterested in.
The Americans agreed to pay $1 million for the tools, but ultimately paid only the first installment of $100,000 before cutting the deal short.
The coded messages they posted on Twitter were meant to prove to the Russian that the US government was really behind the negotiations and willing to move forward, according to The Intercept.
For instance, US officials reportedly told the Russians in advance that the official NSA account would tweet the following message on June 20, 2017: “Samuel Morse patented the telegraph 177 years ago. Did you know you can still send telegrams? Faster than post & pay only if it’s delivered.”
The message, word for word, appeared that day on the NSA’s Twitter account. It’s even still posted.
Samuel Morse patented the telegraph 177 years ago. Did you know you can still send telegrams? Faster than post & pay only if it's delivered.
— NSA/CSS (@NSAGov) June 20, 2017
Again in October 2017, officials warned the Russians before the NSA tweeted, “This week in history, Robert Lamphere began working on the Verona program in 1948.”
Later that month, another one appeared: “Can you help Kandice the Kangaroo save her baby Joey in this month’s #PuzzlePeriodical?” the NSA tweeted.
Finally, in December, the NSA told the Russians it planned to tweet, “Section 702 is a law that can also be a life-saver. Take a look at how #Section 702 protects troops and helps the nation.”
When it became clear to US officials that the Russian either did not have the hacking tools or had no intention of selling them, the Americans cut off the deal and warned him to go back to Russia and never return, The Times reported.