- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2016

The CIA on Sunday commemorated the five-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden’s death by recounting the events of May 1, 2011, with minute-by-minute tweets that left social media users questioning the agency’s intentions.

Starting at 1:25 p.m. EDT on Sunday, the CIA belatedly live-tweeted the 2011 operation on bin Laden’s Abbottabad, Pakistan, compound “as if it were happening today.” For nearly six hours, the CIA tweeted play-by-play commentary that recalled details from five years earlier, accompanied with photographs, links to government articles and a diorama of the former Al Qaeda’s leader’s compound. 

Nearly 20 tweets later, the social media response suggested the agency’s efforts were was met with mixed results to say the least.

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Phillip Carter, the director of the Center for a New American Security, a D.C.-based think tank, described the flurry of tweets as a “victory lap” for the CIA that seemed to contradict the intelligence community’s ethos and judgment. Another Twitter user, Hank Single, called the CIA’s retelling “grotesque and embarrassing.”

“Are you going to tweet the part where your fake vaccination campaign led to the death of dozens of medical workers?” asked Trevor Timm, the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, in response to one of the agency’s tweets.

“If you live tweet the Bay of Pigs invasion, call us,” Comedy Central’s The Daily Show said through its Twitter account on Sunday. “Otherwise, stop it.”

Despite the firestorm, CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani defended the agency’s actions when reached by ABC News.

“The takedown of bin Laden stands as one of the great intelligence successes of all time. History has been a key element of CIA’s social media efforts,” Mr. Trapani said. “On the fifth anniversary, it is appropriate to remember the day and honor all those who had a hand in this achievement.”

The CIA has garnered more than 1.3 million social media followers since it launched its official Twitter account in 2014 and instantly attracted criticism for its premiere post: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”

“They should put as least as much effort into following the law as they do into social media,” Zeke Johnson, an Amnesty International program director, told the Verge in 2014 when the agency’s first tweet made waves. 

Mr. Trapani said the CIA has since used social media to commemorate other historical events relevant to the agency, including the evacuation of Saigon. 

Although the CIA didn’t open its Twitter account until several years after bin Laden’s death, Sohaib Athar, a software consultant who lived in Abbottabad at the time, accidentally live-tweeted the raid as it unfolded.

“Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event),” he tweeted in 2011.

On Monday, Mr. Athar tweeted that the CIA’s retelling amounted to the agency wishing everyone “Happy bin Laden’s death,” according to an English translation from Voice of America.

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