The internet era has greatly influenced the many institutions and how they conduct their operations. Such is the case with spy agencies that have a long history of using public outlets to deliver secret messages, such as numbers stations or cryptic classified ads.
The Intercept claims to have learned that the National Security Agency used Twitter to send "nearly a dozen" coded messages to a Russian contact claiming to have agency data stolen by the Shadow Brokers.
It’s reported that the NSA would tell the Russian to expect public tweets in advance, either to signal an intent to make contact or to prove that it was involved and was open to further chats. The tweets were sent last year with some being the usual self-promotion, including advocacy for the FISA section authorizing the NSA's warrantless mass surveillance.
It remains unclear as to how many of these messages were crafted just for talking to the Russian versus ordinary posts. The NSA paid about $100,000 to the Russian in hopes of recovering Shadow Brokers data, however, it cut off the deal after he presented info claiming to link Russian with President Trump and associates.
Unfortunately, some of that information was verifiable, and the NSA was reportedly concerned this could be part of a Russian government campaign to sow chaos in the American administration.
This begs the question as to how common this practice is among spy agencies. It’s not a surprise to discover that there are other cases of the same nature. There’s a great threat that’s posed by such clandestine communications in the event of a leak.