Twitter occupies a strange place in national security circles, officially banned within most workplaces but still a go-to source for political gossip and occasional cause for a high-profile firing, as with the recent @NatSecWonk account. As a result, Pentagon and other intelligence officials decided to copy the service with a privately run, internal microblogging service called eChirp. Established in 2009, it's a copy of Twitter in nearly every respect, right down to the blue bird.
The original goal was to let expert analysts across different agencies weigh in on breaking news without compromising any secure information. But as a Washington Post article concludes today, it's having a hard time competing with the real thing. The article describes a 2011 situation room meeting about Libyan unrest in which generals realized they could get more up-to-date information from Twitter than from their own analysts. After the meeting, the White House established access to a read-only reprint version of Twitter, which suggests that eChirp is still playing second fiddle.
A password-protected subdomain on the US intelligence community's Intelink intranet is labeled "Chirp," suggesting it may be the main way authorized users access the eChirp service. Amusingly, several Twitter users with government or tech-related jobs have also made reference to eChrip on their public-facing Twitter accounts over the years:
Found on eChirp: U.S. Intelligence Analyst Arrested in Wikileaks Video Probee http://ow.ly/1V5VZ Lax security enables alleged theft of info.— CG Scuttle (@AnotherCGBlog) June 7, 2010
Game night w/eChirp & STPI folks. Playing Taboo! (@ STPI) http://4sq.com/djRMyM— Maxine Teller (@MaxineTeller) September 24, 2010