According to Twitter Files, the FBI reimbursed Twitter for the time it spent processing FBI requests. An employee reports to Jim Baker (then Deputy General Counsel) that between October 2019 and February 2021, the FBI paid Twitter almost $3.5 million. Baker, an ex-FBI agent, was the agency’s general counsel during Operation Crossfire Hurricane.
According to a report from the Justice Department inspector general, Baker approved Carter Page’s surveillance via improper use of the Steele dossier.
In the lead-up to the 2020 elections, Twitter and the FBI enjoyed close relationships. The FBI promised “no impediments in information sharing” during September 16, 2020, meeting between intelligence community staff and social media executives.
In a previous installment, Matt Taibbi, a journalist, stated that he could not find evidence that the FBI or the intelligence community were involved in Twitter’s decision not to allow access to the New York Post article about Hunter Biden’s laptop. However, new documents from Shellen berger indicate that the FBI was indeed involved.
The original October 14, 2020, Post story was based upon a laptop that belonged to Joe Biden. It contained a 2015 email linking Joe Biden and Hunter’s business dealings in Ukraine with Burisma. Before the story’s release, the FBI warned social media platforms that there was likely a Russian hack-and-leak operation.
Yoel Roth, then-head for trust and safety at Twitter, testified that he was explicitly warned about a leak targeting Hunter Biden.
However, Shellenberger reported no evidence that such an operation is underway. Biden and George Mesires were informed by the Post on October 13, 2020, that they planned to publish their story on the laptop that day.
Mesires then emailed the repair shop’s owner, who gave access to the Post’s laptop just before 7:07 p.m. EST. Schellenberger reported.
Schellenberger reported that Chan sent 10 documents to Twitter the same day at 9:22 p.m. EST via the Teleporter portal. This is a one-way communication channel between the FBI and Twitter. Chan followed up by emailing Roth directly and asking Twitter to confirm that it had received the documents. Roth replied two minutes later, according to Shellenberger.
Shellenberger said that Baker sent several internal messages on October 14 in response to Roth’s claim that Roth’s story wasn’t in violation of their policies.
One of these messages cites “reliable cybersecurity specialists.” Shellenberger said that the FBI had taken the laptop into their possession in December 2019. This made it impossible for Roth to believe that the Post’s story was true.
Roth sent an email to Twitter staff shortly after 10:00 a.m. EST. He informed them that there had been a separate hack and that the hackers loaded the hacked material onto the laptop. The laptop then appeared in Delaware at a repair shop. Shellenberger also reported. Baker called Matthew Perry, FBI’s Office of the General Counsel, later that day. Twitter eventually banned the story’s sharing on its app.
It also prohibited users from sharing the link in private messages between October 14 and October 16, 2020. Twitter’s “Hacked Materials” policy announced the ban. This typically requires a statement from law enforcement agencies confirming that the material had been hacked.
Shellenberger said that two days later, on October 16, Twitter’s global head for policy Nick Pickles observed that the briefings “seemingly-well-timed” from government sources “highlighting concerns about the hard drive’s source” supported the “assessment it’s neither whistleblower nor dissident content.” Before the Hunter Biden laptop story was published, the FBI had constantly contacted Twitter executives.
According to Shellenberger, Chan proposed that high-ranking Twitter executives be granted temporary Top Secret security clearances for 30 days before the 2020 election. This would allow them to coordinate better regarding threats to election security.
According to Shellenberger, by June 2020, more FBI employees wanted to go to Twitter than ever. They had also created a “Bu to Twitter” translation chart to help new hires translate Twitter lingo into FBI language.
Roth and Chan created two encrypted channels for communication between Twitter and FBI San Francisco using Signal on September 21, 2020. Chan sent an email to confirm the formation of channels. It also noted that Facebook was interested and able to activate the channel before the first presidential debate on September 29, 2020.
Baker was one of the Twitter staff that signed a thank-you letter in December 2020 to nine FBI agents, including Chan, for their support during the election campaign.
“Twitter was on the front line of protecting our users (and the public at large) from misinformation/disinformation campaigns that had the potential to impact the fair election process negatively,” reads an email from an employee, whose name is redacted, asking others to sign the thank you letter, according to Shellenberger.
It is not well-known that Twitter was instrumental in helping the FBI identify domestic terrorists at polling stations and counting facilities.
This work is not public and will never be publicly acknowledged, but I’d like to thank the FBI colleagues who helped me during this election cycle. Baker signed the letter and reminded others on the email thread that they should be aware that they could leak and would be subject to FOIA.