One of the things I endeavor to remind people of consistently when I am asked to speak to groups around the country is to consider the possibility that we are led by a pack of idiots. This is not out of any animus toward our leadership class, but borne out of experience. I have seen cabinet secretaries who type with two fingers. I have listened as senior staffers with authority over constructing legislation in a particular scientific field engage in debate on whether or not the moon landing was a hoax. I have seen a man charged with revolutionizing incredibly complex government information technology systems who did not know how to use a thumb drive. I have seen the bill from a highly paid consultant, an incredibly expensive bill, for a PowerPoint deck that I had seen him present for another client with different logos. And, more personally, I have been told at many varied points in my career by accomplished people why the thing I wished to build was impossible, why it would be a failure, and why I should instead join company X, Y, or Z, none of which are relevant or in some cases even exist today. This is why we should never forget the possibility that underneath the façade of government and business, which projects authority and success, there are a host of fools who are just along for the ride and got to where they are by dint of internal politics, a nice resume, and good timing.
This brings us to the discovery of James Comey’s Twitter account. Comey mentioned in passing at a public event the other day that he had to be on Twitter these days, and that he has an Instagram account but only follows his family and his daughter’s boyfriend. This was a very foolish thing to say, because it immediately set the internet sleuths going – and thanks to Instagram’s algorithm, it made it very easy to find Comey’s accounts. He even named the blasted thing after Reinhold Niebuhr – the subject of his college thesis. It took a lone Gawker writer four hours to find him.
This brings us to his Twitter account, which bears the same name and the handle referring to a project he started in Richmond.
There is only one person currently following the account: Benjamin Wittes of Lawfare. Wittes is no Twitter neophyte. He is an active user with more than 25,000 followers, and he only follows 1,178 accounts—meaning he is not a subscriber to the “followback” philosophy. If he is following a random egg—and is the only account following it—there is probably a reason. That reason could be the fact that, as Wittes wrote here, he is a personal friend of James Comey. (We’ve reached out to Wittes for comment but have yet to hear back.) Project Exile happens to be a federal program that James Comey helped develop when he was a U.S. attorney living in Richmond. And then, of course, there are the follows.
ProjectExile7 follows 27 other accounts, the majority of which are either reporters, news outlets, or official government and law enforcement accounts. The New York Times’ Adam Goldman and David Sanger and the Washington Post’s Ellen Nakashima and David Ignatius, all of whom have been aggressively covering the FBI investigation into Trump’s contacts with Russian agents, made the list, as did Wittes and former Bush Administration colleague Jack Goldsmith. Donald Trump is on there, too, but @projectexile7 seems to have begun following him relatively recently (its first follow was @nytimes).
There are two outliers: William & Mary News (where Comey attended undergrad) and our colleagues at The Onion (everyone deserves to have fun). And of the 39 total tweets the account has liked thus far, eight refer directly to the FBI or James Comey himself… One deals with an active FBI investigation… And four refer to the Trump administration in general…
Of course, none of this is definitive proof @projectexile7 is FBI Director James Comey, but it would take a nearly impossible confluence of coincidences for it to be anyone else. Take what you will from the fact that the director of the FBI appears to have liked a tweet from the New York Times about Mike Flynn and Jared Kushner meeting a Russian envoy in December.
What I take away from this is that James Comey, for all of his stature and plaudits he has received, is an idiot when it comes to use of social media, and a fool if he didn’t think his comment was going to lead to him being found out. Let us hope for our sakes that this is an isolated bit of foolishness. But that seems unlikely.