Wednesday, December 28, 2022

FBI Responds to Musk’s ‘Twitter Files,’ Says ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ Trying to Discredit Bureau

Elon Musk speaks at the 2020 Satellite Conference and Exhibition in Washington on March 9, 2020. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

FBI Responds to Musk’s ‘Twitter Files,’ Says ‘Conspiracy Theorists’ Trying to Discredit Bureau

By Jack 

The FBI on Wednesday responded to the Elon Musk-endorsed “Twitter Files” releases that appear to show the FBI having worked closely with the social media company, alleging that “conspiracy theorists” are trying to discredit the bureau.

“The correspondence between the FBI and Twitter show nothing more than examples of our traditional, longstanding and ongoing federal government and private sector engagements, which involve numerous companies over multiple sectors and industries,” the FBI statement, issued to Fox News, said in response to the files. “As evidenced in the correspondence, the FBI provides critical information to the private sector in an effort to allow them to protect themselves and their customers.”

“The men and women of the FBI work every day to protect the American public,” the statement continued. “It is unfortunate that conspiracy theorists and others are feeding the American public misinformation with the sole purpose of attempting to discredit the agency.”

The FBI statement did not elaborate on who it considers “conspiracy theorists.” Since early December, Musk has released files to several independent journalists, including Michael Shellenberger, Matt Taibbi, and Bari Weiss, as well as The Intercept’s Lee Fang.

This week, Shellenberger posted files related to the Hunter Biden laptop story and posted messages showing the FBI working to discredit the report and keeping it from being spread via the social media platform in October 2020, weeks before the General Election that year.

“What I quickly put together is a pattern where it appears that FBI agents, along with former FBI agents within the company, were engaged in a disinformation campaign aimed at top Twitter and Facebook executives, as well as at top news organization executives to basically prepare them, prime them, get them set up to dismiss Hunter Biden information when it would be released,” Shellenberger wrote.

FBI Activity

Other released internal emails appeared to show FBI officials flagging specific accounts for Twitter to take action against. On Nov. 3, FBI field office official Elvis Chan flagged 25 accounts, one email shows, including news outlet Right Side Broadcasting Network that created posts that “may warrant additional action due to the accounts being utilized to spread misinformation about the upcoming election.”

FBI Director Christopher Wray
FBI Director Christopher Wray prepares to testify before the House Homeland Security Committee in the Cannon House Office Building on Capitol Hill in Washington on Nov. 15, 2022. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Another email dated Nov. 10 showed that four accounts “may potentially constitute violations of Twitter’s Terms of Service for any action or inaction deemed appropriate within Twitter policy,” according to a post from Taibbi earlier this month.  And another revealed Twitter was evaluating and processing a list of tweets that were flagged by the FBI for “Possible Violative Content,” including a post critical of then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s comment about vaccine mandates.

Musk, who has endorsed and shared the “Twitter Files” releases, has not publicly commented on the FBI’s statement Thursday. The bureau has not responded to multiple requests for comment.

Other installments showed the FBI was constantly communicating with Twitter staffers, even going so far as to set up communications channels between federal agents and the social media company’s employees.

Earlier this month, Musk revealed that James Baker, who was an FBI general counsel, was “exited” from Twitter after it was learned by Musk and Taibbi that he was independently “vetting” files that were being sent to journalists without Musk knowing. Baker has not publicly commented on his apparent ouster.

It came after Taibbi revealed a direct message Baker had sent in October 2020, in response to the NY Post’s Hunter Biden report, that Twitter needs “more facts to assess whether the materials were hacked” but stressed that “at this stage, however, it is reasonable for us to assume that they may have been and that caution is warranted.” Twitter had blocked users from posting the NY Post report, which obtained its information from a laptop that Hunter Biden admittedly left at a computer repair shop in Delaware months earlier.

With the latest revelations, House Republicans have indicated they want to compel testimony and documents from FBI officials when the GOP takes the majority in 2023.

“We’re going to do more than just subpoena them. We’re going to change the course of where the FBI is today,” House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in a recent Fox News interview.

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