On Sept. 18, 1947 the most secretive spying agency was founded. It was named the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), based at Langley, Virginia, with a motto that says: “And ye shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free.” It has a budget which would make many countries rich with tens of thousands of employees, not counting the many agents on this agency’s payroll. The agency has spy satellites, spy planes, agents all over the world and it even has frontline airlines and companies.
It has many world figures on its payroll and when it needs Hollywood, then, it is a phone call away. It even had Howard Hughes as a cover for its operation during the hunt for a Soviet sunken submarine. The CIA has a free hand to do whatever it intends.
The CIA has many assets at its disposal. One of the most technological and effective assets was a very slim plane nicknamed “Dragon Lady” or the U-2. It was designed by Clarence Johnson in the mid 1950s. This plane and an array of spy satellites gave the CIA an edge in following world events with a precision that made it the modern day fairy tale of spying. It is said that the U-2 plane can spot a golf ball in a golf course when it is cruising at an altitude of more than 70,000 feet. And what this plane saw in Cuba 50 years ago brought the world on the verge of a nuclear war. The spy agency and the spy plane had everyone on its radar. It took the agency billions of dollars, millions of daily reports and thousands of tons of paper work to try to analyze what people thought, what was their mood and what they thought of their governments? The CIA basically didn’t know what the average Joe was thinking about. Yes, the CIA had spy satellite that can read the fine prints in the Russian Pravda on a Moscow street, but, they didn’t know what the average Russian thought of these lines printed in the Pravda.
This is why the CIA was caught off guard in many events around the world. The CIA had the ability to scout the Afghani terrains and hunt for a Taleban leader, but couldn’t read the minds of an Afghan man or a woman. As I mentioned, the CIA had written millions of reports and billions of pages about people all over the world at a cost of billions of dollars. It turned out that it only needed 140 characters that would not cost the agency even a single penny and it is paperless and doesn’t hurt the Ozone layer. So, how did 140 characters open the mind of everyone in the world?
On March 21, 2006, the world saw the birth of a small social network service that allows you to send and receive tweets which don’t exceed 140 characters, but, they simply opened the whole world with no charge to the receiver or sender. This company is based in San Francisco and employs just few hundreds of people. It was founded by a young American, Jack Dorsey, with two other associates. This company, named Twitter, gave everyone the freedom to say what is on their mind in every language in the universe and you don’t have to worry about a thing. An elementary student can have a chat with a world leader. There are no covert or overt operations, it was all done in the open. There are no secret agent men or women. Everybody is an agent.
I am not a heavy Twitter user. I only use it when I want to post my semi daily article in Alyaum newspaper or my weekly column in Arab News. Last week, the Twitter in Saudi Arabia was in full swing just because two Saudis had tweeted few words about controversial issues. I realized how much people are addicted to Twitter, the service was interrupted few months ago for half an hour — yes, you heard me right — just half an hour. There was so much agony among the youths. Twitter now is the oxygen they breathe.
I asked one young Saudi about America’s most lethal weapon and he told me that America can make every young man and woman’s life miserable if it stops the Twitter service for any reason. A brief interruption of Twitter can ruin your day.
Twitter became the world news and intelligence agency and it has hundreds of millions of agents giving out millions of reports, news and thoughts every day and they don’t have to be paid. Before Twitter, no one knew about the big divide between the different people in the world. It simply exposed the real thinking of the people, especially in places where there is no room for freedom of speech.
Twitter is the 21st century motto of “Extra! Extra! Read all about it now!” Because if you wait one second, then the news is old. Countries now can gauge the mood of their people just by looking at Twitter.
People don’t need to go around the bushes to say what is on their mind, they simply say it.
Not only governments use it to gauge the behavior of their people, parents now use also it.
With Twitter, you can tell when your children went to bed by their last tweet and what time they got up by their first tweet. With Twitter, you can tell if your child missed a class or even if he went to school. You know who their close friends are by just seeing whom they follow or whom they are following. You know what they really like or don’t like. In the past there were Gallup polls, these days there are 140 characters that can say it all. These days, we don’t hear… it is 11 O’clock. Do you know where are the kids?