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NSC Nonproliferation Director Fired for Tweeting

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Jofi Joseph, a director in the National Security Council’s nonproliferation section, has been fired after discovery that he was the man behind an obnoxious Twitter account.

Josh Rogin broke the story (“Exclusive: White House Official Fired for Tweeting Under Fake Name“) for The Daily Beast:

A White House national security official was fired last week after being caught as the mystery Tweeter who has been tormenting the foreign policy community with insulting comments and revealing internal Obama administration information for over two years.

Jofi Joseph, a director in the non-proliferation section of the National Security Staff at the White House, has been surreptitiously tweeting under the moniker @natsecwonk, a Twitter feed famous inside Washington policy circles since it began in February, 2011 until it was shut down last week. Two administration officials confirmed that the mystery tweeter was Joseph, who has also worked at the State Department and on Capitol Hill for Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Joe Biden. Until recently, he was part of the administration’s team working on negotiations with Iran.

During his time tweeting under the @natsecwonk name, Joseph openly criticized the policies of his White House bosses and often insulted their intellect and appearance. At different times, he insulted or criticized several top White House and State Department officials, including former National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes, Secretary of State John Kerry, and many many others.

[...]

For many in the foreign policy community reacting Tuesday night, the revelation that Joseph was the mystery tweeter @natsecwonk was a shock because Joseph was well known among policy wonks and his wife, Carolyn Leddy, is a well-respected professional staffer on the Republican side of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

But inside the administration, there was little sympathy for the man who they feel had betrayed their confidence while taunting them all the while.

Redacted are examples of his gossipy tweets; click through to read them. More examples here, here, and here.

Brandon Friedman snarks, “While 20-year-old Americans are getting shot at by the Taliban, the National Security Council is hard at work tracking down @natsecwonk.” While my initial reaction was agreement, it’s ultimately wrongheaded. Having an insider breaking confidences undermines trust and candor within the team. That’s worth some resources to fix.

Like Dan Drezner, I “never saw the value-added” in the account. There’s more than although nastiness to go around from people willing to own their comments by signing their name to them; there’s no need to add vitriol from people whose background I don’t know.  But plenty disagreed; I saw @natsecwonk tweets in my stream quite often from natsec professionals that I follow.

Andrew Exum observes, “Public servants should tweet more, not less. But they should always be careful not to embarrass their peers or bosses. That’s just courtesy.” In response to pushback that the public deserves honesty and transparency from its officials, Exum rejoined, “You should never be anything less than truthful. But your employer and your peers have a right to expect discretion too.”   Adam J. Schmidt adds, “if you wouldn’t want to read it in the paper don’t say/write/tweet it.”

That’s all exactly right.

I’ve been active on Twitter a few years now and have always operated under the assumption that everything I say is on the public record. Further, several of my professional colleagues and now-former bosses “follow” me and I subconsciously, and occasionally consciously, filter what I write with that in mind. Everything that I write honestly reflects my view, sometimes well-considered and other times reflexive and half-assed (the latter is especially true on Twitter, where I’m in rapid-fire, sardonic mode as often as serious). But that doesn’t mean that every thought that passes through my head needs to make it into the public domain.

I do the same thing, incidentally, on OTB. Especially on topics that are hotly controversial, I realize that people who I respect, like and admire who disagree with me on the issue are reading what I have to say. That helps me remember that there’s room for honorable disagreement. While that may strip some of the passion from the writing, on balance it makes it more thoughtful. Ranting and raving can be cathartic but it’s seldom persuasive.

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About James Joyner
James Joyner is the publisher of Outside the Beltway, an associate professor of security studies at the Marine Corps Command and Staff College, and a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. He has a PhD in political science from The University of Alabama. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter.

Comments

  1. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Another guy who thinks he is smarter than everybody else is shown to be really quite stupid. Once again the advice about keeping one’s mouth shut rings true.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 13 Thumb down 0

  2. rudderpedals says:

    Man, he put his Republican-employed wife through the ringer on this. Weiner welcomes the company.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  3. DC Loser says:

    The rule of thumb is the Washington Post rule: Never post anything online that you would not want to see on the front page of the Washington Post.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  4. KM says:

    One must always be gracious in criticism, lest it become complaint.

    Wisdom from my grandmother, a true Lady. She pointed out that what we would now call “constructive criticism” was originally just “criticism” – we had to specify the difference when people began crouching their miserable gripes as legitimate dissension. One may disagree entirely, but it can (and should!) be polite, well reasoned, and ultimately contribute back to the dialogue in order to count as criticism.

    This guy was just bitching.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  5. legion says:

    @DC Loser: Even as a young lieutenant, I was told that on a fairly regular basis, as were all my colleagues. Especially once I started working on a HQ staff, where it was actually a legit possibility (though only if I really, really screwed up :).

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. legion says:

    There really is no level of stupidity a big enough ego won’t blind you to. He had to be polite & professional all day to people he clearly had no respect for – even despised – and he just had to find a way to let the public know that, self-destructive though it was.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  7. JKB says:

    I wonder if this type of thing could have a benefit. This guy might have been one of those legends in their own minds who start selling secrets to prove their unrecognized genius or promote their “ideas”. Better to have him exposed by Tweets than dead drops.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  8. grumpy realist says:

    The traditional solution has been to wait until you retire, write a “tell-all” memoir, and get in your zingers and criticism from a safe distance of many years away. May not be as satisfactory as immediate tweeting, but is far safer to one’s reputation (and paycheck.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  9. Jenos Idanian #13 says:

    He was fired from his job for proliferating snark. How appropriate.

    And the saying I’ve heard is “never write when you can speak, never speak when you can nod, never nod when you can wink.” Also, never say or do anything you wouldn’t want put on the front page of the paper. (Or, in this case, on the main page of Drudge.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  10. legion says:

    @JKB: That is actually a very distinct possibility. Many such turncoats have been discovered to be under-appreciated narcissists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. DC Loser says:

    If “Under-appreciated narcissists” is an identifier for national security risk, 90% of people working in those jobs will be suspect.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  12. Gromitt Gunn says:

    Very Enron “Smartest Guys in the Room” sort of thing. As you as you become certain that you’re smarter than everyone around, you stop taking necessary precautions and the timer towards comeuppance through hubris starts ticking.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  13. grumpy realist says:

    @Gromitt Gunn: When I was going through the interview process at Moody’s one of the interviewers asked me what I thought about Long-Term Capital Management. My answer was that it was exactly the sort of thing that would be thought of by a pair of MIT math geeks with more brains than sense!

    (Very few quants seem to have enough horse sense to understand why you can’t automatically apply the Limit Theorem and quantitative statistics to human action. In a panic, atoms don’t scream and stampede into the corner of a box. Humans often do.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  14. Woody says:

    I’m going through a classical phase again, and the human animal hasn’t changed a jot. We’ve simply found ways to share our hubris etc with a wider audience.

    Socrates probably did it right by not writing anything down.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  15. rudderpedals says:

    @Woody: Nevertheless it almost went without saying he (i.e., Soccy – edit)was convicted and as to his affairs thereafter, you could say he was profoundly impaired…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. legion says:

    @DC Loser: And 100% of elected officials…

    Also, “Under-appreciated Narcissists” is my new indie band name.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  17. ADT Calgary says:

    So much education, so little common sense

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0