On Thursday afternoon, Gizmodo reporter Ashley Feinberg somehow managed to uncover what appears to be FBI Director James Comey’s secret Twitter account, which she quickly doxxed:
Comey responded via the account in epic fashion, channeling his inner Will Ferrell to give credit where he thought credit was due:
“Actually, I’m not even mad,” says the meme in all caps. “That’s amazing.”
And Comey’s right. How Feinberg was able to track down the account is rather amazing.
In a piece published on Gizmodo, the reporter explains that she was first tipped off that Comey even had a secret account when the director himself let it slip at the Intelligence and National Security Alliance leadership dinner. Feinberg took this as a challenge to uncover the accounts.
After a number of Twitter and Instagram searches, Feinberg was able to find Brien Comey, the FBI director’s son, on Instagram. Searching people Brien follows, she was led to one “reinholdniebuhr,” who had a total of “nine followers,” just as many followers as Comey had slipped up and admitted to at the dinner.
After searching “reinholdniebuhr” and Comey’s name in Google, she established a connection from Comey’s college days:
“By senior year, Comey was a double major in religion and chemistry, writing a senior thesis on theologian Reinhold Niebuhr and televangelist Jerry Falwell and on his way to the University of Chicago Law School.”
Since this Instagram account was locked, she took her search over to Twitter, typing in “Reinhold Niebuhr” for clues. She found a total of nine different accounts; by looking at followers, she was able to determine whom she believed to be the real James Comey:
But how to be sure? 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.
To boot, the account, which has the Twitter handle “@ProjectExile7,” was following news reporters, media outlets and William & Mary News, where Comey went to college as an undergrad:
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).
Feinberg concludes: “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,” she wrote.
The FBI even commented on the issue … sort of:
We don’t have any comment.
FBI National Press Office
Well done, Feinberg. Well done.