That Secret Message from Stratcom…OK Not Really

By Faye Higbee

Stratcom is our nation’s Strategic Command – the ones who oversee Nuclear weapons. A strange tweet eminated from the Stratcom Twitter account at 7:48 p.m. on Sunday, sparking some confusion and concern. Did some foreign hacker get to our nation’s Stratcom account? Was it a secret code for missile launch? How about a cat walking on the keyboard? Is World War III about to start? Not really. But at least it gave people something to talk about.

The tweet was shared about 11,000 times (The Hill) before it was deleted by the account holder about a half hour later, (and included an apology which many said was misspelled) of course. The tweet asked followers to disregard the message. Sure, that happens a lot on social media, right? Nothing is ever disregarded. It’s embellished, pushed forward and commented on. With screenshots, it’s never truly deleted.

Strategic Command: the gibberish

The gibberish tweet set off rumors and later jokes that the military command had sent out nuclear launch codes.

One Twitter user tweeted, “Did anyone else pee themselves a little bit when they read this tweet? I’m outlining a story. Should I keep going or go do something else with my last few minutes?”

After the first gibberish tweet, STRATCOM sent out a second tweet apologizing for the confusion.

STRATCOM tweeted, “Apologizes for any confusion. Please disregard this post.”

Mikael Thalen, Daily Dot

Freelance Journalist Mikael Thalen filed an FOIA request, and got a response less than 5 hours later (pretty speedy for the government).

Daily Dot filed a freedom of information act (FOIA) request for information about the strange tweet and STRATCOM’s FOIA officer Kendall Cooper replied hours later saying the tweet occurred when the agency’s Twitter manager momentarily left his computer unattended around his young child.

The Command’s Twitter manager, while in a telework status, momentarily left the Command’s Twitter account open and unattended,” Cooper’s response reads. “His very young child took advantage of the situation and started playing with the keys and unfortunately, and unknowingly, posted the tweet.”

In his FOIA response, Cooper said there were no written records detailing the Twitter incident, but said “absolutely nothing nefarious occurred, i.e., no hacking of our Twitter account. The post was discovered and notice to delete it occurred telephonically.” Cooper said the Daily Dot may appeal the Secretary of Defense’s FOIA appellate authority.

American Military News
What really happened (Screenshot not related to actual incident)

So there you have it – how an innocent child scared the pants off Twitter users by playing with the account of the US Strategic Command.

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Featured photo: screenshot via Mikael Thalen at The Dot

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