James Comey’s private, personal Twitter handle is @projectexile7. Or at least every shred of online evidence points that way, according to extensive reporting/cybersleuthing by Gizmodo’s Ashley Feinberg on Thursday.
It all started when Comey let on that he had secret social media accounts on both Instagram and Twitter during a leadership dinner for the Intelligence and National Security Alliance dinner. Most celebrities and public figures, especially those in the younger generations, probably have secret social media accounts under pseudonyms where they can interact with friends and family like anyone else, outside of the gaze of the general internet. Comey, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigations, was no different. Even though his account is just a purple “egg” account with an innocuous screen name, Feinberg writes that it only took her four hours to dig it up.
Her process was both simple and extremely diligent. She immediately recognized that casting out random searches would be futile, and settled into trying to find social media accounts of Comey’s family. She decided Instagram was probably the best choice to start with, as Comey directly said that he had an account with nine followers who were “all immediate relatives.” Unfortunately for Comey, not all of those nine followers were quite as diligent about their online presence.
After some more sleuthing, Feinberg found Comey’s son, 22-year-old son Brien (that’s not a typo) Comey. Feinberg asked to follow him, and bam: right there in the suggested follows, a few more Comey children and family members, and an unassociated account with no picture named ReinholdNeibhur.
It turns out James Comey, FBI director, wrote his senior thesis in university on a theologian named Reinhold Niebuhr. So Feinberg ran that through Twitter search, and out of the few accounts using Niebuhr’s name, there was only one that could be Comey: @projectexile7, an account named after a federal program Comey helped develop, following a bunch of accounts associated with the DC establishment and media. At around 6 p.m., when Feinberg’s story started going viral, @projectexile7 set its account to private, but not before 8,385 people followed it. The ReinholdNiebuhr Instagram has been deleted.
We reached out to Feinberg to ask her how it felt to out-sleuth the head of the FBI, and will update this story if we hear back. Until then, you should read the entire detective story on Gizmodo, because it’s a helluva ride.