Obama's secret Afghanistan trip nearly ruined by Twitter, media leaks


US President Barack Obama is greeted by Lieutenant General Curtis Scaparrotti and US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker on May 1, 2012 upon arrival at Bagram Air Field, some 50km north of Kabul. Obama arrived in Afghanistan for a previously unannounced visit.



Leaks on Twitter and news media websites nearly ruined President Barack Obama's secret visit to Afghanistan on the one-year anniversary of Osama bin Laden's death.

The White House released a fabricated Tuesday schedule for Obama to conceal the fact that he was secretly flying to Afghanistan, telling journalists he was in an all-day meeting with Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and senior advisers, The Associated Press reported.

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But by mid-morning word was spreading on Twitter that Obama was already in Kabul.

The first to tweet was the Afghanistan news site TOLOnews, reporting: "United States President Barack Obama has arrived in Kabul to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai."

More from GlobalPost: Obama in Kabul: What he didn't tell us

The tweet was first noticed in the American media by The Huffington Post, who retweeted it, and the report was posted to the New York Post website a short time later. BuzzFeed, a website that combines original reporting with trend spotting on the internet, also posted the tweet by TOLOnews.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul tried to squelch the rumors, posting via Twitter: "Reports that President Obama is in Kabul are false," according to CNN.

White House National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor eventually told reporters the timing wasn't right: Obama was headed to Afghanistan but still en route to Bagram Air Field. He asked BuzzFeed and other media to remove references to the tweet, citing security concerns.

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TOLOnews later deleted the tweet and replaced it with a report that the original story was false, Mashable reported.

Soon, the New York Post removed its report as well, according to the AP.

Several news organizations were notified in advance of Obama's trip and pledged to secrecy. Similar arrangements occurred when President George W. Bush traveled secretly to Iraq, according to the AP.