(CNN) – They’re late to the party, but the spooks have finally joined Twitter. And — who knew? — they have a sense of humor.
At 1:49 pm ET on Friday, the Central Intelligence Agency sent its first-ever Twitter message, from a verified account with the simple handle of @CIA.
With characteristic secrecy, it said: “We can neither confirm nor deny that this is our first tweet.”
The Internet immediately erupted with delight. Within hours the message had been retweeted more than 170,000 times, the CIA had gained more than 250,000 followers, and the jokes were flowing faster than Claire Danes’ tears on “Homeland.”
“@CIA how does it feel to be followed for once?” replied one Twitter user.
Social media outreach does seem like an odd fit for a shadowy spy agency whose work is mostly classified. But the CIA, which also joined Facebook on Friday, is trying to brighten its public face.
“By expanding to these platforms, CIA will be able to more directly engage with the public and provide information on CIA’s mission, history, and other developments,” said CIA Director John Brennan in a statement. “We have important insights to share, and we want to make sure that unclassified information about the Agency is more accessible to the American public that we serve, consistent with our national security mission.”
The agency also promised to post “the latest news, statements, and career information” from the CIA, along with artifacts from the CIA’s museum, updates from its World Factbook and unclassified intelligence information.
By launching officially on Facebook and Twitter, the CIA is expanding its limited online presence beyond its public website, Flickr and YouTube accounts.
Compared to some rival government agencies, though, it’s got some catching up to do. The National Security Agency joined Twitter in 2009, while the FBI joined in 2008 and those early adopters at the State Deptartment joined in 2007.
Later in the day the agency posted a second tweet: