If the NSA ever wants to get in touch with famed whistleblower Edward Snowden, it can do so via direct message on Twitter — a privilege that is theirs and theirs alone.
Snowden officially joined Twitter early Tuesday afternoon as a verified user with the handle @Snowden.
His first tweet, sent at 12 p.m. ET, reads, "Can you hear me now?" His Twitter bio states simply "I used to work for the government. Now I work for the public. Director at @FreedomofPress."
The account's location is unspecified.
Can you hear me now?— @Snowden
His follower count, on the other hand, has been exploding since @Snowden went live. Just one hour after the former NSA contractor issued his first tweet, more than 170,000 people were following him on Twitter.
However, @NSAGov is not one of those followers.
Snowden's presence drew the ire of former New York Gov. George Pataki, who is running a campaign for president that has failed to gain much traction. Pataki called on Twitter co-founder and interim CEO Jack Dorsey to remove the controversial Snowden.
"You kind of need a Twitter handle. So like @Snowden, maybe? Is this something you might do?" Tyson asked Snowden during an interview published by StarTalk Radio Friday evening.
"That sounds good, I think we've got to make it it happen," Snowden said, to which Tyson replied, "You and I will be Twitter buddies. Your followers will be: the internet, me, and the NSA."
Snowden's second and third tweets, both public replies to Tyson, show that the astrophysicist wasn't kidding about the Twitter buddy thing.
.@neiltyson Thanks for the welcome. And now we've got water on Mars! Do you think they check passports at the border? Asking for a friend.— @Snowden
Snowden has been living in Russia since 2013, when he leaked classified documents revealing that the U.S. government had top-secret mass surveillance programs in place to spy on almost everything that hundreds of millions of people do online.
The whistleblower is wanted by the U.S. government on espionage charges, but continues to make press appearances using video links from Russia, where he has been granted asylum.
Snowden's lawyer, Ben Wizner of the American Civil Liberties Union, told the Intercept that Snowden himself will be controlling his Twitter account.
The @Snowden handle, while already registered to another user, hadn't been in use for three years when Snowden decided to join the social network. Twitter helped him obtain the handle, and verified it right away.
Meanwhile, a thousand people at Fort Meade just opened Twitter.— @Snowden