Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld’s current chief of staff, Keith Urbahn, is widely credited for being the first to break the news that Osama bin Laden had been killed on his Twitter account. He tweeted Sunday night, long before the networks or any other news source reported it, “I am told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn.”
The day after his big get, Urbahn agreed to answer five questions from The Daily Caller about the experience of breaking the news of the death of America’s enemy number one on a social media site. (Full disclosure: Keith is a friend from our participation in Foreign Policy Initiative’s “Future Leaders” program.)
1. How does it feel to have essentially broken the news about Osama bin Laden’s death?
It’s fascinating to see all the angst among much of the traditional media. They’re crestfallen that they got scooped by some guy on twitter.
2. How did you find out? Was it through your boss, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld?
I’m not going to reveal the source, but I do feel it is important to make clear that it was not Mr. Rumsfeld or anyone who has access to classified information.
3. Does it say anything about the changing media landscape that you broke the news on Twitter?
Twitter and the blogosphere in general are great democratizers — allowing anyone to share views, news and information without having to go through a filter. On the whole I think that is a good thing. Obviously the days of three networks and an evening newspaper managing information are over.
4. How did your boss respond to the news? Did he saying anything about your role in breaking it?
Secretary Rumsfeld was delighted by the news that the decade long hunt for Bin Laden is over. But he has said for years that the war on terror is not about getting one man but confronting a violent ideology. And that battle continues. As for the reaction to my Twitter post, I think he was as surprised by it as anyone.
5. What has been the aftermath of the hullabaloo? Have you seen a major increase in Twitter followers?
Yes. I had hundreds of followers. Now I have thousands. And who knows, I may break some more major news in the future.