The dispute between Twitter and the U.S. intelligence industry that broke into public view this week actually began as long ago as last fall, sources familiar with the matter tell CNBC.
The Wall Street Journal reported this week that Twitter has cut off U.S. intelligence agencies from a service that sifts through the entire output of Twitter's social media postings. That comes as Silicon Valley and the U.S. government have been engaged in a heated dispute over the degree to which American tech companies should cooperate with U.S. law enforcement and intelligence agencies, such as the FBI and CIA.
It has not been clear exactly which entity in the vast U.S. intelligence apparatus was involved in the dispute with Twitter, but sources tell CNBC that it was a division of the CIA known as Open Source Enterprise. According to the CIA's website, that unit is a part of the CIA's directorate of digital innovation. It was created in the wake of recommendations by both the 9-11 Commission and the Iraq Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission that CIA focus more effort on gathering "open source" information — data that is available to anyone in the public, as opposed to information that can only be gathered through covert means.