This is Charlie, a remote controlled fish built by the CIA long ago "to study aquatic robot technology." While once a seaborne spying device, he spends his twilight years in the CIA museum. Except now his visage graces the CIA's brand new Flickr page, a tentative step into social media from one of the most secretive arms of government. Think of Charlie as the closest thing Flickr will get to a FAIL Whale.
The CIA relaunched its website yesterday to include a Flickr stream and a YouTube channel. If you were expecting full motion video captured by a Predator before it fires a missile at a member of the Pakistani Taliban, prepare to be disappointed by clips of Director Leon Panetta's speeches. At least until you take the guided tour of CIA headquarters narrated by a bomb-sniffing Labrador.
But oh, the Flickr page. The most interesting stuff by far is Charlie's fellow Animatronic drones, like this 70s era dragonfly robot. And that's faint praise. For some reason, the agency wants to show off the lithium batteries it used to use. Or a crypto system hidden in a make-up compact. Did Flickr not have enough photos from the International Spy Museum?
No one's saying CIA needs to release pictures of its undercover operatives, the spies they manage or the gear they use. Sure, social media is going to be weird for a group of spies: its internal social network for analysts, A-Space (get it?), is hidden from the public, and so are its assessments of what's in the newspapers. But why bother to have a Flickr page at all if it's filled with memorabilia, or shots from the library stacks, or pictures of an empty auditorium?
Perhaps the best yet: pictures of pictures of former presidents. Behold.
This is the Flickr page of the people we are trusting to find Osama bin Laden. Just wait until they discover Soundcloud.
Photo: Flickr /CIA