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Why is the CIA Director still using AOL for email?

Updated Dec 19th, 2018 9:07PM EST
CIA Director Email

The tech world this week has been abuzz with word that a high school student managed to hack the into the AOL email of CIA Director John Brennan, gaining access to his personal information and otherwise sensitive security information in the process. Rather than employing some high-tech wizardry in order to gain access, the hacker primarily relied on tried and true social engineering techniques.

Lost in the shuffle, though, is a question that has undoubtedly crossed everyone’s mind: Why in the world is the director of the CIA, of all people, still using an AOL email address? It’s a complicated and thorny question, but we managed to come up with a few explanations which may help shed some light on the issue.

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1. Exclusivity

Exclusivity, baby! John Brennan is many things, but a chump he is not. This dude has been with the CIA for 25 year and he’s learned a thing or two about working the system. Working close to D.C., Brennan is often surrounded by famous politicians and an endless number of intelligence personnel. So while Brennan’s job as head of the CIA might impress your average country bumpkin, in D.C, he’s just another number.

What’s more, with the NSA garnering all of the headlines in recent years (there’s no such thing as bad press after all), Brennan decided that he had to come up with a way to stand out in a city where email addresses are a dime a dozen.

The solution? AOL. Just imagine the stares and double takes Brennan elicits while casually dropping his AOL-email stamped business cards at fancy D.C. galas and dinner parties. It’s a baller move.

You have a Gmail account? Okay, who doesn’t? You have a or email address? Big whoop, so does my cousin. You have a hotmail account? Stop lying. You have an AOL email address? Ohhh… intriguing. Who ARE you?

You don’t rise to be director of the CIA without learning a few tricks of the trade on the way up.

2. He loves that sweet, sweet ‘You’ve got mail!’ sound

Can we all agree that the famous ‘You’ve got mail!’ sound never gets old? If anything, it’s the one thing that AOL Mail gets right. In fact, the ringer on my phone is actually an audio file of the ‘You’ve got mail’ sound. Sure, it was a little confusing at first, but it’s well worth it.

Brennan is no dummy and he can clearly appreciates the finer things in life. He is from New Jersey, after all.

That being the case, who wouldn’t want to be put at ease by the smooth and sultry sounds of the ‘You’ve got mail’ voice before reading up on the latest strategic threats to the U.S.

3. AOL’s homepage is legit

When you sign into AOL Mail, you get a curated list of some of the top stories of the day. Just check out this homepage action here.

Top Stories? Check. Weather information? Check. AIM integration? Hallelujah!

Has checking email ever been this much fun? And just check out some of those tantalizing headlines. “4-year old girl picks…” Picks what?! Her nose? A new toy? I’m dying to find out. Not to be outdone, check out the story detailing the ’10 healthiest (and unheal thiest [sic])’ cereals. Clearly, AOL’s algorithms (humans can’t be this good, can they?) have picked out a great selection of stories to go along with a standard mid-day email check.

So while you might be wondering why John Brennan is still using an AOL email address, I think the real question should be why aren’t you?

4. He’s loyal to a fault

When you’re a CIA operative or executive, loyalty is an absolutely integral part of the job. And when you’re the CIA Director, it’s all the more important that you set a good example from the top. That being the case, Brennan sticking with AOL Mail, something he’s likely had since 1996, is a great way for him to lead by example. What better way to subtly tell everyone, “Once I’m on your side, I’ll be on your side forever.”

There’s also some symbolism at play here that we’re sure isn’t lost on Brennan. In the mid-90s, AOL was headquartered in Dulles, Virginia. Meanwhile, the first civilian CIA Director was Allen Dulles. In fact, Dulles, Virginia is effectively named after Allen’s brother John, a former  U.S. Secretary of State. By keeping his AOL email address, Brennan shows that he appreciates the CIA’s storied history. Even more important, it demonstrates that he’s down for the cause and will not waver, either in principle or in email address, in the face of adversity.

So while some might laugh at Brennan’s AOL email address, I say the man deserves a raise.

Yoni Heisler Contributing Writer

Yoni Heisler has been writing about Apple and the tech industry at large with over 15 years of experience. A life long expert Mac user and Apple expert, his writing has appeared in Edible Apple, Network World, MacLife, Macworld UK, and TUAW.

When not analyzing the latest happenings with Apple, Yoni enjoys catching Improv shows in Chicago, playing soccer, and cultivating new TV show addictions.