From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]


The below post is a recreation of a post that got me fired from the
CIA. It is not exact, but covers the main points as best I remember
them. I had a blog called Covert Communications on a kind of classified
Internet. I wrote a version of the above post and classified it so that
only Americans with clearances could read it. You couldn’t even get to
the blog if you had less than a Top Secret and above clearance anyway.


“Waterboarding is Torture, and Torture is Wrong. Not to mention
ineffective. Econo-Girl has serious doubts as to whether European lives
were saved. Econo-Girl’s purpose in writing this blog is to start a
dialog on the Geneva Convention, since it now applies to the Department
of Defense again. Guess it’s not quaint anymore, eh? Over the next few
weeks, Econo-Girl would like to post articles about the Geneva
Convention, like its origin and major provisions. Legal analysis is not
the magic some would have you believe. If the grunts and paper pushers
are knowledgeable, the anti-torture infrastructure will be
strengthened. ”

– – – – —

Another purpose of the blog post was to start a dialog on interogation
techniques with the people who are asked to do the interogating. It was
to be a public education campaign, of sorts. I was going to do the
research on my own time and type in the results when I got to work. I
never spent more than 15 minutes writing any of my posts.

What can I say? Waterboarding is torture, and torture is wrong.




Top-Secret World Loses Blogger
CIA Contractor Is Fired When Internal Post Crosses the Line
By Dana Priest  /  July 21, 2006

Christine Axsmith, a software contractor for the CIA, considered her
blog a success within the select circle of people who could actually
access it.

Only people with top-secret security clearances could read her musings,
which were posted on Intelink, the intelligence community’s classified
intranet. Writing as Covert Communications, CC for short, she opined in
her online journal on such national security conundrums as stagflation,
the war of ideas in the Middle East and — in her most popular post —
bad food in the CIA cafeteria.

But the hundreds of blog readers who responded to her irreverent
entries with titles such as “Morale Equals Food” won’t be joining her
ever again.

On July 13, after she posted her views on torture and the Geneva
Conventions, her blog was taken down and her security badge was
revoked. On Monday, Axsmith was terminated by her employer, BAE
Systems, which was helping the CIA test software.

As a traveler in the classified blogosphere, Axsmith was not alone.
Hundreds of blog posts appear on Intelink. The CIA says blogs and other
electronic tools are used by people working on the same issue to
exchange information and ideas.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano declined to comment on Axsmith’s case but
said the policy on blogs is that “postings should relate directly to
the official business of the author and readers of the site, and that
managers should be informed of online projects that use government
resources. CIA expects contractors to do the work they are paid to do.”

A BAE Systems spokesman declined to comment.

Axsmith, 42, said in an interview this week that she thinks of herself
as the Erma Bombeck of the intel world, a “generalist” writing about
lunch meat one day, the war on terrorism the next. She said she first
posted her classified blog in May and no one said a thing. When she
asked, managers even agreed to give her the statistics on how many
people were entering the site. Her column on food pulled in 890
readers, and people sent her reviews from other intelligence agency

The day of the last post, Axsmith said, after reading a newspaper
report that the CIA would join the rest of the U.S. government in
according Geneva Conventions rights to prisoners, she posted her views
on the subject.

It started, she said, something like this: “Waterboarding is Torture
and Torture is Wrong.”

And it continued, she added, with something like this: “CC had the sad
occasion to read interrogation transcripts in an assignment that should
not be made public. And, let’s just say, European lives were not
saved.” (That was a jab at Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s trip
to Europe late last year when she defended U.S. policy on secret
detentions and interrogations.) A self-described “opinionated loudmouth
with a knack for writing a catchy headline,” Axsmith also wrote how it
was important to “empower grunts and paper pushers” because, she
explained in the interview, “I’m a big believer in educating people at
the bottom, and that’s how you strengthen an infrastructure.”

In her job as a contractor at the CIA’s software-development shop,
Axsmith said, she conducted “performance and stress testing” on
computer programs, and that as a computer engineer she had nothing to
do with interrogations. She said she did read some
interrogation-related reports while performing her job as a trainer in
one counterterrorism office.

Her opinion, Axsmith added, was based on newspaper reports of torture
and waterboarding as an interrogation method used to induce prisoners
to cooperate.

“I thought it would be okay” to write about the Geneva Conventions, she
said, “because it’s the policy.”

In recounting the events of her last day as an Intelink blogger,
Axsmith said that she didn’t hold up well when the corporate security
officers grilled her, seized her badge and put her in a frigid
conference room. “I’m shaking. I’m cold, staring at the wall,” she
recalled. “And worse, people are using the room as a shortcut, so I
have no dignity in this crisis.”

She said BAE officials told her that the blog implied a specific
knowledge of interrogations and that it worried “the seventh floor” at
CIA, where the offices of the director and his management team are.

She said she apologized right away and figured she would get
reprimanded and her blog would be eliminated. She never dreamed she
would be fired. Now, Axsmith said, “I’m scared, terrified really” of
being criminally prosecuted for unauthorized use of a government
computer system, something one of the security officers mentioned to

Axsmith said she’s proud of having taken her views public — well, sort
of. “I know I hit the radar and it was amplified,” she said. “I think
I’ve had an impact.”

In the meantime, she’s been thinking about Lt. Cmdr. Charles Swift, the
Navy lawyer who successfully challenged the constitutionality of
military tribunals at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

The National Law Journal named Swift one of the 100 most influential
lawyers in the country, but the Navy has so far passed him over for
promotion. He told the Los Angeles Times then, “One thing that has been
a great revelation for me is that you may love the military, but it
doesn’t necessarily love you.”

“That’s how I feel,” Axsmith said, recalling what Swift said. “I love
the CIA. I love the mission. I love the people. It’s such a great place
to work.”


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