CIA Intelink Blogger Fired
Dana Priest reports that a government contractor who blogged on the CIA’s Top Secret Intelink has been fired.
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13, after she posted her views on torture and the Geneva Conventions, her blog was taken down and her security badge was revoked.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.”
Certainly, postings on cafeteria food don’t meet that test. And Axsmith was apparently there as a software tester, not an analyst.
The implication of Priest’s piece is that she was fired for airing controversial views on interrogation policy. There’s no evidence of that, however. The closest we get is this:
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.
My guess is that her post on waterboarding worried the leadership because a software tester shouldn’t have access to classified interrogation reports. Even though she presumably had a Top Secret clearance, it’s unlikely she had a need to know that sort of information.
It wouldn’t surprise me if the post was flagged for that reason and then her supervisors started wondering “What the hell is she doing posting on a blog, anyway?” Still, it seems unreasonable to fire her for this unless she had other performance issues.
UPDATE: Michael Tanji thinks this could spell doom for
Intelink blogging at the CIA.
The down-side of course is that the agency is likely to do what any agency in similar circumstances would do: drop the hammer on blogging. They won’t do away with it, but watch out for all sorts of new policies, increased monitoring, and smack-downs for minor infractions. Attitudes about blogging will cool especially with the old-school who will stand by and cluck-cluck about how they just knew this new-fangled nonsense would lead to no good. Those who were making the most of the new medium will sense this unspoken but real pressure to focus on “real” production and traditional communications.
Quite possibly, given how bureaucracies function. It’d be a shame, too. The idea behind Intelink is genius. But if it devolves into people who shouldn’t even be posting on the damned thing bitching about the cafeteria food, it becomes a time waster.