USA: CIA contractor fired for anti torture blog post

Internet censorshipFrom CNET:

CIA contractor fired over blog post

July 21, 2006

A software contractor for the CIA was fired this week after she posted her views on the Geneva Conventions and torture at a blog site only accessible to those with a top-secret clearance.

Christine Axsmith had been employed by BAE Systems, a prominent defense contractor, to test software performance at the spy agency, the Washington Post reported on Friday.

On July 13, under her usual alias of “Covert Communications,” she posted an entry called “Waterboarding is Torture and Torture is Wrong” to Intelink, the intelligence community’s classified intranet.

She mentioned in the entry that she had had “the sad occasion to read interrogation transcripts in an assignment that should not be made public,” and that’s reportedly what set off upper management at the CIA, BAE Systems told her.

See also here.

See also here.

British woman blogger fired in France: here.


Now she’s suing her employer in a case generating buzz on both sides of the English Channel.

The lawsuit is seen as a test case in France, where there have been few cases of bloggers getting fired, unlike in the United States, where there is even a word for it: getting “dooced,” a reference to the author of, Heather B. Armstrong, who was fired for writing about her colleagues.

Update on this Petite Anglaise case: here.

Mark Jen blog censorship case: here.

Starbucks Employee Fired for Satirical Song: here.

9 thoughts on “USA: CIA contractor fired for anti torture blog post

  1. July 22, 2006
    C.I.A. Worker Says Message on Torture Got Her Fired

    WASHINGTON, July 21 — A contract employee working for the Central Intelligence Agency said she had been fired recently for posting a message on a classified computer server that said an interrogation technique used by the agency against some terror suspects amounted to torture.

    The employee, Christine Axsmith, kept the “Covert Communications” blog on a top-secret computer network used by American intelligence agencies. Ms. Axsmith was fired on Monday after C.I.A. officials objected to a message that criticized the interrogation technique called “waterboarding,” a particularly harsh practice that the C.I.A. is known to have used on Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who is widely regarded as the mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks.

    The episode has opened a window into the new world of classified blogging: an experimental effort being carried out in top-secret computer forums where information and ideas are shared across the intelligence community. Intelligence officials said that since last year, more than 1,000 blogs had been set up on classified intelligence servers.

    Ms. Axsmith, a computer security expert with a law degree, posted the message this month, shortly after the Bush administration decided to grant some protections of the Geneva Conventions to suspected terrorists in American custody. She said that her message began, “Waterboarding is torture, and torture is wrong.”

    Ms. Axsmith’s firing was earlier reported on several blogs including on Thursday, and in Friday’s Washington Post.

    “I wanted an in-house discussion,” Ms. Axsmith said in an interview on Thursday in her home in Washington. “Something where I would be educating people on the background of the Geneva Conventions.”

    Instead, Ms. Axsmith was fired by her employer, B.A.E. Systems, which has an information technology contract with the C.I.A.

    Ms. Axsmith said C.I.A. officials had confronted her and told her that the agency’s senior leadership was angry about the blog, which was housed on Intelink, the classified server maintained by the American intelligence community to aid communication among its employees.

    Besides losing her job, Ms. Axsmith also lost her top-secret security clearance, which she had held since 1993 and used for previous work for the State Department and National Counterterrorism Center. Sieg Heil!

    She said she feared that her career in the intelligence world was over. “It was like I was wiped out,” she said.

    A spokesman for B.A.E. Systems, Bob Hastings, said privacy issues prohibited him from commenting on Ms. Axsmith’s firing. But Mr. Hastings said that company policy prohibited employees from using computers for non-official purposes.

    Paul Gimigliano, a C.I.A. spokesman, said that the blogs were intended to “encourage collaboration” on business issues but that postings “should relate directly to the official business of the author and readers of the Web site.”

    The C.I.A. denies that it uses torture to extract information from prisoners, although a 2004 report by the agency’s inspector general concluded that some of its interrogation practices appeared to constitute cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.

    In waterboarding, the interrogation technique that Ms. Axsmith criticized, a prisoner is strapped to a board and then made to feel as if he is drowning.

    In March 2005, Porter J. Goss, who was then the C.I.A. director, described waterboarding as a “professional interrogation technique”; American military pilots and commandos are known to have been subjected to it during highly classified training regimes designed to prepare them to live in captivity.

    The use of the practice, along with the agency’s detention of approximately three dozen “high value detainees” in secret jails, has made some C.I.A. employees uneasy and has prompted a debate within the intelligence community.

    Ms. Axsmith said she believed that the “vast majority” of people working for the C.I.A. were opposed to torture.

    And, she said that she believed that the classified blogs could be a critical tool to allow C.I.A. employees — who are often prohibited from discussing their work even with other agency officials — to vent frustrations.

    “The blogs are a safety valve for people to discuss controversial topics,” she said. “It reduces the chances that people may leak to the press.”

    In April, the C.I.A. fired Mary O. McCarthy, a longtime employee, for having unauthorized contacts with the news media.

    Though stripped of her security clearance, Ms. Axsmith still maintains her public, unclassified blog: On that Web site on Friday, there were several messages supporting her, including postings from anonymous intelligence officials who said that they would miss her “Covert Communications” blog.

    Ms. Axsmith acknowledges that the posting that got her fired was deliberately provocative, and she said that if she had another chance she might have toned down the language.

    “I guess I’m just too much of a big mouth for that organization,” she said.


  2. Blogging Blunders Could Lead To Pink Slip
    Jul 17 2007 7:33PM

    COLUMBUS, Ohio – A recent survey shows that close to 2 percent of bosses have fired workers for content posted on Web logs, or blogs.

    Blog is short for Web log, which is a journal that is frequently updated and intended for others to see. The content generally represents the personality of the author.

    Jessica Cutler worked on Capitol Hill at the officer of former Ohio Sen. Mike DeWine. Then her online sex blog got her fired.

    Ellen Simonetti was a flight attendant until she was let go for posting pictures of herself online, wearing her uniform.

    Both Cutler and Simonetti were “dooced,” which means they were fired for blogging, 10TV’s Chuck Strickler reported.

    “Dooced,” came from Heather Armstrong, who was fired because of a blog she posted on her site,

    “Typically, when you’ve been “dooced,” you’ve been blogging at home — on your own time — on your own computer, but you’ve been writing things that your employer would rather you don’t write,” said Nancy Flynn, the executive director of the ePolicy Institute in Columbus and the author of Blog Rules.

    “One of (Armstrong’s) co-workers got wind of her blog and got online and saw that Heather was blogging about her co-workers, her boss, her customers and was saying some pretty unflattering things,” Flynn said.

    The number of people being fired for posting blog content is expected to rise, Strickler reported. A common misconception is that a personal blog cannot get a person fired. That is not true if you work for a private employer.

    “You do not have a First Amendment, Freedom of Speech right to publish anything you want about anyone you want, anytime you want,” Flynn said. “You’re not protected by the First Amendment as a blogger.”

    That is a point that blogger Jared Rutecki understands.

    Rutecki, a local graduate student, blogs to express himself and share his thoughts about music, dining and politics. He takes care of the content he posts because he knows what he writes now could potentially come back to haunt him in the future.

    “You also have to carefully consider what other people can have access to and I think it’s something that a lot of people really don’t think of,” Rutecki said.

    Flynn said that the best way to avoid getting fired because of a blog is to not write about business. Blogging anonymously is not going to protect someone, she said.

    Keep in mind that a friend, co-worker or even an enemy could find out that the blog is being published and call the boss.


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