Forgot your password?
typodupeerror

CIA Blogger Fired for Criticizing Torture Policy 576

Posted by Zonk
from the speech-not-spooks dept.
PetManimal writes "A contract software developer for the CIA who had a blog on the CIA intranet was fired after criticizing torture in an entry. The title of the post: something along the lines of 'Waterboarding is Torture and Torture is Wrong.' The Washington Post reports Christine Axsmith is not the only CIA blogger -- the spy agency uses blogs to let agents and other workers share information and ideas." From the article: "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.'"
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

CIA Blogger Fired for Criticizing Torture Policy

Comments Filter:
  • Two things: (Score:5, Informative)

    by Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) * <whineymacfanboy@gmail.com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:25PM (#15757665) Homepage Journal
    1) Blog derives from 'weblog.' She's an ilogger (intranet), not a blogger :-)

    2) For those wondering - waterboarding [wikipedia.org]

    The modern practice of waterboarding involves tying the victim to a board with the head lower than the feet so that he or she is unable to move. A piece of cloth is held tightly over the face, and water is poured onto the cloth. Breathing is extremely difficult and the victim will be in fear of imminent death by asphyxiation. However, it is relatively difficult to aspirate a large amount of water since the lungs are higher than the mouth, and the victim is unlikely to actually die if this is done by skilled practitioners. Waterboarding may be used by captors who wish to impose anguish without leaving marks on their victims as evidence.
    Charming thing for a civilized country to be practicing & defending.
    • Re:Two things: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rainman_bc (735332) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:29PM (#15757708)
      Charming thing for a civilized country to be practicing & defending.

      Who claimed the US was a civilized country??? That's pretty subjective, and the perception about the US from within her walls are a lot different than the perception outside her walls.
      • I took it as sarcasm, myself. I'm in those walls and I couldn't say this is a civilized country without laughing or giving it a very snide tone.
        • Re:Two things: (Score:5, Insightful)

          by buswolley (591500) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:56PM (#15757975) Journal
          Look, from a social psychology perspective, this is just an example how is being punished for voicing opposition to the party-line. The CIA is shocked by this opposing voice, since they have not heard within-group opposition lately. This is because they have a culture of cohesive groupthink.
          • Re:Two things: (Score:4, Interesting)

            by Arker (91948) on Friday July 21, 2006 @01:31PM (#15758304) Homepage
            Actually, that's part of it, but don't forget the thorough purge there recently. They probably thought that, after firing the bulk of their senior analysts a couple years ago and radically politicising the office, the point had been made. Obviously this girl didn't get the memo somehow...
          • Re:Two things: (Score:4, Interesting)

            by demachina (71715) on Friday July 21, 2006 @04:24PM (#15759733)
            "The CIA is shocked by this opposing voice, since they have not heard within-group opposition lately."

            Actually the CIA has historically been populated by a large number of well educated independent thinkers. People currently and formerly at the CIA have been mounting some of the most vocal opposition to the lies and outrageous excesses of the DOD and the White House. Something very hard to do when you have a security clearance hanging over your head that is designed to prevent you from getting truth out. In spite of that people in the CIA have been active leakers as they try to do just that. I get the impression Tenent was about the only person at the CIA who believed, or was willing to lie, that Saddam had WMD's. CIA had/has rogue elements in its operations areas who were/are really scary people but the analysts are a great national resource being destroyed by the Republicans. They strive hard to give correct answers with the available information, while the Bush administration wants the answers they want to hear.

            The problem at the CIA is the same problem you have everywhere else in the Bush executive branch, ... DOD, State, Homeland security etc. Its the political appointees at the top who are incompetent, pushing torture, propagating false information and propaganda to support political objectives of the Bush administration. Porter Goss was sent in to the CIA specifically to break some heads, stop the leaks coming out of the CIA which was embarrassing the Bush administration. It was his job to force the people at the CIA in to the Bush party line or fire them. He however didn't submit to his new master Negroponte, Director of Intelligence, so he was pushed out to and they have a good robot to replace him in Hayden. I wager Hayden will do whatever his master tell him to do and one of his masters is the DOD further destroying CIA's independence. I could be wrong but I suspect one of the most dangerous people in America today is Negroponte. He is a sinister actor, who ran the illegal wars in Central America under the Reagan administration. He has no reservations about defying Congress or breaking the law. He is also a Yale graduate, went there with George W's unclue. Yale turns out more dangerous elitists than any institution around included George W and Dick Cheney though Cheney flunked out.
      • Re:Two things: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by twaitsfan (932142)
        Oh, please; don't play semantics. Being 'civilized' is not an absolute. Instead we should look at it as the degree of civilization. I would say that while the US is not at the edge closest to 'Civilized', there are many (most) more countries closer to 'Barbaric' than the US. Don't indict an entire country's populace because of it's administration that most of the country disagrees with.
        • Re:Two things: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Burlap (615181)
          maybe my dictionary is a little dusty.... but last i checked democracy [reference.com] is directly appointed by the people, so you ARE responcible for the actions of your administration.... unless you became a monarchy [reference.com] or a dictatorship [reference.com] while i was in the bathroom. If you really dont like what they are doing, quit posting on /. and go out there and do something about it... or else how is anyone else to know that you are against what they are doing?
    • Re:Two things: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by joe 155 (937621)
      as far as I know this is often called the Spanish water torture, I've heard that it is one of the worst things that you can do to someone because it cause the cloth to go into the throat and when it is removed it causes imense pain, not only that but you also get the feeling of drowning and suffocation. I wonder how (if this happened... I can't say either way) anyone in the CIA can claim to be civilised people at all. I would expect this behavious from the worst punishment in the Middle-Ages, not in a Wes
    • by tomhudson (43916) <barbara...hudson@@@barbara-hudson...com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:45PM (#15757878) Journal

      and the victim is unlikely to actually die if this is done by skilled practitioners.

      Who'd they practice on before they became so skilled?

      Gov't Torturer: I only lost 3 this week.
      Superior: Good enough. Here's your "Skilled in Waterboarding" cert. And no, I don't want to know what you did with the bodies.
      Gov't Torturer: Thanks. BTW, you might want to avoid the "mystery meat" at the cafeteria.

  • Snark (Score:5, Funny)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:27PM (#15757682) Homepage Journal
    I don't get it... the CIA doesn't torture people. The USA doesn't torture people. Why should the CIA care if a contractor says torture is wrong? They must have fired her for goofing off on company time/equipment.
    • Apparently she described "waterboarding" at torture. Presumably the CIA practices waterbording and says it's not torture. Speaking out against the corporate line on a sensitive topic is an invitation to be sacked, or worse, e.g., waterboarded!
      • Have any of the posters expressed approval of the government or CIA in a non-work related fashion and not been fired?

        If they fire contractors who "waste" time, that's okay.

        If they only fire contractors who "waste" time criticizing the government, that's not okay.
  • by linvir (970218) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:28PM (#15757693)
    On Monday, Axsmith was terminated by her employer, BAE Systems, which was helping the CIA test software.
    Wow, they really don't take this stuff lying down. Many bloggers died to bring us this information!
  • by BBlinkk (985908) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:28PM (#15757698)
    Im I the only one wondering what the hell this has to do with our online rights?? It was on a private INTRANET for god sakes...
    • It was on a private INTRANET for god sakes...

      No, it's a government intranet. Paid for by US taxpayers and in blood by others.
      • It's a place of employment, not a public forum for discussing social policy. Posting personal opinions on a company network is asking for trouble.

        Also... people... read the article. It indicates her "security badge was revoked". If the government yanked or suspended her security clearance, she would no longer be able to access classified material or work on classified projects. If this is indeed what happened (the wording is a bit vague), then her employer had no choice but to fire her, as she was no l
    • by crmartin (98227) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:59PM (#15758004)
      A private classified network to which you only get access if you agree to a set of rules that distinctly limit your freedoms with information under those rules.

      It's on YRO because there are a bunch of goddamn children around who think "TOP SECRET" means "I won't talk about it unless I'm of a mind to."
  • Keep a low profile.
  • as expected (Score:2, Insightful)

    If an employee does something you don't like, as an employer you can easily fire them for some other infraction... just dust off your unused copy of the employee handbook.
  • It won't be long before bloggers are put on the same list as communists, terrorists and bad James Bond films.
  • by kensai (139597) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:34PM (#15757773) Homepage
    she was only fired and not tortured for her views on torture.
  • by toupsie (88295) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:35PM (#15757780) Homepage
    I was working for a huge meat packing company and we had internal company blogs so we could share ideas and generally make the company run better. You know, totally Web 2.0. I am a committed vegan so I posted a blog entry called "Meat is Murder and Murder is Wrong" and guess what happened to me? I was fired! Can you believe that!?!?!? Freaking fascists.
  • by elrous0 (869638) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:37PM (#15757803)
    Jeez, she had no right to use the CIA intranet to complain like this. She should have used the proper CIA procedure with regards to such complaints--take them to the New York Times.

    -Eric

  • 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.
    This is what happens when you tick off the CIA lunchlady. Next thing you know she'll have a mysterious heart attack, all because the world now knows the food tastes like cardboard.
  • by mcknation (217793) <nocarrier AT gmail DOT com> on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:38PM (#15757817) Homepage
    http://econo-girl.blogspot.com/ [blogspot.com]

    from the BoingBoing story a day or two ago..
  • by gasmonso (929871) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:38PM (#15757821) Homepage

    A contract software developer for the CIA was kidnapped and tortured by the CIA. Details to follow.

    http://religiousfreaks.com/ [religiousfreaks.com]
  • I fail to see how this even begins to fit the "News for Nerds. Stuff that Matters" moniker.

    Oh, it was on a BLOG on an INTRANET - guess that must make it newsworthy. Feh - this is partisan posting and nothing else.

    Here we have a contractor who did something the employer didn't like. Employer fires contractor. End of story.

    Having consulted for 10 years, I can tell you that generally contracts are written to allow either party to terminate their agreement for almost any reason with almost no notice. If you'
    • Oh, it was on a BLOG on an INTRANET...Here we have a contractor who did something the employer didn't like. Employer fires contractor. End of story.

      I take it you don't understand the difference between private companies and government actions? A private company can fire you for saying something. If the government takes any action to get you fired for saying something, they have violated the First amendment in the Bill of rights and broken the law.

      I can tell you that generally contracts are written...

  • by Coryoth (254751) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:42PM (#15757853) Homepage Journal
    Certainly I can understand the issues involved with firing someone who posts an anti-torture blog. It just has "bad idea" written all over it. On the other hand this was an internal blog that she would have had to have written at work. I strongly suspect that rather than a "blog" these things are meant to just be an internal work diary recording what projects you've been working on, progress you've made and ideas relating to those projects, so that others that may have tangential interest in those projects can stay updated. The sort of thing where person A says "I really need something like X", they can do a quick search of the internal system and find that person B has is working on a project similar to X, and that in fact it will also do Y and Z which, now that they think about it, person A would also be interested in. Person A can then get in touch with person B and save themselves much duplication of effort. If that's the case then you have to admit that spending work time long writing Op-Ed pieces in your work diary instead of whatever you are supposed to be doing might be a good reason for someone to terminate your work contract.

    This is also the sort of thing where, despite needing to really know a bit more to be able to make any reasonable judgement, we are simply never going to hear anymore due to secrecy constraints. I guess that means I'll just flag it as "mildly dubious" and keep an eye out for any more of this sort of shenanigans.
  • This isn't really a moral or rights issue, it was an internal company blog that was supposed to pertain to the contractor's work. What it is, however, is draconian and foolish. Draconian because it would have been much more effective to discuss this with the employee before pulling out the pink slips. Foolish because of the very real stifling effect it will have on what others say and the kind of culture that will promote. A culture in which open discussion of ideas and up-from-the-bottom thinking are disco
  • So? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CXI (46706) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:47PM (#15757906) Homepage
    So, let us review. A software developer had access to a blog set up specifically for collaborating on software issues. She instead uses it as an opinion journal, and even go so far as to reveal classified information that she has seen in the course of her previous job. Regardless of the clearance required to access the site, she shouldn't have been using the resource the way she was and she certainly shouldn't have been discussing interogation transcripts in her roll as a software developer!

    Being fired seems like the logical concequence.
  • by statemachine (840641) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:48PM (#15757915)
    Criticize your employer and be prepared for the consequences, including job termination, even if you are 100% correct. No one should be surprised. Hopefully the woman in the article has another job lined up.
  • ....is beyond me. People are writing things about their companies on blogs and getting fired for it. Why is that such a suprise? If belittle your company in a public place and hurt their image, why shouldn't you be fired.

    Now, this was an internal blog that was actually used BY the CIA employees to discuss information that may be needed...this type of post was uncalled for and deserved a punishment, though maybe a suspension would do. Blogs are nothing but a way to get in trouble.
  • by OrangeTide (124937) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:56PM (#15757973) Homepage Journal
    Maybe if you want to keep your job you should keep your mouth shut and not criticize your employeer. There are plenty of people who can fight the fight for you, we are all well aware that the CIA practices waterboarding on foreign nationals on a regular basis. And occationally it is practiced in government institutions against American citizens (prisons and mental hospitals).

    It has shown many times that torture often produces falses confessions, so I'm skeptical of its effectiveness for gathering information. I will not deny its effectiveness for punishment though. Punishment that leaves no scars is a step up from the usual beatings that take place.
    • Are you saying that some bomb-chucking Arab is going to behave himself if we torture him and let him go? Or are we just torturing him to make ourselves feel better? Torture is an entry point for evil into our world. I can think of situations where it might prevent more evil from coming into the world, and maybe it's justified in those cases. Being able to say "We showed HIM what happens if he messes with us" is not one of those cases.
  • Wrong all around (Score:4, Informative)

    by crmartin (98227) on Friday July 21, 2006 @12:56PM (#15757980)
    Go read the actual article: she was fired for writing about the contents of a transcript of an interrogation she read.

    This was undoubtedly at least SECRET codeword information, and she posted it on a network where, with certainty, not everyone on the network had been "read into" the compartment. In other words, she violated "need to know."

    So they pulled her clearance, and since clearance was required for her job, they fired her.

    She's lucky they didn't arrest her. Dammit, "I don't like this" is not a sufficient reason for violating classification.
    • by cinnamoninja (958754) on Friday July 21, 2006 @01:20PM (#15758209)
      Dammit, "I don't like this" is not a sufficient reason for violating classification.

      Err, yes it is.

      Should she have been fired for breaking security? Yes.

      Should she have done it anyway? Yes.

      This is a classic case for civil disobedience. There come times when following the law violates your own integrity as a person, and the dual virtues of loyalty and compassion conflict. At that point, you must showcase you humanity and be willing to take the punishment for it.

      Might I have the strength to choose as wisely.
    • "I don't like this" is not a sufficient reason for violating classification.

      I have never held a security clearance. While I agree that "I don't like that" is not OK, what we are talking about here goes *way* beyond that. I believe that the *vast* majority of the US population would condemn torture if asked. Most of those people aren't just vaguely opposed -- They find the concept to be morally reprehensible.

      So my question is this: What *is* sufficient justification for violating the terms of your securit
  • I'm actually surprised to see one of these "company blogs" being used by someone not in the marketing or PR department. The poster should have been a little more cognizant of where she was posting this information. I thought that most people realized that internal blogs were strictly there for marketing/progaganda purposes.

    I'm also kind of curious about why the poster didn't follow Rule #1 of contracting...do your job, stay invisible, and collect your paychecks. This has been true in every place I've worked
  • Unauthorised use of a government computer system. The way they are using that law, the government can make anything an employee does that the government doesn't like "unauthorised". Go straight to jail. How soon before people are arrested for similar postings from a government library computer? Just wait till the US nationalises the internet, in the interest of homeland security. In the old USSR, any action that wasn't specifically allowed in writing was unauthorised, and a punishable crime. Wheras in
  • by NZheretic (23872) on Friday July 21, 2006 @01:24PM (#15758250) Homepage Journal
    View the first chapter of Adam Curtis's documentary The Power of Nightmares [archive.org].

    From Baby it's cold outside [telia.com]

    VO: In the 1970s, this film was made, that showed what happened in Nasser's main prison in the '50s and '60s. It was based on the testimony of survivors. Torturers who had been trained by the CIA unleashed an orgy of violence against Muslim Brotherhood members accused of plotting to overthrow Nasser. At one point, Qutb was covered with animal fat and locked in a cell with dogs trained to attack humans. Inside the cell, he had a heart attack.

    General FOUAD ALLAM, Interrogator Interior Ministry 1958-87 (speaking in Arabic; subtitled): Sayyed Qutb thought of himself as a superior sort of person. He saw himself as an important Islamist thinker and a strong character. And so on and so on. But at the end of the day, when he was in the military prison he gave us the exact details about his secret group and the orders he had given. The most dangerous was the order to flood the whole of the Nile delta and drown this corrupt land of infidels.

    VO: Qutb survived, but the torture had a powerful radicalizing effect on his ideas. Up to this point, he had believed that the Western secular ideas simply created the selfishness and the isolation he had seen in the United States. But the torture, he believed, showed that this culture also unleashed the most brutal and barbarous aspects of human beings. Qutb began to have an apocalyptic vision of a disease that was spreading from the West throughout the world. He called it jahilliyah--a state of barbarous ignorance. What made it so terrifying and insidious was that people didn't realize that they were infected. They believed that they were free, and that their politicians were taking them forward to a new world. But in fact, they were regressing to a barbarous age.

  • by digitaldc (879047) * on Friday July 21, 2006 @01:34PM (#15758332)
    ...whether the person being tortured did it or not.

    Confessing to a crime is always better than being tortured by another.
  • by kalirion (728907) on Friday July 21, 2006 @01:39PM (#15758367)
    So when will we have a White House press release accusing Washington Post of endangering National Security by revealing that the CIA has records of using waterboarding torture?
  • by chezmarshall (694493) on Friday July 21, 2006 @02:27PM (#15758788) Homepage
    The woman in question was working for a CIA contractor, and the duties for which she was given access were software testing.

    FYI, just having a security clearance is not enough to work at a particular facility. You need the requisite clearance AND access. Access is at the absolute discretion of whoever is running the facility.

    Contractors in such a setting are always in a precarious circumstance. In many ways, they're encouraged to feel like part of the team, but they're not. Contractors who become nuisances or whose choices require the customer to spend time and effort usually get their access yanked.

    At one place I worked, incoming contractors were explicitly cautioned about all the way in which some of their predecessors had gotten their access yanked. Because our customer was the only one the company had, losing your access to the customer's facitily meant you got fired. Some of the reasons that had resulted in losing access seemed incredibly petty.

    I can think of many reasons this woman lost her access. The biggest problem is that she used her customer's computer system to criticize that very customer! As a contractor to the US government, she should have just known better than to critique foreign policy on a CIA intranet. A secondary problem is that she based her opinions on an interrogation transcript for which she apparently had need-to-know at some point. However, it's inappropriate in that setting to share even the fact that she had access to the transcript with anyone who didn't have a need to know about that.

    Contractors who think independently and who aren't willing to follow even the most picayune of the customer's rules are problems (from the customer's point of view) that are very easily solved.

    I'm not saying that I disagree with her comments or that I don't think this is all much ado about nothing. However, she should have seen that extending her comments from funny discussions about the cafeteria food to her opinion of the country's foreign policy was turning her into a nail that was sticking up. If there's one thing that places like the CIA can do very well, it's knowing how to hammer down any nail that sticks up.
  • by mikelieman (35628) on Saturday July 22, 2006 @03:48AM (#15762208) Homepage
    When you fell for the Fear Card, and gave up Due Process, and tortured your very first prisoner to death, you became EXACTLY as Evil as any Nazi was.

    The ONLY differences being the methods and bodycount (so far.)

    Do you think to the VICTIM it matters one bit if it's one, or 12 million?

To be awake is to be alive. -- Henry David Thoreau, in "Walden"

Working...