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Two Steps Back (Update)

Welcome OTB readers . . .

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13, after she posted her views on torture and the Geneva Conventions, her blog was taken down and her security badge was revoked.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. […]

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.”

I don’t have a whole lot of sympathy for a 42-year-old woman who hasn’t figured out the difference between “work” and “personal.” If she should be blogging on anything at work it ought to be technical issues. Double-dumb-@$$ on her supervisors who set her up for unemployment by not squashing any non-work-related chatter from the get go. Insiders from Meade know full well the result of letting people publicly rant on about whatever nonsense pops into their heads (hint: misc.misc). There is a place for people – even cleared people – to express their personal opinions: Blogger.

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.

Update: To be clear, I don’t think the bureaucracy will have a negative impact on Intelink (something they don’t control) but on blogging at the CIA (something they definately can control).

And since I’ve now been labeled a member of the VRWC let me note that of all the national security/intel beat reporters at the post she could have gone to, she goes to Dana Priest. The not-so subtle message: CIA squashes dissent from all quarters, even lowly bloggers. Heaven forbid anyone point out that they’re dealing with a waste, fraud and abuse issue. Not that there isn’t plenty more to root out, but even low-hanging fruit is worth something.

Besides, _everyone_ knows you don’t eat in the cafeteria; you get it your way at the BK. ;-)

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji

Michael Tanji spent nearly 20 years in the US intelligence community. Trained in both SIGINT and HUMINT disciplines he has worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency, and the National Reconnaissance Office. At various points in his career he served as an expert in information warfare, computer network operations, computer forensics, and indications and warning. A veteran of the US Army, Michael has served in both strategic and tactical assignments in the Pacific Theater, the Balkans, and the Middle East.