Sunday, July 23, 2006

Them heavy people hit me in a soft spot.

Filed under "You've got to be kidding, except I know you're not." From today's WaPo:

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.

. . .

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13, after she posted her views on torture and the Geneva Conventions, her blog was taken down and her security badge was revoked.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

In other words, The Messenger is dead. Long live the Message.

Lest there be any doubt, here's some background on the Geneva Conventions:

The Geneva Conventions consist of four treaties formulated in Geneva, Switzerland, that set the standards for international law for humanitarian concerns. The conventions were the results of efforts by Henri Dunant, who was motivated by the horrors of war he witnessed at the Battle of Solferino in 1859.

As per article 49, 50, 129 and 146 of the Geneva Conventions I, II, III and IV, respectively, all signatory states are required to enact sufficient national law to make grave violations of the Geneva Conventions a punishable criminal offence.

Who might these signatory states be? Funny you should ask.

It seems from doing some research at the website of the International Committee of the Red Cross, that the US0fA has not kept quite up to date. As the Wikipedia article states, there are 4 main Conventions, all from Aug. 12, 1949. Also, there are additional Protocols and Annexes from 1977 through 2005. The USA signed the original 4 Conventions.

But for reasons not clear, the USA signed onto Protocol 1, in December '77, while virtually all other countries signed 6.8.1977. Same for Protocol II. But Protocol III was signed along with most other nations on 12.8.2005.

Bottom line is, we have hitched our wagons to those stars. And yet this CIA contractor, who had previously blogged about such job-specific issues as cafeteria food, was fired for pointing out the obvious, that the USA had agreed to follow specific guidelines during times of combat.

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."

Is anyone sane running this operation?

Update: from AP News:

The group Human Rights Watch said in a report released Sunday that U.S. military commanders encouraged abusive interrogations of detainees in Iraq, even after the Abu Ghraib prison scandal called attention to the issue in 2004.

Between 2003 and 2005, prisoners were routinely physically mistreated, deprived of sleep and exposed to extreme temperatures as part of the interrogation process, the report said.

"Soldiers were told that the Geneva Conventions did not apply, and that interrogators could use abusive techniques to get detainees to talk," wrote John Sifton, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.