Congress eyeing the ‘dumpster fire’ of hate talk in spy agency chat rooms

By Jeff Stein and Howard Altman

House and Senate intelligence oversight committees are looking into hate speech that has flourished in spy agency chat rooms over the past five years, a spokesman there said. SpyTalk. Caleb H. Randall-Bodman, a spokesman for the panel, said: “The House Armed Services Committee is aware of these allegations and we are working with the relevant agencies to assess the claim.” compensation claim”.

Dan Gilmore, who worked on an administrative team overseeing internal chat rooms for the classified Intelink system for more than a decade starting in 2011, said that at the end of the third year of the Trump administration, The system has exploded with provocative comments, particularly on “eChirp,” Twitter’s copy of the intelligence community.

“I am the admin of this app and after a few years it became a bonfire” of hate speech targeting minorities, women, gays, transgenders and Muslims, Gilmore, a 30-year veteran in the Navy and NSA cryptosystems, wrote March 10 in a special public post on his own website. Gilmore was an NSA contractor from 1999 until he was fired last July “because I made someone look bad,” he wrote.

“Professionalism was thrown out the window, and flame wars became the norm,” he said. In one SpyTalk in an interview last week, he said he was “unable to quantify” the extent to which hate speech in chat rooms was representative of the microchip workforce at large, but he wrote on his blog that “many employees at the CIA, DIA, NSA and other IC agencies have openly stated that the January 6 terrorist attack on our Capitol was justifiable. ”

The Senate Intelligence Committee “knows and is reviewing the allegations”, reported exclusively by SpyTalk on March 11, committee spokeswoman Rachel Cohen said. Spokesperson Lauren French said: “We have been in contact with the DoD and IC agencies. The House Standing Select Committee on Intelligence is also “aware of and concerned about these reports and has requested further information”. Both declined to say more.

(IC is an acronym for the Intelligence Community, which includes 18 organizations, including two independent agencies, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, or ODNI, and the CIA. The FBI is also part of the IC. )

The FBI declined to comment. The CIA did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Senate Armed Services Committee did not respond to a request for comment. The National Security Agency, ODNI and the Pentagon all declined to comment on the allegations.

Austin’s Limits

The Pentagon’s silence contrasts with its very public stance on countering extremism within the ranks. No less Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has expressed concern about extreme right-wing sentiment during military service. In the aftermath of the January 6, 2020 Capitol uprising, he ordered a so-called military standstill day to lead the way in addressing extremism with the military. Since then, the department has issued new guidelines. For example, membership in an extremist organization is not prohibited, but participation in its activities is. That extends to social media posts, where “liking” or sharing a post deemed extremist or anti-government could lead to some form of disciplinary action.

The DoD also prohibits the use of government communications to support extremist activities or knowingly accessing Internet sites or other materials that promote or support extremist activities. December 2021 “Report on Countering Extremism in the Department of Defense. ”

“Hate speech is running rampant on our apps.”

It’s not clear if the ban will extend to military personnel at the NSA who can participate in Intelink’s classified chat rooms.

Gilmore, whose identity and credentials have been verified by another Pentagon intelligence contractor. “I am not a hyperbole. Racist, homophobic, homophobic, anti-Muslim [sic]and illogical speech has been posted in many of our apps. “

Tara Lemieux, a senior cybersecurity assessor for the Department of Defense who worked on the Intelink program from 2012 to 2016, attested to much of Gilmore’s ethos of small talk. She said she is “appalled that any language advocating the overthrow of our United States government — or offering support for the January 6 Resurrection — is being allowed on the Internet. Intelink’s services and appalled that the contractors and/or employees who made these comments did not have their Top Secret Security Clearances and Access Rights immediately suspended. “

“The NSA probably hopes this goes away,” Lemieux added. “This is unconscionable and [US intelligence community] There is a need for immediate and meaningful action, as there is no room for personal bias in matters of National Security.”

In the years leading up to President Donald Trump’s sympathies with white supremacists and neo-Nazis, partisan political commentary on the Intelink channels was period, Lemieux said. “I… remember how quickly we would react to pull down content that didn’t meet the acceptance criteria. For example, in previous years, they would jump through hoops with their hair on fire if you talked about political candidates.”

CIA veterans also told SpyTalk that partisan political talk in office was rare until Trump took office and appointed former Republican Congressman Mike Pompeo as its director. They say that pro-Trump sentiment arises mainly in the weapons of action of counterterrorism programs carried out by military veterans.

Echo Chambers

Comments from current or past IC staffers who have read Gilmore’s post have been completely supportive.

“Thank you so much for speaking out! I’m a black woman working at the NSA and other microchips,” wrote a woman who identified herself as “Mia”.

“As someone who has witnessed your ungrateful work like pouring water on a fire, all I can say is that your efforts have been ranked & recorded and appreciated, ” said another person who identified himself as “Chris”. “The only thing that interests me more is [sic] The extremism you see in places where it should never have been is the resounding silence from the leadership.”

“People in these agencies know there’s a problem because they’re part of a system where these hateful ideas are discussed.”

It can be doubted that the incendiary chatter on Intelink represents a larger microchip workforce than anything more than the Twitter outrage reverberating chamber that is a reflection of America as a whole. But there is a parallel, Gilmore said.

Whack Jobs

“I don’t think there are nearly as many jobs in IC as there are on Twitter,” he said SpyTalk in an interview. “IC definitely removes the hard work. Unfortunately, once those people join and they are given a microphone and a platform, a platform that is no longer censored, suddenly they are allowed to remove what they think they can get away with. from that time.

“They are like little children,” added Gilmore. “They test the boundaries. They were like, ‘Can I get away with saying this?’ And they keep doing it over and over again.”

“I know it’s bad, but it’s not so bad,” said Luis Rueda, who spent nearly 30 years in the CIA’s secret services division and kept in touch with former colleagues. “There are a lot of hardline Trumpians in the IC,” he said SpyTalk. “A lot of things came out during the mask and vax mission.” They include “both employees and contractors. They work in the same unit as the malicious rightists, those who talk about stolen elections, the libertarians, [George] Soros, etc.”

Rueda’s comments are consistent with the views of relevant CIA and FBI veterans who have worked closely with US special operations units.

Former FBI agent Tom O’Connor, who spent 23 years in the office investigating domestic extremism, found such developments startling.

“This would not be of concern if the comments had not come from former military and law enforcement agencies,” he said, “who I believe have or are likely to see the evidence and events. It is clear that many people have bought into the fallacies and misinformation. “

Leadership vacuum

Michael German, a former FBI agent who worked undercover with white extremist groups in the early 1990s, shares O’Connor’s concerns. He pointed to racist comments, false views and other inappropriate comments in Customs and Border Protection chat rooms and a secret Facebook page discovered three years ago. prior to. For him, it is disturbing that “persistent” white supremacist sentiments have seeped from the fringes of Amrican society into the ranks and even the top ranks of some institutions. law enforcement. He called the failure of the jailbreak inexplicable.

Authorities “imagine this as something that requires more law enforcement and the military to scour social media or engage in some sort of broad investigative activity. rather, instead of recognizing this racist activity as being in sight,” Duc, now a colleague. at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU Law School, said SpyTalk. “The people in these agencies know there’s a problem because they’re part of a system where these hateful ideas are discussed.”

But Brian Murphy, a prominent former FBI counterterrorism agent who served as head of DHS Intelligence and Analysis in the Trump administration — and later accused the agency of politicizing information intelligence – called controlling the chat rooms “a bit difficult”.

“They have the right to free speech, but the way they compose themselves can get them in trouble,” he said in an email. “In other words, in the public domain there are more restrictions. What they say internally, especially on one-on-one chats, is generally fine unless they are discussing committing a crime.”

While acknowledging the challenge of neutralizing hate speech in a country founded on the foundational principle of free speech — the First Amendment of the United States Constitution — many employees IC veterans warn that something needs to be done to root out the bad guys in law enforcement and intelligence.

“I fear this will only get worse as we move into the 2022 and 2024 election cycles,” said O’Connor, a former head of the FBI Agents Association.

“The inability to follow facts and clear evidence has shifted from the extreme to the mainstream,” he said. Congress eyeing the ‘dumpster fire’ of hate talk in spy agency chat rooms

Russell Falcon

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