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CIA sacks four in secret chat room hack

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The CIA this week sacked four employees, suspended ten, and yanked the security clearances of nine contractors who had hacked the Agency's networks and set up a secret chat room in which they exchanged "inappropriate" e-mail and other materials. The hack had involved some 160 participants over the years and went undetected since its beginnings the mid-1980's.

One member of the Senior Intelligence Service and three others have lost security clearances, "rendering them ineligible for continued CIA employment," the Agency said in an internal memo.

Eighteen others received letters of reprimand and are likely to be suspended without pay for periods of five to 45 days depending on their level of involvement, the Agency said.

Eight employees were exonerated, and seventy-nine others with "minimal involvement" received warning letters, which are not nearly as bad as the dreaded letters of reprimand.

The nine contractors who lost their security clearances will be unable to accept CIA contracts in future.

"Every effort was made to understand and distinguish the role, knowledge and responsibility of each participant," CIA spokesman Mark Mansfield is quoted by the Washington Post as saying.

The Agency's heavy-handed response to a minor infraction is most likely the product of bad press surrounding CIA security in the wake of former Director John Deutch's appalling mis-handling of sensitive data on his home computers.

The fact that upwards of 160 employees maintained a secret chat room on Agency computers for roughly fifteen years is clearly a badge of shame for an organisation which prides itself on technical savvy and information-gathering prowess. ®

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