Blogger Confidential: Deconstructing the Big House "Clearance" Mailbox

Since the day when Peter Van Buren posted in his blog the letter of suspension he received from Diplomatic Security, we have been reading concerned emails from some bloggers.

This is the section that is generating much concern:

“DS/SI/PSS has been notified that you have shown an unwillingness to comply with Department rules and regulations regarding writing and speaking on matters of official concern, including by publishing articles and blog posts on such matters without submitting them to the Department for review, and that your judgement in the handling of protected information is questionable. This raises serious security concerns and can be disqualifying under Adjudicative Guidelines “E” (Personal Conduct) and “K” (Handling Protected Information).”

So one blogger who is posted in Agonistan and will be known here as Blogger Alpha started the clearance process for all his/her blog posts to stay on the right side of things.  Below is Blogger Alpha’s interesting first-hand experience with the Big House “Clearance” mailbox.

From: Blogger Alpha
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan

As required, below is a blog post submitted for your clearance.

Please acknowledge receipt of this submission.

Thank you,
Blogger Alpha
(Attachment)

—– Forwarded Message —–

From: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Blogger Alpha
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan

Dear Blogger Alpha,

This is to acknowledge receipt of your article, “Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan.” However, neither Dolly Parton nor dolls fall under the category considered “matters of official concern.” Please read your article carefully before submitting for clearance.

Jane Doe for “Big House Clearances Mailbox”
Bureau of Professional Responsibility in Participatory Media
Tel: [REDACTED]
BigHouseClearances@bighouse.xgov

—– Reply Message —–

From: Blogger Alpha
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan 2

Please note that my article, “Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan” is not about Dolly Parton or dolls.  There are folks with guns in this blog post, and it is set in Agonistan, just one of our priority sites in the whole universe.

Since this is a blog post, I request expeditious review and clearance of the attached material.

Thank you for your assistance,
Blogger Alpha
(Attachment)

—– Forwarded Message —–

From: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Blogger Alpha
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan2

Dear Blogger Alpha,

Thank you for calling my attention to the oversight and resending your blog post for clearance.

Your article, “Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan,” is not/not cleared for publication.  For starters, the article clearly addresses matters of official concern because it contains details about our facilities and bases in Agonistan.

Bureau X and Bureau Y refused to clear the article for publication due to the fact that the piece contains information that, if released, could be used to identify and exploit the vulnerabilities and capabilities of security at our bases in Agonistan. 

It is also quite possible that the views you express in the piece as official policy goals will be attributed to the Big House, notwithstanding the use of a disclaimer as required by 3 FAM 4172.1-4. This will, of course, as you know impair the proper functioning of the mission and our wider public relation efforts.

Think before you hit send. How’s this for expeditious? 🙂

Thanks,

Jane Doe for “Big House Clearances Mailbox”
Bureau of Professional Responsibility in Participatory Media
Tel: [REDACTED]
BigHouseClearances@bighouse.xgov

—– Reply Message —–

From: Blogger Alpha
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan 3

Thank you for your quick response.  I do have a few questions.

All information about our bases and facilities in Agonistan comes from open sources and publicly available non-WikiLeaks, non- restricted materials online  (check out this link that list them).  

Can you please tell me which specific words in my article could be used by our enemies to identify and exploit our security, that they have not learned from a simple Google search?

I would also appreciate an explanation on how this blog post with a proper disclaimer could be construed as attributable to the Big House.  My disclaimer is carefully worded to make clear that my writing is a personal opinion and not an official statement from the Big House.

Is it possible that the non-overcome of a disclaimer is being applied arbitrarily to my blog submissions because they contain contrary opinions on what’s sunny in Agonistan?

Thank you,
Blogger Alpha

—– Forwarded Message —–

From: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Blogger Alpha
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan3

Dear Blogger Alpha,

Due to a miscommunication within the Big House, the previous response you received mistakenly emphasized the security concerns raised by your article.  Please disregard that response.

Below is the real reason why your article is not/not cleared for publication.

The piece clearly implicates security issues in its reference to a lack of “broomsticks for air flyers” to support Big House staffers who remain in Agonistan. 

However, our overriding concern with your article is that it includes numerous statements, all on matters of official concern. You cannot call the President of Agonistan a “snake” without some official reaction. We do want to keep our regular weekly meetings with him, and you probably know how touchy he can be. What you write therefore could adversely affect our relations with Agonistan as well as our larger mission to defeat the forces of evil in that region.

Furthermore, your article addresses a purported plan to keep 25,000 witches with brooms in Agonistan “until the end of time” and to house them on “permanent caves and covens.”  Plus, the article discusses specific locations for such covens.  It also implies that the Big House intends to invade other countries in the area using droid witches; where did you get that idea?

As well, you note that the Big House would ignore Agonistan’s demands to send home all staffers regardless whether they are certified witches or warlocks. Any of these statements, taken individually or in combination, supplemented by others that appear in the article, could cause serious damage to our policy, and in particular to our Sisyphean efforts and military/development activities in Agonistan. 

In addition, this harm would be amplified in the wider international community.  People potentially will give credence to such statements coming from an in-house staffer (particularly one who is currently working in Agonistan), never mind the required and well-worded disclaimer included in the piece.

And while it may be true that some of the information and speculation in your article comes from “open sources” or “publicly available non-WikiLeaks, non- restricted” materials online, this is not a determinative factor in our analysis of the submission.  Please note that the publication of sensitive information from open sources does not absolve you and other employees from the requirements and standards set forth in 3 FAM 4170. Just because it is out there does not mean you are free to discuss it.

For these reasons, the Big House is not/not in a position to clear your article as submitted.  We are, however, prepared to review it again, and possibly clear it for publication, if you edit it significantly (like maybe delete paragraphs 1-20?).  If you wish to publish any future articles on matters of official concern, please recognize the potential effects of your comments on our relations with friends, enemies and frienemies and on one of our most delicate missions ever.

Thank you.

Jane Doe for “Big House Clearances Mailbox”
Bureau of Professional Responsibility in Participatory Media
Tel: [REDACTED]
BigHouseClearances@bighouse.xgov

—– Reply Message —–

From: Blogger Alpha
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan 4

If I delete paragraphs 1-20, I’d be left with nothing but the title for my blog post.

Blogger Alpha

—– Forwarded Message —–
From: Big House Clearances Mailbox
Sent: [DATE REDACTED]
To: Blogger Alpha
Cc: Blogger Alpha@email.xxxx
Subject: Please clear the following blog post: Dolly’s Shooty Shooty Bang Bang Folks in Agonistan4

Dear Blogger Alpha,

You are cleared to publish the title.

Thank you.

Jane Doe for “Big House Clearances Mailbox”
Bureau of Professional Responsibility in Participatory Media
Tel: [REDACTED]
BigHouseClearances@bighouse.xgov

 

 

 

 

 

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