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CIA shuts secret chat room, fires four

(CNN) -- The Central Intelligence Agency has fired four employees and disciplined 18 others for using an unauthorized chat room hidden in the agency's computer system.

The chat room, used primarily to exchange jokes, gossip and off-color remarks, was by invitation only. Chat room users would vote on whether to accept new members, who would then pledge not to reveal the cyber room's existence, a CIA spokesperson said Friday.

About 160 employees were involved over the years in the chat room, which began in the mid-1980s as an unofficial users group on the mainframe.

  MESSAGE BOARD
 

A seven-month investigation found no "unauthorized disclosure of classified information. But that the activities that were the subject of this inquiry were a clear and serous violation of the trust expected of all agency employees," a CIA statement released Thursday said.

The dismissed employees, including a senior intelligence officer, had their security clearances revoked, "rendering them ineligible for continued CIA employment," the statement said.

Some participants took elaborate steps to keep the activity concealed from agency management and other employees, according to an agency bulletin.

Eighteen employees, including two senior intelligence officers, were issued letters of reprimand and most will be suspended without pay for days or weeks. In addition, nine contractors had their security clearances revoked, meaning they could not work on CIA contracts.

The CIA gave 79 employees with minimal involvement letters of warning or security briefings. Eight employees were exonerated, the CIA said.



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