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Worker exploits lax DOE Twitter policy to send threats

By   /   February 11, 2013  /   6 Comments

Links to other articles in this series are included below. — Editors

By Tori Richards | Watchdog.org

GOLDEN, Colo. — The Department of Energy allows its employees to use government phones and computers to access personal social media accounts while on the job, setting the stage for a staffer who threatened murder against Watchdog’s Colorado office while at work.

NREL campus in Golden, Colo.

In fact, the DOE’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado has extensive written policies devoted exclusively to social media policies, detailing behavior, etiquette and government confidentiality issues that employees should follow when tweeting, posting on Facebook or blogging.

Watchdog.org obtained a series of social media documents from the DOE along with a 31 pages of a manual, “NREL Cyber Security Standard” as part of a Freedom of Information Act request filed in cooperation with Judicial Watch.

NREL spokesman George Douglas previously had refused to hand over the documents, stating that NREL is not a government organization because it is managed by a nonprofit organization.

“NREL’s social media policy is an internal document and not shared outside the organization,” Douglas said.

However, NREL was created during the Carter administration to invent energy alternatives and operates with DOE funding. Workers’ email addresses have a .gov suffix.

But unlike many organizations in the private sector, employees are not only allowed to use social media at work — they are encouraged to do it.

“Social media sites provide opportunities for workers to interact, brainstorm, explore ideas, and encourage or challenge peers and can support the activities of discovering, innovating, collaborating, disseminating, and learning,” the policy states.

That policy went awry back in November when lab worker Kerrilee Crosby, 34, tweeted death threats to Watchdog reporters while on the job. She had become incensed over a Watchdog investigation that revealed her boss’ $1 million-per-year government salary and tweeted:

“Have you ever felt like going on a murderous rampage? Start at @WatchdogCO ‘s offices. They perpetuate lies like this.”

Kerrilee Crosby Twitter post

Watchdog responded on Twitter, asking her why she advocated mass murder given the shootings at Columbine High School and an Aurora movie theater. Crosby again tweeted while at work:  “Because you deserve to die” and, “I DO! Especially since you are next door! I can’t remember where I left my gun, though. Found it!”

Another tweet soon followed: “GUNS FOR SALE! @WatchdogCO

Crosby, who ranted under the moniker @crosbolicious, switched her Twitter account to private when Watchdog tracked her back to NREL and called its spokesperson for comment. A few weeks ago, Crosby deleted her @crosbolicious account all together and it is unknown if she now tweets under another name.

NREL spokesman George Douglas told Watchdog that Crosby would be investigated for possible violation of its social media policies.

On Dec. 20, he told Watchdog that Crosby was no longer an employee. This was two weeks after Douglas stated:  “The person who wrote the tweets in question is employed at NREL in a non-supervisory staff position. Her opinions do not represent those of the Laboratory. She has been found in violation of NREL’s policy on social networking and appropriate action is being taken.”

NREL’s social media policy is silent on the issue of employee conduct pertaining to their personal phones and computers. Douglas said he did not know whether Crosby used personal or work equipment to make her threats.

Regardless, the policy is clear on the type of behavior tolerated by NREL employees:

“Social media technologies can be used for work and personal use as long as within standards,” the manual stated. “Do not engage in ethnic slurs, personal insults, obscenity or engage in any conduct that would not be acceptable in NREL’s workplace.

“Be cordial, honest, and professional at all times,” the manual said.

It added that employees should “Identify themselves by name and, when relevant, their role at NREL when they discuss NREL or NREL-related matters. … Inappropriate behavior related to social media is subject to appropriate disciplinary actions, up to and including involuntary termination.”

Workers also are allowed to use NREL equipment for other personal Internet activities such as banking, checking email and web surfing, the manual stated.

Contact Tori Richards at tori@watchdog.org

Other articles in this series:

Secret energy lab spawns million-dollar government employee (Nov. 24, 2012)

Murderous rampage’: Gov’t lab worker threatens reporters  (Dec. 12, 2012)

‘We’re not federal employees,’ says federal spokesperson for secret Colorado lab  (Dec. 13, 2012)

SPECIAL: Watchdog’s 25 scariest people, version 2012  (Dec. 24, 2012)

Murderous rampage worker eyed by cops, off job  (Dec. 21, 2012)

Worker exploits lax DOE policy to send threats  (Feb. 11, 2013)

 

Please, feel free to "steal our stuff"! Just remember to credit Watchdog.org. Find out more

Tori Richards
tori@watchdog.org

  • Anonymous

    Is your life so hollow and devoid of meaning that you have to spend your free time maligning a perfectly lovely girl at every opportunity? We get it, she did something stupid, and I certainly don’t condone her behavior, but why continue to write new articles about this and plaster her face on every single one? You’ve already cost her her job with your muckraking bullshit, which in turn compelled her to leave Colorado. Have you no shame?

  • Anonymous

    In fact, she was forced to resign her position and move out of state because of death threats that she began receiving at work and at home, incited by your shoddy, irresponsible and malicious reporting. Even her parents, who live in another state, received death threats. Jefferson County authorities never contacted her in regards to the joke tweet that you considered a threat, either because you never actually considered the threat credible and immediate–as did no other *reasonable* person who read it–and thus didn’t report it, or because you attempted to report it and the authorities did not take you seriously. Twitter did not take you seriously, either, as they have never contacted Ms. Crosby in regards to this matter. Jefferson County did, however, respond to Ms. Crosby’s report of death threats and visited her at her workplace to advise her on what steps to take to ensure her safety. Did you really think you needed to look outside your regular readership for examples of the 25 Scariest People in America?

  • Norm Olsen

    If what you say is true, why is it that you have to remain Anonymous? Ms Crosby obviously needed this lesson in being held responsible for her actions. I suspect your need to remain Anonymous indicates that you may be in need of a similar lesson.

  • Anonymous

    Why, so my family and I can get death threats from the same nutjobs? Are you not paying attention, Norm?

  • http://www.facebook.com/misti.alexander.5 Misti Alexander

    I say the whole Orginization should be forced to resign and quit stealing tax payer money, get a real job and do something to actually benefit society instead of the never ending Obama Green Agenda Toilet Bowl. :)

  • Anonymous-2

    Interesting. Someone posts death threats online, and when they get a response in kind they panic. It seems the skin has worn through, the lines are drawn, and civil discussion is coming to an end. Action will be the next step, but some people haven’t realized that yet. In fact, in their sheltered little lives they have no concept of what they are in reality igniting. Words will not be the final tally. This is not a schoolyard name-calling session, and will not end in a taunt. Those in the know understand that this is the big leagues now, and the game is a lot more serious than most really understand. The reality is that there are actions beyond the words being issued, and the wake up call what will be the response to those words is going to be a real bitch…