Advocate Freedom and Get Fired
“I thought PNNL's mission was to support the Constitution--not destroy
the lives of those who exercise the rights it guarantees.”
– Lyle Keeney, gun rights/civil rights activist from
is a research scientist in computer security. And according to his
performance reviews, he is a good one. Documents from his previous employer,
Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), a
government laboratory in Richland
Washington indicate Huffman’s
Unfortunately, despite Huffman’s exceptional performance appraisals, PNNL fired
Huffman from his high-level cyber security position of Senior Scientist on June
3, 2005. He was given no substantial explanation from the company regarding the
firing. PNNL never made any specific, believable, allegations of wrongdoing or
After receiving the mysterious boot from the company, Huffman requested copies
of his performance reviews and the PNNL procedures manual. The company flatly
denied his access to the vital information, temporarily blocking Huffman from
ammunition essential to winning a wrongful termination suit against PNNL.
Most disturbing is a technical report just released by Huffman telling
the probable reason why he was hit with a pink slip: Joe Huffman was fired because he was a strong
supporter of gun owner rights.
During the investigation that
led up to Huffman’s firing, he was never given an opportunity to defend
himself. PNNL executed an investigation, blasted him with a pink slip shortly
thereafter, and Huffman was out of a job, with no severance pay.
That can't happen in America,
can it? It can if you are a gun
In the August 2005 issue of the NRA magazine American Rifleman it is
reported that at least 15 American gun owners, with legal guns legally stored
in private automobiles in a company parking lot have been fired for just that:
Guns in their cars on company property. Huffman's case reveals an even more extreme bias against gun owners,
for PNNL appears to have taken an unwritten zero-tolerance position against
people just writing about owning guns or using them for personal self
defense or the defense of liberty against a tyrannical government.
”Imagine if Thomas Jefferson worked for PNNL. Just writing about gun ownership and
liberty could get Jefferson fired." says Huffman.
In many ways Huffman is no
ordinary gun owner. His involvement with the organization
Pink Pistols, a national
gun rights organization supporting the right to self-defense for gays, lesbians,
bisexuals, and transgendered, has been featured in an
editorial for the Seattle Times.
Add that activism for alternative lifestyles with
being a certified NRA firearms instructor, and Huffman shatters the
stereotypical profile of a gun owner.
But it gets even more interesting.
Huffman is the organizer and director of
Boomershoot, an annual
event for firearms/pyrotechnics enthusiasts, in which shooters hit exploding
targets made of high explosives. The event has attracted hundreds of spectators
and shooters from across North America, receiving favorable coverage in
and, during the middle of the
PNNL investigation of Huffman, on Seattle
KING5 TV's Evening Magazine (complete video
As a speaker at the Gun Rights Policy Conference in
Louis in 1999 and Washington
D.C. in 2000, Huffman talked
about using the Internet to further the rights of gun owners. And those
are just the high points of Huffman's activism.
(short for weB LOG, an online public journal
of personal and/or political postings) is a source of commentary on
news related to gun rights, opposition to
national ID cards, intrusive and ineffectual
airport security, and most freedom related
subjects. At times, Huffman’s comments can be blunt. He quotes
Jews for the
Preservation of Firearms Ownership literature that asks, "Do Gun Prohibitionists Have a Mental Problem?" Huffman accuses people that refuse
to address scientific research on the ineffectiveness of gun control of being
bigots. However, at work, he kept
his opinions low-key and was never asked by anyone to tone it down. His
personnel record is spotless.
But the blog
got him in trouble. On May 17, 2005, Huffman was called into the office of
Technical Group Manager, for a meeting to "touch base." Accompanying McMillan in the meeting were two other witnesses, McMillan's
Safeguards & Security manager
With a two-inch-high stack of printouts from Huffman's websites in front of him,
Sutherland and McMillan explained they had a problem with some of his postings,
claiming that Huffman had released business and customer-sensitive information
on his blog. Huffman, who has a high-level
security clearance, had made indistinct statements about work on his blog. There was no classified
information on any of his websites.
When Huffman asked for specific details about what was wrong, they refused
specifics. He repeatedly asked for a copy of the
printouts, but was only allowed to see the top page.
"My suspicions were on full alert after that meeting,” says Huffman. “And
after finding out that none of my co-workers, project managers, or program
managers had been interviewed, I knew there was something else going on.”
The access log files to his websites told the
true story. Tech note: Log files are
different than blogs. Log files are files that detail
site visitor traffic to/from websites, whereas a blog
is an online personal journal.
Although PNNL is a government research laboratory, with numerous
official secrets to keep, Huffman had discovered that operational security was
exceedingly lax in at least one area--their web browsing. Huffman had noticed years earlier
that when PNNL employee computers visited his web sites he could distinguish
the visits of individual computers from the Internet Protocol (IP) address
stored in the log files. Huffman states:
"Each request for a file on a website
would leave a number -- the IP address -- which anyone connected to the
internet could use to look up the name the user
had given that computer. In most cases, if was trivial for someone on the inside
to look up the name of the user
of that computer. This is extremely
poor operational security. A
researcher on a top secret project could perform a search via Google for
improvised explosive devices or biological warfare and leave not only his
search words and phrases on the visited websites but a number that immediately
told them he was working for a government laboratory and, potentially, the
Huffman told his supervisor, McMillan, and many of his coworkers about the
problem. Nothing was done, though Huffman solved the problem for his
own web browsing by using a proxy at his own expense to reroute his browsing
and hide his status as a government researcher from the owners of websites. However,
after PNNL fired Huffman, it was that very same lax operational security that
worked to his advantage, for he could research PNNL’s
investigation of his websites, pinpointing each and
every time someone from PNNL scoured his personal websites.
Huffman quickly identified the
computer names of the PNNL investigators because their website viewing was
completely different than other visitors'. It showed an alarming
pattern. It was his gun-owner rights activities that attracted their
attention again and again. For example,
Specialist, Information Security
visited his blog, she saw a
picture of clouds of smoke
from the recently
links to more pictures, and positive commentary about guns and explosives.
Carriera then saw a photograph of Huffman
wearing a holster and a gun on his hip. She did not return for two days when, within a minute, she looked at the same picture again. Shortly
thereafter, another computer showed up to help with the investigation. The name
of this investigator is not definitely known but is believed by Huffman to be Carriera’s supervisor,
Michael Sutherland, Manager, Safeguards & Security Services.
In Huffman's research notes from his web logs, this investigator is known as
PUCK. Shortly after arriving on the scene and looking at video from the
just completed Boomershoot, PUCK spent many minutes
reading pages about
Self-Defense and Firearms,
The Jews In The Attic Test,
Project Fireball (Boomershoot
organizers' attempts to create Hollywood-style explosions for the event). There was a fixation on all things related
to gun/civil rights, but little interest in business or security related
PUCK visited for about two and a half hours, looking almost entirely at gun-related postings. PUCK visited one blog posting
twice--it was Huffman’s opinion about the relative sanity of gun owners versus
people who wish to ban guns.
The visits to Huffman's
websites went on for almost two weeks. Then, on the day before confronting
Huffman for the first time, PUCK revisited certain pages in apparent
preparation for the meeting. The list of pages apparently most interesting
to PUCK is damning:
What I'm working on and why which was about a
completely open, unclassified work project.
Image Gallery with the picture of Huffman wearing a pistol on his
Air Travel With Firearms on how to legally travel
via commercial airlines with firearms.
Gun and Planes Stories on experiences gun
owners have had traveling with firearms on various airlines.
Instruction which listed Huffman's credentials and the types of
classes he teaches.
Weapons on Passenger Planes where Huffman
advocates researching alternatives to the existing ineffectual and intrusive
searches on commercial flights.
Air Travel With Firearms.
Gun and Planes Stories.
The morning before the May 17th meeting
with Huffman, PUCK again returned to Huffman's web sites, leaving still more
damning evidence of his true interest by viewing the following web pages:
The Jews In The Attic Test which is about a objective test to determine whether a government
restriction on freedom should be opposed.
Weapons on Passenger Planes.
daughter's Live Journal
daughter's Live Journal
Musings of the Commando Kumquat
If those were the abovementioned web pages printed out and
stacked on the table during the meeting, then it's no wonder why the
investigators wouldn’t allow Huffman to view them.
after the first meeting Huffman was told to meet with
Specialist, Human Resources, and another woman from Human Resources. This meeting was very
strange. Huffman reports:
"Basically they asked me if I knew certain
activities were against policy and if I had ever engaged in those
activities. For the most part, I knew all the rules and hadn't intentionally
broken any of them and I told them this. The only thing in question was I
allowed my daughter and wife to use the company laptop a few times to browse the
web, as I typically worked with my personal and work laptop side by side, at
never presented any allegation or gave me an opportunity to refute anything. It
was basically just asking me to 'confess', but I had nothing to confess."
At the end of the meeting, Huffman was suspended, without pay, and told to
wait for them to contact him. McMillan said, "This is just the
beginning." But that was the last time Huffman would ever be asked
his input on the matter.
As Huffman handed over his badge and office keys, McMillan told him "I
don't know if you are a God-fearing man or not, Joe, but I think this is going to
turn out okay."
After Huffman was released from work, without pay, PUCK, and
sometimes Carriera, continued to view Huffman's blog every business day. They appeared to just be looking
at his daily postings of quotes related to freedom and to monitor his posting
without being particularly interested in anything. Then on May 27th,
PUCK found something that captured his interest. After using the search
with the search terms 'Joe Huffman'
he found another web site with a
blog posting by "Fish or Man" linked to
one of Huffman's postings:
In it Huffman explained that he wanted to motivate people to acquire the skills
and equipment necessary to fight a tyrannical government should it ever become
PUCK studied this post for
nearly 13 minutes. He viewed two posts linked from there--spending a minute
and a half on a how explosives evoke a natural wonder and curiosity in humans.
Then from the first click, until he went on to another of Huffman's websites,
30 minutes were spent on the post Citizen’s Committee Right to Keep and Bear
Arms (CCKRBA) --
CCRKBA blasts bigotry
and possibly viewing the CCRKBA website. CCRKBA
release which bluntly accused some people being bigots in attempting to restrict legally-licensed,
law-abiding citizens who carried firearms from patronizing restaurants and
bars. It directly compared these people to bigots who attempt restricting
restaurant access to blacks. Huffman praised the news release.
was never asked another question or allowed any input into the
investigation. None of his co-workers, project managers, or program
managers were asked any questions. The viewing of his
websites by PUCK and sometimes
Carriera continued. PUCK would spend roughly an hour each day
viewing pro-freedom quotes and comments about the hazards and predictions of failure
for national ID cards. Then, on June 3, 2005, he went back to the
Why Boomershoot? posting and contact was broken off
for the day. Three hours later Huffman got a call from McMillan and Hevland with news on the investigation--Huffman was
Huffman thanked them--because he knew
something they did not.
As long as Huffman was
employed by PNNL there was little he could do about the company's anti-gun
bigotry without fear of retribution. One of Huffman's
co-workers, who must remain anonymous (for fear of retribution from PNNL), knew
Joe Huffman far better than McMillan
and Hevland. In a meeting a few days
after the firing, he told Huffman, "They haven't got a clue as to what
they stepped into."
Stephanie Sailor, former
candidate for U.S. Congress .
Stephanie is a Certified Firearms Instructor,
Boomershoot Range Safety Officer, and national spokesperson the right to
self-defense for women and the disabled. She was the Co-Founder of
Chicago Second Amendment Sisters.
May 25, 2006