Wednesday, December 1, 2010

State Dept bans employees from WikiLeaks?

A special heads up for those waiting to get the call ...

Via CSM by Ben Arnoldy / December 1, 2010

New Delhi

The US State Department has directed its staff around the world not to surf the WikiLeaks website, according to employees.

The ban is in response to WikiLeaks' decision to published classified material, including US diplomatic cables. It’s not clear when the policy first began but it joins a similar order by the US Department of Defense put in place since the leaking of Iraq and Afghanistan war documents earlier this year.

Analysts suggest the State Department is temporarily falling back on traditional bureaucratic protocols in the face of a crisis that is emblematic of the shift to an online world. As the dust settles, the WikiLeaks upheaval may push to the fore tensions between new “digital diplomacy” efforts that use Twitter and smart-phone apps, and an older culture of classified cables.
But the embrace of modern communications has not necessarily included the underlying philosophy of information openness. Much diplomatic work still depends upon confidential conversations, and the WikiLeaks crisis has, so far, moved the agency toward more information restrictions.
One diplomat says the ban has no impact on the ability to follow what’s going on since the cables can be accessed elsewhere online and read about in news reports. The ban, the diplomat says, is more about standing on principle that the cables should still be treated as classified documents.

“The idea of it being based on principle is strange,” says Mr. DuPont. “We don’t keep things classified [just] on principle.”

Digital diplomacy experts appear nonplussed that the State Department went from iCow to a ban on a website with content that comes from the State Department, and seem to doubt the directive came from its technology squad.

Continue reading here.

Is that rumor or is there an official directive?

Update: See comment by TSB below.

On the same subject, James Fallows of The Atlantic asks "Why Not Just Stamp 'Secret' Across the Front Page of the NY Times?" 
"A government contractor forwards an email he received today from the Commerce Department. Its gist: just because State Department memos had been posted by Wikileaks and published in the press, that didn't mean they weren't "classified" any more, or that there wouldn't still be penalties for quoting them. Eg: "There has been a rumor that the information is no longer classified since it resides in the public domain. This is NOT true." Click here to read the full memo from DOC.
It's not just the Department of Commerce. After the jump, a memo to students and alumni of Boston University law school, warning that they could be considered unfit for security clearances, in future applications for federal jobs, if they quote or comment any of the still "classified" material from an online site." Read the law school's memo here.

Fallows writes "This is nuts -- not the note, but the mentality that makes it seem necessary."

Don't know if what the law school says is true, probably is - a special heads up especially if you're waiting to get a job with the Feds.  Perhaps one of our blog friends in the know or readers here would wade in on this issue?


TSB said...

There is indeed such a directive (I'm not sure if it's in written guidance, but it probably is). The reason is that classified documents remain classified despite being leaked, and to view them outside of classified systems is, technically, a security violation.

I received the same directive after Ambassador Eikenberry's cable about the Afghan Strategy Review was leaked last January.

You are free to view WikiLeaks or whatever else you like outside of the office, of course.

Domani Spero said...

Thanks TSB!