Feds Block WikiLeaks From Own Workers to ‘Protect’ Info
Ewen MacAskin for The Guardian:
The Obama administration is banning hundreds of thousands of federal employees from calling up the WikiLeaks site on government computers because the leaked material is still formally regarded as classified.
The Library of Congress tonight joined the education department, the commerce department and other government agencies in confirming that the ban is in place.
Although thousands of leaked cables are freely available on the Guardian, New York Times and other newspaper websites, as well as the WikiLeaks site, the Obama administration insists they are still classified and, as such, have to be protected.
Look, I’m as angry about these leaks as the next guy. But they’re already out there. It’s simply absurd to ban people who have security clearances from looking at material that anyone else on the planet with Internet access can see. Indeed, while I disagree with most of Juan Cole‘s analysis on the WikiLeaks matter, he’s spot on here, calling the policy “just plain stupid” and adding, “I don’t want my intelligence analysts not knowing about the fall-out from the wikileaks cables!”
UPDATE: Commenter Gawaine offers an interesting pushback:
Imagine that someone works on classified program Z, and know classified facts A, B, and C. I also know that there’s a cover story out there D, which isn’t true.,
Let’s say that WikiLeaks has facts about A, B, and D. A government employee starts getting into conversations with people who aren’t cleared to know that D is untrue, or to know about C – but it gets hard to remember that, since all of the facts are out there in the public record.
If the worker instead avoids those conversations, they don’t get tempted into furthering disclosure.
The other reason that makes sense to me is that it avoids contaminating computers with classified data. Imagine a guy named Joe who’s been sloppy about handling classified data – occasionally bringing it home and working on his own computer with it. If Joe also has stuff he’s downloaded from WikiLeaks on his computer, it makes it that much harder to find the things that aren’t on WikiLeaks, but also shouldn’t be on his computer.
This is actually plausible. Indeed, recalling which pieces of information you know came from public sources vice classified ones is already rather difficult. There’s a nebulous category of things wherein any number of individual facts are available through newspapers and other public sources but the aggregation of those facts into a narrative is classified.