CRS Seeks Guidance on Using Leaked Docs

After its access to the Wikileaks web site was blocked by the Library of Congress, the Congressional Research Service this week asked Congress for guidance on whether and how it should make use of the leaked records that are being published by Wikileaks, noting that they could “shed important light” on topics of CRS interest.

CRS “has informed our House and Senate oversight committees, and solicited their guidance, regarding the complexities that the recent leaks of classified information present for CRS,” wrote CRS Director Daniel Mulhollan in a December 6 email message (pdf) to all CRS staff.  “I have also contacted the majority and minority counsels of select committees in the House and Senate requesting guidance on the appropriate boundaries that CRS should recognize and adhere to in summarizing, restating or characterizing open source materials of uncertain classification status in unclassified CRS reports and memoranda for Congress.”

“Our challenge is how to balance the need to provide the best analysis possible to the Congress on current legislative issues against the legal imperative to protect classified national security information. This is especially a problem in light of the massive volume of recently released documents, which may shed important light on research and analysis done by the Service,” Mr. Mulhollan wrote.

“As guidance becomes available from Congress, I will follow-up with additional information.  At present, it seems clear that the republication of known classified information by CRS in an unclassified format (e.g., CRS reports or congressional distribution memoranda) is prohibited. We believe this prohibition against the further dissemination of classified information in an unclassified setting applies even if a secondary source (e,g., a newspaper, journal, or website) has reprinted the classified document. The laws and applicable regulations are decidedly less clear, however, when it comes to referencing and citing secondary sources that refer to, summarize, or restate classified information.”

A copy of Mr. Mulhollan’s email message was obtained by Secrecy News.

No Responses to “CRS Seeks Guidance on Using Leaked Docs”

  1. F. Herrick December 8, 2010 at 10:48 PM #

    The Library of Congress’ restrictions on the cables are analogous to the East German prohibition on the consumption of information broadcast by West German radio and TV stations during the cold war. In both cases, information is readily available to everyone through new media, yet the government makes a futile attempt to squelch the information’s release and deny it’s existence.

    Official prohibitions against the use of commonly-known information from the other side of the Berlin Wall caused many Soviet Bloc governments to issue propaganda that was characterized by a seemingly bizarre state of self-imposed denial. The East German officials couldn’t admit that they listened to Western RIAS radio when many young East Germans were listening. To the radio-savvy listener unafraid to tune in, the stories from the East German government sometimes sounded embarrassingly clueless.

    Now that an internet-savvy U.S. public can read the Wikileaks cables but government employees are afraid to, will the U.S. appear as clueless as the Eastern Bloc propagandists of the Cold War?