Govt Response to Wikileaks Said to Cause More Damage

The U.S. Government insists that the classification markings on many of the leaked documents being published by Wikileaks and other organizations are still in force, even though the documents are effectively in the public domain, and it has directed federal employees and contractors not to access or read the records outside of a classified network.

But by strictly adhering to the letter of security policy and elevating security above mission performance, some say the government may be causing additional damage.

“At DHS we are getting regular messages [warning not to access classified records from Wikileaks],” one Department of Homeland Security official told us in an email message. “It has even been suggested that if it is discovered that we have accessed a classified Wikileaks cable on our personal computers, that will be a security violation. So, my grandmother would be allowed to access the cables, but not me. This seems ludicrous.”

“As someone who has spent many years with the USG dealing with senior officials of foreign governments, it seems to me that the problem faced by CRS researchers (and raised by you) is going to be widespread across our government if we follow this policy.”

“Part of making informed judgments about what a foreign government or leader will do or think about something is based on an understanding and analysis of what information has gone into their own deliberative processes. If foreign government workers know about something in the Wikileaks documents, which clearly originated with the U.S., then they will certainly (and reasonably) assume that their US counterparts will know about it too, including the staffers. If we don’t, they will assume that we simply do not care, are too arrogant, stupid or negligent to find and read the material, or are so unimportant that we’ve been intentionally left out of the information loop. In any such instance, senior staff will be handicapped in their preparation and in their inter-governmental relationships,” the DHS official said.

“I think more damage will be done by keeping the federal workforce largely in the dark about what other interested parties worldwide are going to be reading and analyzing. It does not solve the problem to let only a small coterie of analysts review documents that may be deemed relevant to their own particular ‘stovepiped’ subject area. Good analysis requires finding and putting together all the puzzle pieces.”

So far, however, this kind of thinking is not finding a receptive audience in government. There has been no sign of leadership from any Administration official who would stand up and say:  “National security classification is a means, and not an end in itself.  What any reader in the world can discover is no longer a national security secret. We should not pretend otherwise.”

No Responses to “Govt Response to Wikileaks Said to Cause More Damage”

  1. K Olsen December 11, 2010 at 8:34 AM #

    I strongly disagree with this article, and believe the government response is both fair and appropriate. The are several good reasons to prohibit the government employees from downloading:

    1. So the investigators can establish who had access to the documents, and may have been sources of the leaks.

    2. Because we have a leak in the dam, why let the resources of the largest most powerful workforce in the world promote that flood.

    3. The may be purposeful misinformation planted among the files that were leaked, and some US government employees could discredit these memos, and we would lose the counterintelligence benefit.

    We are not a communist tyranny like China who hides information from our people, so I believe at the appropriate time when the investigation is complete, the leaks in the dam have been plugged, and all counterintelligence operations have ended- it is appropriate to reclassify the documents as public domain. Even as just a US citizen I did look at the Wikileaks website, but did not feel comfortable downloading any memo marker secret or classified because I felt it would be traitorous to my country.

  2. Philip Henika December 11, 2010 at 4:19 PM #

    We have already felt the consequences when decision-making process is reduced to an elite few e.g. the early 2001 Bush Administration with the likes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz in full charge and with power and influence carte blanche’ to essentially create their own bureocracy. Yes, I thought one lesson of 9/11 and the Iraq War with its ignored and falsified intel respectively was enough to call for increased cooperation, communication and collaboration between government agencies which would hopefully serve to break down “Walls” as Steven has described agency intransigence in the past. Assange is afforded due process of the law like anyone else – innocent until proven guilty. First, Assange does not deserve Internet cybervigilantism by those have no respect for the law or human rights. This Internet cybervigilantism claims guilt before proof of innocense. Second, if the burden of proof is in the government hands then we must hear from all relevant government agencies and all relevant government agencies must be capable of a full and objective assessment. This process would serve to define and create the due process of law afforded to Assange. And I say create because Assange’s case is unprecedented.

  3. Paul Wolf December 11, 2010 at 7:17 PM #

    What I dont understand is all the concern about Julian Assange. All he did was pass leaked documents from the leaker to the NY Times and some other papers. The newspapers are the ones releasing them to the public. Wikileaks only publishes whats already in the press. None of this makes any sense at all.

  4. TB December 11, 2010 at 11:19 PM #

    “We are not a communist tyranny like China who hides information from our people, … ”

    Are you trying to be ironic?

  5. Mirjam December 13, 2010 at 10:02 PM #

    I find it really strange – does the American government also forbids these government workers to read the newspaper articles on this information???

    I heard a very good quote today: In a democracy secrecy is not a right of the government – it is a privilege which the public can give to them. So the right question is: was the decision to classify these documents as secret made in a democratic way??

  6. EB December 21, 2010 at 5:54 PM #

    Until any documents are properly marked as downgraded with the new classification markings, they may not be accessed or reside on an unclassified government computer. This cannot be done with the leaked documents as they are all over the place now with the higher markings. Only documents properly marked as unclassified may reside or be accessed by an unclassified government computer.

    The documents will probably be remarked, but until then, they are forbidden and only the remarked documents will be allowed.

  7. Prof.Dr.Htein Win December 22, 2010 at 1:58 AM #

    US Govt response: cause more damage is an indirect way of confession to the Wikileaks and the World. Strategic Ignorance is a good solution for US Govt, I hope so.

  8. Richard December 22, 2010 at 7:04 AM #

    Just reading some of the above comments would suggest to me that the U.S Government would not need to hide any indiscretions from its citizens due to the fact that the majority are somewhat blinded by its declarations of alignment to higher principals such as “Truth” and “Justice”. Get a grip people! The U.S Government can only now be described as a latter day Roman Empire bent on assimilating the rest of the worlds sovereignties into its consumerist, christian culture. The rest of the world was aware of this fact a long time before Wikileaks ever reared its head.