US State Department tells employees not to read WikiLeaks
The US State Department has pushed employees toward "digital diplomacy" with Twitter and iPhone apps, but the department has banned all employees from using WikiLeaks.
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The State Department is undertaking an effort to gain more control over the information flowing in and out of its network. Spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Tuesday that the State Department has “temporarily severed” the connection between an internal database and another classified network.Skip to next paragraph
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“We want to make sure that our documents are adequately protected and that we have the ability to detect if anything like this occurs in the future,” said Mr. Crowley. The agency “has narrowed, for the time being, those who have access to State Department cables across the government.”
Asked about the ban on surfing the WikiLeaks site, another State Department spokesperson said it could not be confirmed at this time.
A matter of principle?
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.
A stated purpose for the Defense Department's ban, meanwhile, is to keep information properly organized.
“Department of Defense military, civilian, and contractor personnel have been advised that they should not access the WikiLeaks website to view or download the publicized classified information. Doing so could introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks,” writes Dave Thomas, spokesman for the National Defense University, in an e-mail.
As a military institution, the Washington-based university has given the same “guidance” to its students, staff, and faculty.
The ban on downloading, printing, and reposting the cables from WikiLeaks could also be motivated by the potential for website downloads to harbor malicious code, known as malware, used for gaining unauthorized access to a computer.
“There’s always a worry. I guess it’s possible that somebody could put malware there. [But] it’s a safe site to surf to,” says Gadi Evron, a cybersecurity expert.
WikiLeaks, meanwhile, has been hit by suspected cyberattacks known as distributed denial of service attacks that clog up a site’s ability to be accessed.