Wiki Idiocy

Byline: | Category: Blogging, Media, Military, Uncategorized | Posted at: Thursday, 2 December 2010

I got this message yesterday from Army Reserve leadership:

As a security reminder to all Soldiers, individuals should not access the WikiLeaks web site to view, download, or print any information which is potentially classified. All personnel are reminded that the accessing of classified information on an unclassified network, either on government or privately owned computers, could constitute a security violation or place our national security at risk.In accordance with Executive Order 13526, classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure and will remain classified until it is formally declassified by an appropriate authority. Therefore, information on the internet which is or appears to be classified should be handled as such until it is properly declassified. The unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information may result in termination of security clearance, termination of employment, or prosecution.

You, on the other hand–assuming that you aren’t a military member, government employee, or holder of a current security clearance–are not prohibited by this Executive Order from accessing classified information via wikileaks.

Does anyone else find this to be like the idiocy of restrictive gun laws: 

If only uncleared personnel are able to access classified information, then the only people with access to classified information will be those without security clearances.

Horse.  Stampede.  Barndoor.


Jay made the analogy to finding a classified document on a copying machine.  You’re not permitted to read it.  But the analogy, as he pointed out, is extreme.  A copying machine in a secure facility is not the internet.

Question:  If instead of Wikileaks, it was the Washington Post that had printed/posted these documents, would it then be open source information?  Yes.  Now that’s not to say that someone with a clearance would then be permitted to confirm the documents’ authenticity.  But I don’t think you’d see a push to prevent cleared people from reading the newspaper.  The regulations haven’t caught up to the fact that whether it’s a website or a newspaper, they’re both open sources of information.

As I said in my previous post on the subject:

This is really the same problem that has long confronted recording artists, the motion picture industry, and other creators of intellectual content:  electronic data is easily copied, easily shared, and not easily restricted to paying customers or rightful recipients.  The RCIA and MPA have had more than a decade to formulate new business models to the threat of file sharing . . . with varying degrees of success.  The federal government is late to recognizing this as a problem, but has the advantage of being able to quickly learn from those who came first.

Share this post:

15 Responses to “Wiki Idiocy”

  1. SSG Jeff (USAR) Says:

    Huh – his unit is way behind. We got that notification after the first big blast of stuff went up regarding the military earlier this year. Along with warnings that if we had accessed this stuff on a military system they were going to have to take the system and scrub it clean – since our systems are not allowed to have classified information on them, and it would likely be in the CONTENT.IE5 directory somewhere…

  2. Joshua Stanton Says:

    So, taking this to it ridiculous extreme, every document that quotes classified information is also considered a derivative classified document. Should I infer, then, that the first several pages of every newspaper in America are now classified documents? Does it mean that if I find a newspaper on the train that quotes a classified document — and surely most newspapers do this week — that I’m required by executive order to carry those newspapers to my nearest SCIF? Should I avert my eyes as I walk past newspaper machines?

  3. wGraves Says:

    So Kafka is working in the White House, and is apparently after Josef K?

  4. pmm Says:

    I don’t think the Army is trying to prevent uncleared persons from passing each other classified materials, although I’m sure they’re not happy about it. Instead, they’re trying to detect and prevent cleared persons from passing classified information.

    If an investigator discovers classified information on a Soldier’s personal laptop, are they supposed to first check and see if he got it from Wikileaks, or if he got it by illegally spilling (splashing?) data from his SIPR terminal? And if getting it from Wikileaks absolves him from any wrongdoing, how is that not effectively declassifying the data through unauthorized disclosure?

    If you’re cleared and have a need to know, you can look at the Wikileaks docs, you just do it through SIPRnet.

  5. Jim Says:

    Government at its best.

  6. Sandman Says:

    Bob, While I understand where you are coming from the regulation is there for one simple fact.

    If the military does an inspection of personal computer systems and finds classified material on them the owner is liable for that. (it isn’t a regular practice but it is allowed under regulations)

    Heck, a person with access to classified materials would, under your suggestion, be able to perfectly defend against charges for releasing classified material as simple as putting it out on a bit torrent via pirate bay.

  7. John Moore Says:

    It *does* pose a security risk, if people with classified knowledge use that to direct their queries into a database that is being monitored.

  8. Briney Eye Says:

    We got essentially the same memo at work (which is national security-oriented).

    According to the rules, a computer and everything on it assumes the classification level of the highest-classified information that touches it. Them’s the rules, and I didn’t make ‘em. I’m just sworn, literally on pain of death, to uphold them because of my clearance.

    No way I’m risking having my workstation declared SECRET just so I can read that Sarkozy thinks Obama’s mother was a hamster and his father smells of elderberries.

  9. Jay Doe Says:

    Normally, this is a sane policy; it’s just that Wikileaks is an extreme case. If you (as a person with clearance) find a classified document in the copy machine, one that you shouldn’t have access to, you are NOT allowed to read it just because someone else screwed up.

    In this case, the horses have left the barn far behind…but the regulations are still what they are, and in other situations they DO make sense, and you’re still in legal jeopardy if you violate them.

  10. Chris Says:

    You are an idiot.
    If you own a bank and somebody robs your bank and gives the money out in the streets, you send an email to your employees telling them not to run out in the street and grab money with everybody else.

  11. Dustin Says:

    I understand the need to strictly follow rules, but whoever decided to post this reminder really should be given something more helpful to do with his time.

    I can think of a few scenarios that might make this valuable, though. Perhaps in the huge haystack of data lies a golden needle or two of secrets that could cause a lot of damage if the wrong people notice them. And maybe there is hope that they won’t be noticed or put together for a while.

    If someone more aware of this stuff, say a person with a security clearance, were to search for this information’s existence on wikileaks, they probably should be very careful about how they do it. Doing it on an unsecure system might lead to the needles being highlighted.

    Assange actually called for something similar when he invited the US Government to highlight things they wanted to remain undisclosed. He was obviously just hoping for help seeing what’s juiciest and no one took his bait.

    All my Tom Clancy thinking aside, this is probably just someone being an idiot about the rules. It certainly is amusing.

  12. bowman Says:

    More than a little silly when leaks are as widely distributed as the Wikileaks data. If classified data comes out in some obscure intelligence-oriented magazine, sure, banning government people from reading it might make some sense.

    But with classified data coming out in the headlines of newspapers and news websites, its bizarre to insist on government employees to remain deliberately uninformed. If you want to get really technical about it, every government employee with a subscription to the NY Times is guilty of improperly receiving classified information.

  13. rhhardin Says:

    They got it a little wrong, is all.

    The idea is that just because your secret project shows up in the newspaper, it’s still classified. Don’t comment on it, don’t confirm it, don’t deny it.

    That way the newspaper account doesn’t get confirmed.

  14. Semper Why Says:

    It’s not a odd as it seems at first blush.

    If you make an exception for Wikileaks, you’re sending the message that some classified documents don’t deserve to be treated as every other classified document. We’re told over and over again that classified documents are just that, no matter where you encounter them. On the copier, in a briefcase, in the trash can, left in a conference room, on the side of the road… it’s been known to happen. You are instructed to treat it as a classified document, no matter how it came into your possession.

    You do NOT want to set up a standard where you respect the classification in some instances and not others.

  15. jWarrior Says:

    We got word yesterday that DoD CyberComm had, effective immediately, banned burning any information from a classified machine to CD. You will now have to get permission to do so, after demonstrating a need to do so.

    Talk about locking the barn door after the horse is gone. Meanwhile that little poofter Manning is still using perfectly good oxygen.