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State Dept. Employee Investigated For Linking To WikiLeaks 172

Posted by Soulskill
from the don't-point-at-things-either dept.
New submitter Jimme Blue writes "An employee of the State Department is under investigation and may be fired for 'disclosing classified information.' Or, as others might call it, posting a link to WikiLeaks. 'His crime, he said, was a link he posted on August 25 in a blog post discussing the hypocrisy of recent U.S. actions against Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi. The link went to a 2009 cable about the sale of U.S. military spare parts to Qadaffi through a Portuguese middleman. ... The State Department investigators, he said, demanded to know who had helped him with his blog and told him that every blog post, Facebook post, and tweet by State Department employees had to be pre-cleared by the Department prior to publication."
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State Dept. Employee Investigated For Linking To WikiLeaks

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2011 @10:43AM (#37576784)

    He wants to be careful he may be the next drone attack victim.

  • by WiglyWorm (1139035) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @10:45AM (#37576798) Homepage
    Can anyone honestly pretend that information which has been leaked and posted on the internet still qualifies as classified?

    Also, hasn't the Govt. ever heard of the streisand effect?
    • by gandhi_2 (1108023) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @10:56AM (#37576888) Homepage

      Just because something classified is leaked doesn't mean it automatically loses its classification.

      The requirements for declassification are pretty strict, and few people (relatively) can authorize it. If leaking was all that was necessary, everyone would do it just to avoid the hassle of the classified computer systems.

      The government knows you can't get the genie back into the bottle, the cat into the bag, or the National Geographic back into its paper sleeve. They aren't stupid.

      At the very least, you are looking at losing your security clearance for looking at stuff beyond your scope of work or security clearance level. This could cost him his job.

      As far as criminal prosecution goes, that would be stupid.

      I know you guys like to think all info should be open and free but the REAL world doesn't work like that. Countries have secrets.

      • by maxume (22995)

        I know you guys like to think all info should be open and free but the REAL world doesn't work like that. Countries have secrets.

        That's pretty binary. The U.S. government seems to have an awful lot of unnecessary secrets, giving those trumpeting transparency plenty to spout about.

      • Losing his job for looking at it would be stupid, since it's been leaked. Losing his job for linking to it, on the other hand, is a completely different situation, because it means someone cleared for the information was pointing someone else to it when it was still classified--and because IIRC, pretty much everyone in government was warned not to do it.

        Frankly, a very strong reprimand and instruction to take it down is the minimum punishment is order. A reduction in security clearance might be appropriat

        • by andy1307 (656570)

          Losing his job for looking at it would be stupid, since it's been leaked.

          If he viewed a SECRET document on an unclassified network, he probably violated the terms of his security clearance. He isn't prevented from reading a summary of the document on the New York Times.

      • by Hatta (162192)

        The requirements for declassification are pretty strict, and few people (relatively) can authorize it. If leaking was all that was necessary, everyone would do it just to avoid the hassle of the classified computer systems.

        What? I don't think anyone here is suggesting that leaks should be legal, but once it's already leaked there's no use in pretending that it isn't out there. Information the public has should be declassified automatically. That has no bearing on whether giving information to the public

      • by skywire (469351)

        The government knows you can't get the genie back into the bottle, the cat into the bag, or the National Geographic back into its paper sleeve. They aren't stupid.

        You're right: they aren't stupid; but when they nonetheless abuse people as though they did believe that the genie can be put back in the bottle, they are evil.

      • It should lose its classification when it is public knowledge. There is no point in classifying material published in the new york times, or otherwise available to anyone on the planet.

        Nearly every non disclosure agreement I've ever seen releases responsibility to keep things secret if the covered information becomes public knowledge through disclosure by others.

        Keeping public information "classified" is a 1984-ish way to make everyone a criminal for discussing or "disclosing" state secrets. Now we can al

    • by pavon (30274)

      When a supposed leak appears there is still some amount of uncertainty about whether the leak is authentic or not. Furthermore, there is the issue that several pieces of sensitive information may be unclassified on their own, but when combined become classified. So it may be prudent to classify some previously sensitive but unclassified data upon the release of other data.

      Each individual person who works with classified data doesn't always have the whole picture, and are thus not in a position to judge whe

    • Can anyone honestly pretend that information which has been leaked and posted on the internet still qualifies as classified? Also, hasn't the Govt. ever heard of the streisand effect?

      Unfortunately, the release of classified information, even if it has already been released, by someone not authorized to release it is still a violation of the laws governing classified material; something made clear in every security brief I have attended.

      While it seems ridiculous, it is the law - until it is formally declassified or you are authorized to release it, you can't release it. Even if all the material is unclassified, if the document containing it is classified, it still falls under those rules

    • The better question is, if it's publicly available, is he really disclosing it?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by onyxruby (118189)

      Your logic is akin to saying that just because your health, financial, academic or other private records are magically now everyone's business just because they have been posted online.

      Your financial records are still your /private/ financial records and should stay that way regardless of the fact that your financial records may have been sold on the black market. Just because someone has leaked a piece of data does not magically change the nature of that data.

      Somehow I think you would be singing a differen

    • I just love this Streisand Effect. It means that no one can ever act anything wrong bad done to them, because people will notice. I think it's bullshit. Yes, the effect is real, but just because it is, it doesn't mean the Government (for example) shouldn't act against an employee violating his work terms.

  • Not Declassified (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2011 @10:48AM (#37576828)

    Just because a classified document is made public doesn't mean it automatically becomes declassified. If this person has a security clearance then he should know that. That is the rule. He had security awareness training on it updated yearly. He signed off on the training each time. It was impressed upon him when applying for his clearance. And if State is like the agency where I work we were given specific instructions about this exact scenario. The summary was "if you have a clearance, don't go there, don't link to it, don't read it, don't talk about it, just plain don't".

    Considering he has 23 years in and this is really more of a case of being a sloppy idiot instead of espionage, they should just give him the option of retiring from Federal Service so he can keep his benefits and move on. A deal he can't refuse, so to speak.

  • Whats the problem (Score:4, Informative)

    by voss (52565) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @10:50AM (#37576838)

    He while working for the state department gave credibility and verified leaked classified information in violation of state department policies. The fact that it was already out there in the public domain is irrelevant it has not been declassified.
    He may get fired...a bit harsh but perfectly legal.

    • Re:Whats the problem (Score:5, Informative)

      by HBI (604924) <kparadine AT gmail DOT com> on Saturday October 01, 2011 @10:59AM (#37576908) Homepage Journal

      Moreover, we were all instructed not to search for, read or refer to the Wikileaks data, as it would be treated as disclosing or misusing classified data. Apparently, this guy can't take a warning seriously.

      • Either that or he just ignores completely idiotic warnings.
        • by HBI (604924)

          It's not idiotic when you hold a clearance and have to submit to an investigation every 5 to 10 years.

          Those who do not hold such clearances think it not a big deal to get speeding tickets, misdemeanor convictions for bullshit crimes or take a few hits off some weed. Those who actually hold same cannot be so careless.

          This gentleman is the idiot. Apparently, he didn't like his livelihood so he quit his job in the most painful way possible, and could end up in prison.

          • Yes it is idiotic. The system defies all logic. You might argue that he was an idiot for not going along with the insanity while knowing the potential consequences, but I would disagree.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday October 01, 2011 @10:56AM (#37576896)
    People may not like it, but anyone with a US security clearance has a requirement for "prepublication review". That usually applies to talking about your job or things you learned during your job. Since this guy worked for State, and he posted information about state, I think they have a good point. For all any of us know he knew about that Cable from seeing it at work. Just because it has been publicly disclosed does *not* mean it is not still classified. https://www.cia.gov/library/center-for-the-study-of-intelligence/kent-csi/docs/v41i3a01p.htm [cia.gov] http://www.nsa.gov/public_info/prepub/index.shtml [nsa.gov]
    • by Reservoir Penguin (611789) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @11:31AM (#37577132)
      So basically he is being punished for shouting that the king is naked.
      • by swalve (1980968)
        Well, yes. You have the right to shout that the king is naked, but you also can't be surprised if the king decides to hit you with a club.
        • by dachshund (300733)

          Well, yes. You have the right to shout that the king is naked, but you also can't be surprised if the king decides to hit you with a club.

          In a democratic republic based on the rule of law, you should not have to worry about a king hitting you with a club.

          Yes the law can, and is, being abused to produce this outcome. But that'ss an argument against the law as construed. It's not an argument in favor of the abuse.

          • by pavon (30274)

            If he gets charged with a crime you might have a point. As of now, the only punishment is that he might loose his job. Since his job requires holding a security clearance, and he obviously can't follow the rules about handling classified information, I don't see what the problem is.

            • I think you missed my point, this information is readily available to anyone in the developed world. Anyone can see US foreign policy for what it is within two clicks. Pretending that it's still secret and classified and punishing someone for linking to it is not just dishonest it's borderline madness.
      • by morcego (260031)

        "Hey, how about I call you an idiot in public and you can convict me
          for revealing state secrets."
                        -- Matthew Stoner (to Garibaldi), "Soul Mates" (Babylon 5)

  • So the Bush Administration began talking and cooperating with Qaddafi in exchange for his abandonment of nuclear ambitions. Perhaps the Obama Administration sought to continue this because they too saw the facts as it stood, that Qaddafi had a hard grip on his country and didn't look like he was going out of power any time soon, and thus cooperation and diplomacy was in order for the interests of the US. Contrary to what idealists on the internet may believe, diplomacy isn't just talk, it's backed up with s

    • Refugees. The average income in north Africa is around $1/day, in southern Europe it's around $100/day. As you can imagine there is a huge demand to move to the money. Southern Europe can't afford to take 5,000,000 migrants per year, they would collapse. Being a member of NATO requires a team player, meaning the USA must support its European allies- meaning payoffs to Qaddafi to stop the migrants.
  • by GTarrant (726871) on Saturday October 01, 2011 @11:32AM (#37577138)
    If you don't have a security clearance, then posting such a link may not be a big thing. However, this gentleman did, and every time there is a major Wikileaks release we are reminded that the fact that it's released on Wikileaks does not change a clearance holder's contractual responsibility to protect classified information and that even linking to Wikileaks or talking about it at work could lead to our dismissal - and furthermore, that just because it's available on Wikileaks does not mean the information has been declassified.

    Sometimes this is taken to ridiculous extremes - I once went to a public conference where we were informed that all US citizens had to treat a certain presentation as classified information - meanwhile, as a public conference with people attending from all over the world, those other people could do whatever they wanted with the information. It was clearly public knowledge, but US citizens present with clearances had to treat it as classified because the government said it was.

    He may not go to jail, but he definitely violated the agreement he made with the government in exchange for his security clearance and will likely lose it. Unfortunately, that's something that will follow him around, and in many industries simply makes you unemployable.
  • This individual gives his real name and states that he is an employee of the State Department on his blog.

    Suppose instead he was a private employee of Firm X and stated so in his postings, and posted something strongly critical of Firm X? Doesn't everyone here expect he would be reprimanded or fired because of his behavior?

    I thought the general rule was that if you identify yourself as an employee of Firm X, then anything you say publicly should be consistent with what the management of Firm X would say. Th

    • by Jay L (74152)

      It depends. At AOL, I spent a great deal of time on alt.aol-sucks; engaging in discussions with people who hated our product was a great way to learn what to fix. (A lesson @ComcastCares has repopularized today.) To engage there, I had to be honest; nobody's going to talk to a happy-shiny marketing shill. I'd talk about why we did something we did, and about the trade-offs we made, and I'd even hint about whether I agreed or not. I wouldn't have posted my own rant, but I'd certainly quote others, and I

  • I hope that when Barack Obama is inaugurated we will have a change from your fascist policies! I can't wait for January 20, 2009 to come!

  • just published a book that is critical of U.S. reconstruction projects in Iraq

    a blog post discussing the hypocrisy of recent U.S. actions against Libyan leader Muammar Qadaffi

    Looks more like the State Dept was looking for anything to get him for.

    • by Jiro (131519)

      Looks more like the State Dept was looking for anything to get him for.

      More reasonable alternate explanation: the same motivations which lead him to criticize US activities also led him to link to Wikileaks.

      In other words, one is not an attempt to get him for the other--rather, he's a would-be activist and would-be activists like to do both of those things.

      Suppose someone's arrested for robbing a bank. For the past month, he ranted to everyone who would listen about how evil banks are. It's possible that

  • and they'll do anything they can to try to stuff the genie back in the bottle, including abrogating our most cherished Constitutional rights. Everyone knows now, with no hearsay or he said, she said, how incompetent and compromised the American government is. You can't go back from there without at least a massive wave of reform. But Obama, the current Congress, and the SCOTUS have no interest in that whatsoever.

    We are past the event horizon of a second American Revolution. The question is exactly how l

    • by cpghost (719344)
      Actually, I don't think the US Governments look all that bad in the cables. But maybe that's just me, having expected them to come out a LOT worse than they did. I haven't read all cables yet (of course), but what I've gathered from them so far is rather benign. Not all of it as morally crystal clear as one would hope, but neither is it all thuggery. IMHO, the US Govt. shouldn't worry about those cables. Furthermore, they are more or less ancient history by now.

      Now, a leak in the CIA or NSA... that could

      • by HBI (604924)

        The government's concern has little to do with how the USG appears - people will draw their own conclusions, as you just did. The concern was identifying sources. Information classification in large part has to do with concealing the source of intelligence information, as that revelation can have very negative impacts on the lifespan of the sources. If the sources can't trust you to keep secrets, they won't tell you anything. The utility is obvious.

        I've often said, and maintain, that classified document

  • Qaddafi (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mooingyak (720677)

    After seeing Qaddafi spelled 20 different ways in the news, I checked the wikipedia page for him and found this section [wikipedia.org]

    I then wrote this dinky perl script. It generates a few illegal combinations, but it's still fun.


    my @p1 = qw(Q G Gh K Kh);
    my @p2 = qw(a e u);
    my @p3 = qw(d dh dd ddh dhdh dth th zz);
    my @p4 = qw(a);
    my @p5 = qw(f ff);
    my @p6 = qw(i y);

    my @p = (\@p1,\@p2,\@p3,\@p4,\@p5,\@p6);

    my $name = "";
    foreach my $arr (@p) {
    my @a = @{$arr}

  • They're going after him on ridiculous grounds, but an employee should know better than to publically comment under his real name. They will always get you on something.

  • War is peace. Ignorance is bliss.
  • We are not a nation that operates in the shadows by definition if not by fact. We need to get rid of the idea of classified information completely. Share all truth with all people. As far as national defense concerns go the real answer is to be able to devastate any nation that acts against us. We simply need to make certain that no nation dare to offend us with military actions or other means of attack. Ideas like keeping the M-1 rifle classified for sixty years after every government in the world has

  • As much as the Gov has drilled into the minds of the public through the media mongers, that Government workers are to stay away from wikileaks. Here comes an idiot complete with a blog. How ignorant can you be? Maybe it is time for him to retire? Meanwhile... "Peter Van Buren, who has worked for the department for 23 years and just published a book that is critical of U.S. reconstruction projects in Iraq, said this week that the State Department had launched an investigation against him earlier this mon
  • It has been claimed that Bradley Manning had access to all this stuff, at the time it was leaked allegedly by him, so others would also had this access too.
    What they would not have had is the equivalent of the journalists, media and social networking able to make sense of a lot of boring documents to find the important parts and put them in context.

    Do they want to have a situation where every politically aware, literate citizen of the USA (and the rest of the world) knows more about what the US governme
  • All U.S. government employees and contractors were warned when the first Wikileaks dumps happened that classifications had not changed and that it was still a violation to repeat any of that stuff.

    We got memos. We got emails. It was a mandatory discussion topic at group meetings.

    Everyone knew/knows that you can't repeat any of that information, you can't link to it, you can't read it from your work computer. If you're a fed or a contractor, that stuff might as well be radioactive anthrax.

    He knew, period.

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