Saturday, December 4, 2010
I don't want to dwell so much on the files themselves, but given some of the backlash against some statements and actions from the government in the past couple days needs some response.
In spite of being available publicly, the documents on Wikileaks are still classified information.
Some of it has to do with not giving legitimacy to leaks, partially to protect redacted sources, and partially because technically the information contained in those documents are still classified. While the question "why?" is relevant, it doesn't much matter as the documents are still classified. So what are the consequences of this? There are a couple.
1. If you view the documents it could endanger a current or future security clearance you may need to work. For current holders, viewing classified information when not authorized is against your agreement and the law. Viewing it on unclassified systems (personal or NIPR computers) is a violation of numerous agreements and laws. For future/potential holders, looking at classified information isn't a good way to start your clearance approval process. So yeah, don't post links to Facebook, etc. Reading and posting stories about the leaks are not illegal in any way according to my understanding, even if the documents are quoted. As long as you're not looking at a page that has "SECRET" or some such thing stamped on it.
2. Viewing the documents on your company's computer system could jeopardize your company's ability to maintain or gain a facility clearance and/or do classified work for the U.S. government. I don't blame Amazon from kicking Wikileaks out. They want to get government contracts, including classified contracts and having unauthorized classified data on their servers will prevent that from ever happening. It's pure self-interest. (And please don't comment any bullshit about the First Amendment here - private actors don't have to provide platforms for people to spout whatever they want, especially if it's not in their best interests. Just like we reserve the right to delete stupid, crude, and off-topic comments here.) Like the reasons above for persons, same applies to companies.
Some people might say it's stupid that leaked information remains classified. Well, yes and no. Yup, everyone in the world with internet access can read it. However, for the reasons above, this is one of the few ways the government has any leverage over leaked info. I can't entirely blame them for holding on to something. And there certainly shouldn't be a Wikileaks exemption to this rule just because they've leaked so much. That would give too much credit to WL from the government's perspective.
So bottom line here is: the documents are still classified so be careful if you want to look at them and think of the implications starting from that perspective. Also, before you start beating on people for doing things (like many did to Amazon and likely Pay Pal in the near future), think about why they're doing these things. It's probably not kowtowing to the government - it's probably for their bottom line. I'm not defending them, but you're delusional if you think these corporations care about anything else.