Avoid WikiLeaks, White House tells contractors and employees

The Office of Management and Budget is informing federal contractors and employers that unless they have the appropriate authorizations they must not view the WikiLeaks documents. But reading news stories about the leaked cables is OK, OMB says.

Responding to the WikiLeaks disclosures of secret U.S. diplomatic cables, the White House is informing federal agencies that unauthorized federal contractors and employees must avoid viewing or downloading the WikiLeaks classified documents on the Internet, according to a report from Talking Points Memo.

Talking Points Memo published a copy of an e-mail message from Dec. 3 that it obtained from the Office of Management and Budget, which included a two-page model memo OMB suggested for distribution to employees and contractors.

The OMB notice and model memo remind federal agencies that classified information remains classified and must be protected from unauthorized disclosure, regardless of whether it is leaked onto the Internet by a third party.

“Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents (whether in print, on a blog, or on websites) do not alter the documents' classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents," the OMB model memo states. "To the contrary, classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media, remains classified and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority."

Accordingly, federal contractors and employees are instructed not to access the WikiLeaks documents from computers or mobile devices on unclassified networks. “Doing so risks that material still classified will be placed on nonclassified systems,” the model memo states.

Contractors and employees are not prohibited from reading news reports about the WikiLeaks disclosures, but they are forbidden from viewing or downloading the classified documents themselves, according to the model memo.

The document also reminds employees and contractors that they may not view classified material without the appropriate security clearance and states that if they think they might have accessed sensitive material inappropriately, they should contact their agency information security officers.

Talking Points Memo also reported that the Library of Congress has blocked WikiLeaks’ website from its staff computers and visitors wireless network. The State, Commerce and Education departments have also directed employees not to view the cables.

In related news, Boston University School of Law has notified students that they should avoid commenting on, or linking to, the WikiLeaks documents because doing so is likely to risk their future eligibility for a federal security clearance, according to a report from the Above the Law blog.