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David Lee King

Library of Congress vs Wikileaks … and some silliness, too



I’m sure most of you know about Wikileaks – interesting stuff, for sure. For the most part, I’m not getting into that – I’ll leave all that legality stuff for others to discuss.

However, I WILL mention the Library of Congress and their decision to block access to Wikileaks. And the Federal Government’s memos going out “reminding” government employees who don’t have access to classified documents that they aren’t allowed to view them, even when not at work.

I like what this article called it – “a classic case of shutting the barn door after the horse has left.”

In my mind, anyway, the Library of Congress and the federal government are being sorta silly:

  • Yes, many government employees don’t have access to classified documents
  • whether you like it or not, Wikileaks just published them
  • so whether you like it or not, those published documents are really no longer classified – they’re now freely available on the web
  • unless, of course, the government is being silly and is telling people “please turn your heads the other way and don’t look.”

This is pretty different from, say, before the web. Way back then, if a classified document was swiped and shared, you could potentially track it down and stop the leak.

But now, there’s no getting those documents back. Sure, you can block access. Sure, you can arrest people (if they broke laws). But get the documents back? Good luck with that. They’re now freely available on the web, being copied on millions of servers, and parts of those documents are being quoted by multiple news outlets.

Is that still classified? Well yes – legally, it is. But no – in reality, anyone can now see it, which sort of defeats the purpose of calling them “classified.”

And Library of Congress – since you are blocking access to those documents … are you also blocking access to all the news organizations that are currently publishing bits from those classified documents? Because they’re all quoting from them.

Here are two good articles I saw over the weekend with some good thoughts this whole fiasco:

What do you think?

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • http://andrewjwalsh.com/blog Andrew Walsh

    I first thought the decision made some sense, since the government should make it clear they don’t support the unauthorized publishing of their classified documents. But the more I think about it, handling it this way does seem quite… well, silly. Blocking access like this makes it seem like they’re saying they can definitively stop the problem, which clearly isn’t the case with all the mirror sites that have sprung up. And your point about all the other media outlets quoting from the documents is a very good one; what would they say about them?

    Couldn’t they just have released a statement stating their position and promising that the government is doing all it can to ensure that classified material remains protected? That way at least they wouldn’t look like they think they have this ultimate power to stop the spread. They’re only fueling the fire by giving wikileaks something they can fight back against (as they’ve already done).

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