WikiLeaks off-limits to federal workers without clearance, memo says

By Ed O'Keefe
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, December 5, 2010; 9:10 PM

Obama administration officials reminded rank-and-file federal workers and contractors late Friday to steer clear of WikiLeaks, the controversial document-sharing Web site.

"Classified information, whether or not already posted on public Web sites 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," officials warned.

The Office of Management and Budget sent the message in a memo addressed to agency general counsel, asking them to remind workers of existing restrictions on access to classified documents.

OMB Director Jacob Lew had already instructed departments and agencies to ensure that employees with access to classified information networks did not have more access than necessary and to restrict the use of removable media such as CDs or flash drives on such networks. Those orders promptedsome departments to issue warnings to employees.

Friday's memo states that workers and contractors must "use government information technology systems in accordance with agency procedures so that the integrity of such systems is not compromised."

The memo is meant to be adapted and then sent to each agency's workers.

It does not instruct agencies to block the WikiLeaks Web site.

The Defense Department has issued a similar reminder to military personnel and contractors, stating that viewing the documents violates military policy even though they may be available on public Web sites.

Employees and contractors who inadvertently accessed or downloaded any classified or sensitive information without prior authorization are reminded to contact agency information security offices, the memo said.

In a similar warning, college students considering careers with the federal government received ane-mail this week warning against reviewing classified information posted by the document-sharing Web site.

Career counselors at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs urged students not to post links to the documents or make comments on social media Web sites, including Facebook or Twitter.

"Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government," said an e-mail the office said it sent to students on the advice of an alumnus who works for the State Department.

But the employee's warning "does not represent a formal policy position," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Saturday.

"This sounds like an overly zealous employee," Crowley said in an e-mail. "Our focus is advising current employees not to download classified documents to an unclassified network.

"While we condemn what WikiLeaks has done, we cannot control what is done through private Internet accounts."

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