Senate Offices Told to Avoid WikiLeaks

01.21.11 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

“Do not visit the WikiLeaks site,” the Office of Senate Security told Senate employees and contractors in a memorandum (pdf) that was circulated to Senate offices this past week.

Senate employees are free to access news reports that may discuss classified material, but they were instructed not to download the “underlying documents that themselves are marked classified (including classified documents publicly available on the WikiLeaks and other websites).”

The “Updated WikiLeaks Guidance” was issued by the Office of Senate Security.  The one-page memo is undated, but a Senate staffer said it was received in Senate offices within the last few days.

It represents an implicit view that respect for executive branch classification procedures should be the Senate’s paramount concern here, trumping open deliberation over the contents of the leaked materials or any other considerations.


In a paradoxical way, the WikiLeaks project is dependent upon the very secrecy system that it works to disrupt.  Without secrecy, after all, there cannot be leaks.  So why doesn’t the U.S. government try to “disarm” WikiLeaks by pro-actively disclosing the cables that WikiLeaks has already obtained?  Instead of passively enduring months or years of selective disclosures, the government could seize the initiative back from WikiLeaks.  Voluntary disclosure would permit it to present the most sensitive information with whatever explanatory or contextual material it wished to add.

For the moment, at least, that is not a realistic option, replied William J. Bosanko of the Information Security Oversight Office.  Though the leaked records held by WikiLeaks and its media partners are already compromised, he acknowledged, officially releasing them right now would interfere with other objectives that must take precedence.  These include briefing foreign governments whose information has been exposed, correcting security vulnerabilities, and penalizing the unauthorized disclosures.  Mr. Bosanko spoke at a January 20 panel discussion sponsored by the Collaboration on Government Secrecy at American University Washington College of Law.