recommended reading

Federal guidance on WikiLeaks raises legal questions

The government might not have the right to restrict federal employees and contractors from viewing on their personal home computers the classified material that WikiLeaks posted, said Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis School of Law with expertise in whistleblower protections and national security.

On Dec. 3, OMB's general counsel office sent a notice to agency general counsels instructing them to remind employees they should not view materials that WikiLeaks posted because the information remains classified.

The memo said federal employees and contractors "shall not . . . access documents that are marked classified," on computers that access nonclassified government systems, including employees' or contractors' personally owned computers.

Clark said the guidance is unclear as to whether employees could access the leaked documents on a personal computer that does not access government systems. OMB did not return a call or e-mail seeking clarification.

"It seems to be fear-mongering," Clark said. The notion that agencies would tell employees they could not view the documents on their home computers "is inexplicable to me," she said.

"I don't think there's any legal authority to assert employees who have security clearances cannot access particular information through their home computers," Clark said.

Both the Defense and State departments told employees and contractors not to access the information, but neither made a distinction between personal and private computers.

Defense's guidance says U.S. military, civilian and contractor employees "should not access the WikiLeaks website to view or download publicized classified information," according to Maj. Chris Perrine, a Defense Department spokesman. Doing so could introduce classified information on unclassified networks, creating "spillage," which is costly to clean up, Perrine said.

Threatwatch Alert

Thousands of cyber attacks occur each day

See the latest threats

JOIN THE DISCUSSION

Close [ x ] More from Nextgov
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from Nextgov.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • It’s Time for the Federal Government to Embrace Wireless and Mobility

    The United States has turned a corner on the adoption of mobile phones, tablets and other smart devices, outpacing traditional desktop and laptop sales by a wide margin. This issue brief discusses the state of wireless and mobility in federal government and outlines why now is the time to embrace these technologies in government.

    View
  • Featured Content from RSA Conference: Dissed by NIST

    Learn more about the latest draft of the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology guidance document on authentication and lifecycle management.

    View
  • A New Security Architecture for Federal Networks

    Federal government networks are under constant attack, and the number of those attacks is increasing. This issue brief discusses today's threats and a new model for the future.

    View
  • Going Agile:Revolutionizing Federal Digital Services Delivery

    Here’s one indication that times have changed: Harriet Tubman is going to be the next face of the twenty dollar bill. Another sign of change? The way in which the federal government arrived at that decision.

    View
  • Software-Defined Networking

    So many demands are being placed on federal information technology networks, which must handle vast amounts of data, accommodate voice and video, and cope with a multitude of highly connected devices while keeping government information secure from cyber threats. This issue brief discusses the state of SDN in the federal government and the path forward.

    View
  • The New IP: Moving Government Agencies Toward the Network of The Future

    Federal IT managers are looking to modernize legacy network infrastructures that are taxed by growing demands from mobile devices, video, vast amounts of data, and more. This issue brief discusses the federal government network landscape, as well as market, financial force drivers for network modernization.

    View

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.