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US Senate: “Do not visit the WikiLeaks site itself.”

US Senate’s recently updated WikiLeaks Guidance, which applies to both Senate’s employees and contractors, throws quite some light on the conditions that led to its creation.

Unauthorized disclosure of classified information (whether in print, on a blog, or on websites) does not alter the information’s classified status or automatically result in declassification of the information.

Now, notwithstanding that blogs tend to be websites, too, this understanding seems – from a legal standpoint – pretty coherent, although classification per definitionem requires information to be safeguarded accordingly. As soon as a piece of classified information is proliferated out in the open, the original classification authority will hardly be able to enforce the respective access mechanisms or, as tried by the Pentagon before, even physically reclaim the data. Still, any applicable sanctions remain in full force and effect.

cgeorgatou@flickr, CC by-nd 2.0

cgeorgatou@flickr, CC by-nd 2.0

Leaking does not equal declassification, being publicly available does not necessarily make information legally accessible, and, therefore, a leaked diplomatic cable in a narrow sense must not be considered open source information. The leak, in any case, will with good cause become subject to prosecution and legal action.

So far, so good, wouldn’t the guidance continue to suggest that as soon as classified data is melted with or embedded within journalistic reporting, the information must no longer be treated as classified.

Media reports that prescribe or even include portions of the cables are not classified as long as they are maintained in their original context as being media reports (i.e., second hand references may be used, just not the actual data).

Further, as long as the reports are intact and have no US verification of their accuracy, they may be processed and disseminated as U//FOUO.

All WikiLeaks reporting should be treated as U//FOUO.

In other words: on one and the same page of paper, the Office of Senate Security argues that a leak does not result in automatic declassification, yet if processed by the media (or, in this case, WikiLeaks) it should be treated and (!) disseminated as if it was unclassified.

Could someone please get the logic here back on its feet? The logic itself (sic!)?

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