GWU Sends Out a Warning About Wikileaks

The Elliot School’s Graduate Student Career Development office shot out an email yesterday using WikiLeaks in bibliographies and citations in academic papers. Since the information was not “properly declassified,” those who have documented viewing of the information could be at risk for losing security clearance or even employment.

We retweeted someone’s post about this email earlier today, and @elisevc tweeted us this link that has the text from a similar email from Columbia University, though they warn more about social media activity (such as linking to WikiLeaks information on your facebook).

Though, the email does end on a cheerful note: “We do not intend to restrict your academic study or infringe on your rights to access information in the public domain—we just think that job-seeking students be advised of a potential risk. Please exercise your own best judgment. [sic]” Very diplomatic.

What are your thoughts on this? Is it good advice for the myriad of students looking for federal jobs, fearmongering, both? Discuss in the comments.

Date: Mon,  6 Dec 2010 17:59:11 -0500 (EST)
Subject: A Warning About Wikileaks and Using it in Bibliographies and Citations for Academic Papers

Dear [student],

Some of you may have already received this warning and we apologize in advance for any duplication.

However we felt the message was worth repeating, particularly if you are involved in a career that requires a security clearance or if you are involved in an active job/internship search for a position that may require a security clearance.

We wish you good luck with your papers, projects, and exams!

Sincerely,

Angella Griffin
Director
Graduate Student Career Development

————————–

Forward message:

While most of us who follow international affairs closely have been extremely interested in the unfolding Wikileaks saga, we’d like to warn against accessing these files directly. Students who hold or are seeking security clearances potentially risk losing that those privileges (or jobs). Those of you familiar with form SF-86 will recognize a question about unauthorized access to computer systems, and using Wikileaks may fall under that provision. Additionally, questions may arise during background interviews or polygraphs.

Furthermore, adjunct professors often are clearance-holders as well, and their employers will be risk-averse to the use of using Wikileaks-related sites. Therefore, I would advise all students to avoid using leaked information in their bibliographies and citations. Should that information be necessary or relevant to your written work, I suggest using the filter of the media or other published academic works to protect your liability (i.e. cite an article about the leak rather than the leak itself).

I found this directive given to one cleared contractor illustrative:

  1. Presidential Executive Order 13526, Section 1.1(4) states “Classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure of identical or similar information”.
  2. The Wikileaks data is categorized as “Apparently Classified Information” that appears to have been disclosed without appropriate review and authority. The information contained on the Wikileaks web site was not properly “declassified” by an appropriate U.S. government official, and therefore requires continued classification protection.
  3. Until all of the Wikileaks data has been reviewed by the appropriate Original Classification Authorities (OCAs) and a damage assessment has been completed, no determination regarding continued classification can be made. Therefore, the information will remain classified until further notice.

We do not intend to restrict your academic study or infringe on your rights to access information in the public domain—we just think that job-seeking students be advised of a potential risk. Please exercise your own best judgment.