The White House told government agencies to take measures to prevent employees without proper authorization from accessing classified US diplomatic cables on WikiLeaks.
“The recent disclosure of US government documents by WikiLeaks has resulted in damage to our national security,” the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said in a message to all federal agencies obtained by AFP.
It reminded them that “each federal employee and contractor is obligated to protect classified information” and said that a public release of classified documents did not mean they had been declassified.
“Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents (whether in print, on a blog or on websites) do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents,” the OMB said.
“To the contrary, classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites 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 US government authority.”
Moira Mack, an OMB spokeswoman, said the notice “restates and reinforces existing restrictions on access to classified documents by unauthorized personnel or on computers that access the Web via non-classified government systems.”
“It reinforces existing requirements to protect the integrity of non-classified government systems, and to prevent spillage of classified material onto non-classified systems,” she added.
The Library of Congress was among the institutions that blocked access to WikiLeaks, prompting the whistleblower website to say on its Twitter feed that the move signaled “end times” for the First Amendment of the US Constitution guaranteeing free speech.
In a post on the Library of Congress blog, communications director Matt Raymond confirmed that access to Wikileaks was being blocked and rejected accusations of censorship.
“The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information,” Raymond said.
“In other words, the site is being blocked not out of censorship, but because providing the information that is there is illegal.
“The Library is prohibited both by federal law and our own regulations from providing public access to classified information,” he added.