The US military in Iraq is warning soldiers not to access the documents released by WikiLeaks, informing them it could result in their computers being “sanitized.”
An anonymous tipster told Gawker that “the Army’s unclassified, NIPRNET network in Iraq has blocked every major news website because of the Wikileaks issue.”
The US military denied the accusation, but said it is warning troops that it is illegal to access classified materials on an unclassified network.
“[U.S. forces in Iraq have] not blocked any news websites from being read,” a spokesperson for US forces in Iraq said. “Because of the WikiLeaks release of secret documents and their easy availability on the web, USF-I has posted a warning page NIPRNet computers go to first.”
“This page simply warns the user that the website they are about to view may contain classified documents and that such documents should not be viewed, downloaded, or distributed on NIPR computers. There is a button at the bottom of this warning page that then allows the user to go to the website.”
Despite the fact that the documents released by WikiLeaks are easily available on the Internet, the information is still considered classified.
“There has been rumor that the information is no longer classified since it resides in the public domain,” Navy special security officer Michael Wentling said in August after WikiLeaks released the Afghan war files. “This is not true.”
Last week, the Commerce Department sent an email to its employees informing them that the information released by WikiLeaks “is NOT authorized for downloading, viewing, printing, processing, copying or transmitting” on government computers.
“Accessing the WikiLeaks documents will lead to sanitization of your PC to remove any potentially classified information from the system and result in possible data loss,” the email warned.
The Education Department sent out a similar email, telling its employees that WikiLeaks was being blocked by the department to prevent unauthorized access to classified information.
Potential government employees are being warned to avoid the documents as well.
Graduate students are being warned not to read or post links to WikiLeaks documents if they plan to seek employment with a government agency.
“Two big factors in hiring for many federal government positions are determining if the applicants have good judgment and if they know how to deal with confidential/classified information,” Maura Kelly, career development dean of the Boston University School of Law, said. “The documents released by Wikileaks remain classified; thus, reading them, passing them on, commenting on them may be seen as a violation of Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information. See Section 5.5 (Sanctions).”
“For many federal government jobs, applicants must obtain security clearances,” she added. “There are various levels of security checks, but all federal positions require background checks. As part of such checks, social media may be researched to see what you are up to, so DO NOT post links to the documents or make comments on any social media sites.”
A prior version of this article incorrectly stated that the military considered accessing WikiLeaks documents on its network a criminal offense.