Air Force blocks sites that provide WikiLeaks information

The block extends to media sites

While the ongoing WikiLeaks scandal is drawing in participants and commentators from across the Internet, the Air Force has decided to keep its personnel out of it. The service announced that it is blocking network access to a variety of media sites that are publishing stories based on the diplomatic documents released by WikiLeaks, according to the New York Times.

More than 25 sites are on the block list, including the New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, and Der Speigel. Air Force Maj. Toni Tones told the Associated Press the ban is intended to prevent Air Force personnel from viewing classified information at work. The block does not extend to personal computers.

Tones said that the Times was the only major U.S. paper affected by the ban. The Army and Navy have not moved to block access to WikiLeaks material, but NextGov reports that the Defense Department has warned that all military, civilian and contractor employees “should not” access the WikiLeaks website to view or download classified information.

On Dec. 3, the White House and federal agencies notified all federal employees and government contractors that personnel without security clearances cannot read classified documents, such as the diplomatic messages published by WikiLeaks, on their home computers.

However, there's some question about the legality of the government’s restriction. Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University’s St. Louis School of Law and an expert in whistleblower protections and national security issues told NextGov that the federal guidance, as issued through a memo from the Office of Management and Budget’s general counsel’s office, was unclear in its instructions regarding whether government employees could access WikiLeaks documents on their personal computers. Clark said she did not believe the government had any legal authority to prevent employees with security clearances from accessing the data from their home computers.

The OMB memorandum also has a caveat. While admonishing agencies to communicate the information about viewing WikiLeaks to their employees and contractors, it noted that “If an agency has a legitimate need for personnel to access classified information on publicly available websites, the agency head shall ensure that such access is managed in a manner that minimizes risk to government information technology systems and adheres to established requirements.”

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