Federal Web Users Warned Away from WikiLeaks Content

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2010-12-04 Print this article Print


Internet advocates and First Amendment activists were appalled. "The first serious infowar is now engaged. The field of battle is WikiLeaks. You are the troops," tweeted Electronic Frontier Foundation co-founder John Perry Barlow. 

"The First Amendment to the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression against government encroachment-but that doesn't help if the censorship doesn't come from the government," the EFF's Rainey Reitman wrote on the foundation's blog. EFF acknowledged that Amazon has its "own First Amendment right" to choose whether or not to host WikiLeaks, but said it was "unfortunate" that the company decided not to. 

"Amazon ran away with its tail between its legs," wrote Reitman. 

The United States has what Attorney General Eric Holder calls "an active, ongoing, criminal investigation" into WikiLeaks' release of the diplomatic cables. Holder said this week that the release jeopardized national security, diplomatic efforts and U.S. relationships around the world, even though Robert Gates had downplayed the incident. 

The government can't take official action to silence WikiLeaks' ongoing publications as it would be an unconstitutional prior restraint, or censorship of speech, said the EFF. 

The U.S. government is also trying to get people to not read WikiLeaks, as it tries to shut it down. The Office of Management and Budget's general counsel today directed all federal agencies to "safeguard classified information" by barring employees from accessing the WikiLeaks Website, according to an e-mail obtained by Talking Points Memo. 

The Library of Congress blocked the site from all its user and employee computer terminals, according to TPM. The site also claims that the State Department has warned prospective hires that writing about WikiLeaks on Twitter or Facebook could cost them that job. According to Gawker, military installations in Iraq are trying to keep soldiers from reading about WikiLeaks by putting up a warning page saying accessing the page was against the law. 

"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," a spokesperson for the U.S. forces in Iraq said, according to Gawker. There is apparently a button at the bottom of the warning page that then allows the user to go to the Website. 

Not everyone is trying to shut down WikiLeaks. A Republican Congressman from Texas, Ron Paul, posted on Twitter, "Re: WikiLeaks-In a free society, we are supposed to know the truth. In a society where truth becomes treason, we are in big trouble."


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