Feds Move to Prevent Future Leaks of Official Secrets on U.S. Web Services

Federal authorities are acting to prevent future leaks of classified documents and warning government employees not to read the messages already published on WikiLeaks.

With government pressure squeezing the WikiLeaks site off U.S.-based Web hosting services, federal officials are turning their attention to preventing future embarrassing leaks. U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman issued a statement on Dec. 2 that he will ask what "Web service providers will do in the future to ensure that their services are not used to distribute stolen, classified information."

WikiLeaks, which has published thousands of once-secret diplomatic messages that have embarrassed the U.S. government as well as a number of its allies, is relying on a few DNS service providers in Europe to try to stay in business. WikiLeaks has also been the target of repeated DoS (Denial of Service) attacks that keep people from accessing the site.

Lieberman's staffers contacted Amazon.com because it was hosting WikiLeaks. Shortly afterward, WikiLeaks said on Twitter that Amazon had "ousted" the site. Amazon issued a statement denying that the Connecticut Senator's office had anything to do with the decision, but because WikiLeaks violated the terms of service require organization that use its hosting service to either own or otherwise control all of the rights to the content and that use of the content "will not cause injury to any person or entity."

"It's clear that WikiLeaks doesn't own or otherwise control all the rights to this classified content. Further, it is not credible that the extraordinary volume of 250,000 classified documents that WikiLeaks is publishing could have been carefully redacted in such a way as to ensure that they weren't putting innocent people in jeopardy," wrote Amazon.

Lieberman's comments are already making companies nervous. Tableau Software, a data visualization site, dropped WikiLeaks' data in response to Lieberman. "Our terms of service require that people using Tableau Public do not upload, post, e-mail, transmit or otherwise make available any content that they do not have the right to make available," said Tableau on its blog.

"This will inevitably be met with mixed reaction. However, our terms of service were created to ensure responsible use of data," the company said.

WikiLeaks was using Tableau Public to create ways to browse the cables by subject, location and other criteria.

Lieberman has also introduced a bill, the Shield Act, that would make it a federal crime for anyone to publish the name of a U.S. intelligence source. Leaking such information in the first place is already a crime, so the measure is aimed squarely at publishers.