State Dept: Reading WikiLeaks Will Endanger Your Job

Federal employees who blog about WikiLeaks–or even just mention them on their Facebook or Twitter accounts–could be fired or denied security clearances. Even potential hires aren’t off the hook.

State Dept: Reading WikiLeaks Will Endanger Your Job


The U.S. State Department is reportedly
threatening to deny some bloggers and social media users security
clearances. Job applicants who have posted links or references to
WikiLeaks on Facebook, Twitter or their personal blogs may have their
all-important security clearances denied. Potential job
applicants have been warned not to make any online references to–or
even to read–WikiLeaks.

Why? Because despite being
leaked, WikiLeaks’ 200,000+ secret diplomatic cables still remain
secret at various levels of clearance.

Some universities have warned students that posting WikiLeaks-related information online could endanger their federal security clearances. Legal
website received a forwarded
email warning off potential WikiBloggers
from a tipster at the
Boston University School of Law:

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. 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. 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. Moreover, polygraphs are
conducted for the highest levels of security clearance.

Amy Goodman of the Democracy Now!
television program quoted
from a similar email
sent out by Columbia University’s School of
International and Public Affairs that claimed it was directly
inspired by a State Department contact. A transcript
of the same email
also made its way onto job-hunting blog

Executive Order 13526 was implemented
by President Obama in 2009 and deals with the
classification, safeguarding and taxonomy of secret information.
Those Section 5.5 sanctions include “reprimand,
suspension without pay, removal, termination of classification
authority, [and] loss or denial of access to classified information.” That means losing a federal security clearance, which is required
for the vast majority of State Department jobs


Obtaining a federal security clearance
is a complicated, rigorous and stressful process.
Applicants are asked blunt questions about subjects including family
background, financial history, housing history, educational
background, religion, friends, sexuality, drug or
alcohol use, political affiliations, and a host of other topics.

That is followed by detailed investigations into the subject’s background, believed to include examinations of their social
media footprint.

The State Department’s
decision coincides with a larger government
push to threaten WikiLeaks readers/comments/bloggers with sanctions.
Massive government contractor Raytheon has forbidden
employees to read WikiLeaks
on their personal computers. The agency for International Development (USAID)
has forbidden
employees from “retransmitting”
WikiLeaks information in any
fashion. The White House Office of Management and Budget, the
Department of Defense and the Library of Congress all enacted
regulations of their own

The 200,000+ leaked diplomatic
cables were exposed by State Department employees with proper
security clearances. Having been burned already, the federal
government is entering self-protection mode. This approach may turn thousands of bright, dedicated and
patriotic potential civil servants into collateral damage
of the war on WikiLeaks.

[Image by Andrew Hur]