DoD: If You See A Leaked NSA Document, Press SHIFT And DELETE To Get Rid Of It

from the this-again dept

We saw this back when Wikileaks released a bunch of documents and the Defense Department and other government agencies told employees that they weren’t allowed to look at any of the documents, even though they were being splashed all over the press. Now, it appears, the same thing is happening concerning the NSA leaks. The Defense Department quickly sent out a memo to staff, saying:

Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority. It is the responsibility of every DoD employee and contractor to protect classified information and to follow established procedures for accessing classified information only through authorized means.

This included instructions, such as the following:

DoD employees or contractors who inadvertently discover potentially classified information in the public domain shall report its existence immediately to their Security Manager. Security Managers and Information Assurance Managers are instructed to document the occurrence and report the event to the Director of Security Policy and Oversight, Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence (OUSD(I)). The offending material will be deleted by holding down the SHIFT key while pressing the DELETE key for Windows-based systems and clearing of the internet browser cache.

Given how much these documents are now showing up in the news, you have to imagine that Defense Department “Security Managers” are up to their eyeballs in “reports” from staffers who “inadvertently” run across such classified materials. On top of this, staff are told to not even acknowledge the existence of these documents:

DoD employees or contractors who seek out classified information in the public domain, acknowledge its accuracy or existence, or proliferate the information in any way will be subject to sanctions.

I’ve seen people defend these policies in the past, but they make no sense. All they do is encourage a head-in-the-sand mentality within the government, in which employees are told to pretend that public information isn’t public. As we’ve said before, in the business world, non-disclosure agreements are generally considered null and void the moment the same information becomes public via other means. Because that’s dealing with reality. Pretending that these documents aren’t out in the world, and having to fill out a report every time a government employee happens to hit a news article with one of these documents shown, seems like a tremendous waste of time and energy, all in an attempt to deny reality.

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Comments on “DoD: If You See A Leaked NSA Document, Press SHIFT And DELETE To Get Rid Of It”

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60 Comments
kiwini says:

Emulating Obama's leadership style

-Defense Department Warns Employees Not To Look At Any Leaked Documents- followed by “DOD employees or contractors who inadvertently discover potentially classified information in the public domain shall report its existence immediately to their Security Manager.”

And how are said “employees or contractors” able to recognize the forbidden documents/info WITHOUT reading (ie: looking at) them?…

Is this double-speak, or no speak?.

peter says:

Security being idiots?

No news here.

Several years ago I worked in a nuclear establishment. A fellow worker had a magazine article about nuclear power and atomic weapons pinned up on the wall. He was disciplined for failing to lock away nuclear secrets, as the article contained information that had never officially been declassified.

Certain employees were outraged at this, and after a few months of ever increasing numbers of the articles being pinned up all over the place and ever increasing shrill memos from Security, he was un-disciplined and the matter was quietly dropped.

peter says:

Security being idiots?

No news here.

Several years ago I worked in a nuclear establishment. A fellow worker had a magazine article about nuclear power and atomic weapons pinned up on the wall. He was disciplined for failing to lock away nuclear secrets, as the article contained information that had never officially been declassified.

Certain employees were outraged at this, and after a few months of ever increasing numbers of the articles being pinned up all over the place and ever increasing shrill memos from Security, he was un-disciplined and the matter was quietly dropped.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority.”

100% correct, it has been that way for as long as security was in place.

it’s what you sign onto when you join the military, it’s called an “ethic”.

I know ethic’s are foreign to you, you might want to look it up.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Even to the other people ding the course with me

I have done courses in the military on SECRET equipment, and have been told not to say what the course is, or what it does, even to other people doing the course with me.

I think the intention of these rules is to prevent people from accidentally leaking additional secrets.

If Nathan NSAer sees a PRISM slide on a news site, he might think the whole presentation has become public (not just the 4 slides released so far), and then feel free to talk about stuff that wasn’t released.

Their solution is this head-in-the-sand thing which, if followed to the letter, would prevent Nathan from spilling more beans (since he behavior isn’t supposed to change when faced with the new facts).

You’d have to be an incredibly obedient automaton to strictly obey the rule (yet I’ve seen people defend it).

The rules are are dumb, but they’re made to stop stupid people from screwing up. And in any sufficiently-large organization, there are going to be stupid people.

online

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Even to the other people ding the course with me

I think the intention of these rules is to prevent people from accidentally leaking additional secrets

That may be, but at least sometimes they act like it’s something more than that.

For example, the old Apple Newton had a nifty easter egg in it: if you entered the latitude and longitude of Area 51 into the time zone app, various system icons would change to a UFO theme.

This easter egg was removed at the request of the DOD, because the location of Area 51 is classified. Even though it’s location is extremely well-known, and you had to already know it to trigger the easter egg.

I suspect all of this is more cult-like thinking than anything else. In other words, crazy.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Even to the other people ding the course with me

Most people obey rules without understanding, or caring, why they exist.

If you have a rule like this, and staff who follow it obediently without understanding, then you get formal requests to remove Area 51 easter eggs.

The people who bother to comment here (even the crazy ones) are exceptions – they have their own opinions (sometimes nutty ones, but still their own).

But most people just follow rules (and spook agencies select for blind obedience).

Maybe that’s a good thing for social stability, I don’t know, but that’s the way it is.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Even to the other people ding the course with me

“Most people obey rules without understanding, or caring, why they exist.”

you might, but NO most people do not, people with high level security clearances know exactly WHY the rules are there, and why it is such a crime to break them.

you are actually made to do courses on security, including what to expect when or if you are approached by an ‘agent’, you are also taught the importance of even releasing a small amount of information because the ‘enemy’ is skilled at taking small bits of information for many sources and building up the full picture.

You are also trained that no matter what your clearance is, if you don’t need to know some secret information, you are obliged NOT to view it, it’s called the “need to know” principle.

You are also taught that no one person is able to determine the security status for some information or it’s value in the wrong hands.

As the enemy is able to take information from different sources and build up the larger picture.

So someone releasing what he believes to be ‘innocent’ or ‘not damaging’ information, is automatically assumed to be WRONG, as he alone cannot make that determination, no one can, as you simply do not know what other information the enemy has at it’s disposal and analysis.

So someone like Edmond or Manning stating that “they reviewed the information and did not release any damaging information is not a valid argument, and will not be accepted by the people they are responsible too.

These people broke specific laws in relation to the use, distribution and misuse of classified information. That is the bottom line, also they were FULLY aware of their actions. Because they ARE TRAINED and educated on the subject.

They do not blindly follow the rules without an understanding of them. They have a far clearer understanding that someone who has never had to deal with secure information in a secure environment.

OldMugwump (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Even to the other people ding the course with me

Hm. I don’t doubt you about the training and so on, but I don’t see how that explains the Area 51 easter egg redaction.

From a strict security viewpoint, it would have been better to avoid all comment on the easter egg – asking Apple to remove it is akin to acknowledging that the location is correct (there would have been no removal request if the location given was just a random made-up one).

Just because people receive training, and that training does explain the reasons, doesn’t mean the recipients understand what they’ve been taught or care about the reasons. Many (most?) just thoughtlessly follow the rules.

Which may be a good thing for society – if soldiers rationally ran away, their countries would quickly be conquered. The quasi-religious indoctrinations of young soldiers and spooks may be a necessary thing. But it’s still quasi-religious indoctrination.

BTW, I’m not excusing Snowdon, Manning, or anyone else on the basis that the releases were “harmless”; I agree that individuals can’t be allowed to decide that by themselves.

Civil disobedience, on the other hand, is different. That’s where you break the rules, knowingly, because you’ve decided a higher moral cause requires it. But it’s a little like exercising your “right of rebellion” – the result depends on whether you win.

Anonymous Coward says:

Memo for those exposing classified documents

“DoD employees or contractors who inadvertently discover potentially classified information in the public domain shall report its existence immediately to their Security Manager.”

“DoD employees or contractors who seek out classified information in the public domain, acknowledge its accuracy or existence, or proliferate the information in any way will be subject to sanctions.”

So isn’t reporting it acknowledging its existence?

You gotta love these assholes. They’re so fulla shit, that they can’t even keep track of it from one sentence to the next.

Lord Binky says:

Learning from Nature

The Department of Defense apparently is following the Natural Defense mechanism of the Ostrich by requiring employees perform an analog of the bury your head in the sand defense.

All attempts to inform them this natural defense is actually a myth have been unsuccessfull due to the application of this technique before anyone can finish their sentence.

SolkeshNaranek says:

up to their eyeballs, but not looking at "secrets"

Given how much these documents are now showing up in the news, you have to imagine that Defense Department “Security Managers” are up to their eyeballs in “reports” from staffers who “inadvertently” run across such classified materials.

No one at those departments are searching the Internet for secret documents.

Perhaps we have forgotten their proclivity for searching out porn… that is keeping them busy.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Short Translation of the Memo

Yeah, tell that to those convicted at the Nuremberg Trials.

On another note, if DOD employees are supposed to delete any classified information they run across, and the employees are diligent about this, how long before the US gummint has no classified files left?

Then they won’t have anything to hide.

Anonymous Coward says:

The idiots employed by the DoD

are actually stupid enough to this. I mean, we’re talking drooling morons who can barely remember not to piss themselves five times a day. So YES, they’re going to do this — just as they’re told — because they’re not smart enough to consider the possibility of doing something else.

Anonymous Coward says:

I would point out that what was quoted above was not the entire instruction that was put out this taking bits and pieces out of context, but hey, Techdirt doesn’t need to be fair do they? I mean presenting something in a way that isn’t skewed or inflammatory and that doesn’t include a thorough analysis just doesn’t get the same click through rate does it and what was actually put out is a lot less dramatic, for example, the instruction specifically says on government owned computers or personal computers connected to government information systems (such as those connected via OWA), or that the statement about acknowledging its accuracy or existence refers to public acknowledgements and not reporting it to one’s security manager.

Digitari says:

My how things have changed

I just went back and looked at my SOP for running a military message center (back in the days of teletype, era 1982) It was pretty clear (in the Navy/Marine Corps at least ) that ANY classified documents that became public IMMEDIATELY were to be stamped unclassifed.(that was also part of MY Job) The reason I remembered this was because I typed out the damned SOP 17 times before my Boss said it was correct.(researching all the orders that pertained to operating a classified message center)

So, now, when classified Messages are NOT centrally located, they are not reclassified when a security breach happens, that to me is fascinating in itself, and again, to me VASTLY revealing……..

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: My how things have changed

” (back in the days of teletype, era 1982)”
” I typed out the damned SOP 17 times before my Boss said it was correct.”

then why did you not simply type it up on an ASR, edit the punched tape, read it off a TD head, and print out the edited version with a KSR ?

Someone running a message station DOES NOT have the authority to reclassify documents, saying you were simply means you are lying.

a document is classified for the classification life of the document, (usually 25 years), but some documents are never declassified. Operators do not have the authority to de-classify documents.

Don’t let your imagination get in the way of reality.

so I guess you know all about KT-26’s. BID-610, T-20’s, card readers, change of day, and traffic flow secure, red and black sections and so on ?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: My how things have changed

you do understand that an “unclassified” document is a classified document right ??

that document has been classified as “unclassified”, it could be classified as secret, top secret, sensitive or several others they are all security classifications, including ‘unclassified’.

You would not of had the authority to make a document classified SECRET into one that is ‘unclassified’.

and how were these documents ‘made public’ and who did prison time for that breach of security, you ?? if you were running the station (funny you say you had a commander!!) you would be responsible for the breach of security and would have to explain to (probably NSA) why you failed in your duty.

I was working in a navel communications station, we did an audit (daily) on our crypto code cards (sliced in two when used) and found one half of one card missing, we were not allowed to leave the building (Friday afternoon) and had to strip the place apart and find it before we could leave, a special team was send in, we found the card reader had a small gap in it that allowed the card to slide behind the front panel of the equipment.

If it had not of been found we were all facing security breach charges, we would have lost our security clearances (and pay bonus,, hush money) and lost our jobs.

To get replacement circuit boards for our crypto gear (to fix a fault, we were first required to go to the armoury, draw out our loaded 9mm browning pistils (and holsters) 🙂 and personally supervise the transport of the strong boxes containing the circuit cards.

you are taught and know it is a serious responsibility, and you are trained to understand you do not have the ability or authority to make security determinations, like these traitors have done.

Might bemi says:

Oops figured it out on my own

Is there any government oversight committee where I can quickly delete all my online accounts except this one. At least help me get back on social security a bit faster, so I can relocate. I feel like an open wound. Gets late at night ..tired and stupid and blabbing about things I shouldn’t say. I forget passwords n change phone numbers. I talked to a tech friend of mine about it he researched what I figured out then a bunch of nsa drones started popping up trying to invade his secure computer. Kind of freaked him out, I’m a bit smarter than average I just don’t study what they teach. Spent my time in school with my own lesson plan.

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