HideOur Black Friday weekend sale ends tomorrow! Shop now to save on all Techdirt gear »
HideOur Black Friday weekend sale ends tomorrow! Shop now to save on all Techdirt gear »

Did Library Of Congress Lie? White House Says No Requirement To Block Wikileaks

from the the-law-is-the-law? dept

On Friday, we wrote about how the Library of Congress, in an act of pure denial, had blocked Wikileaks, saying that it was required by law to block access to the site. As we noted at the time, this seemed silly, since the documents were widely available all over the internet and press reports were covering most of the details anyway. We got a few folks in the comments to respond with statements along the lines of "the law is the law, they have to block it." Of course, that misses the point. Even if there was such a law, the only way to "block" such information is to shut off the internet entirely, which is pretty pointless. However, a few folks also responded by asking what law, and the answer might be none.

In an article about how different parts of the government have been warning government workers that these documents are still considered classified and to treat them accordingly, the White House officially stated that it is not advising government agencies to block Wikileaks. In other words, it sounds like someone at the Library of Congress is overreacting -- interpreting rules about dealing with classified documents to mean that it needs to block access to the website, when that doesn't appear to be the case.

Either way, the whole thing is pretty silly. It's about time the government stops using a reality-denying definition of "classified" documents. In the business world, something is no longer considered a trade secret once it's out there. If the government wants to respond to actual conditions out in the world, it should do the same. If a classified document is leaked like this, it's downright silly to still consider it classified or confidential. Just admit that it's now public info and move on.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: blocks, censorship, library of congress, white house, wikileaks
Companies: wikileaks


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  1. icon
    Hulser (profile), 6 Dec 2010 @ 11:41am

    The law is the law

    I guess you'd have to count me in the "the law is the law" camp. It shouldn't come as a surprise that a beaurocrat errors on the side of caution. It may be obvious that a particular document has already become public knowledge, but this is still a subjective judgement. If you're in charge of making secret documents available to the public after they are declassified, what benefit is it to your career to release them before they've they're officially declassified? It's not your job to make that judgement.

    And, frankly speaking, what the whitehouse says has fuckall to do with your promise to keep classifieds documents classified. If you work at the LoC and someone finds out that you were aware that classified documents were accessible but didn't move to block them, "but but but, the whitehouse said..." isn't going to mean anything.

    For the record, I think periodic leaks like this are good for democracy. I just don't think that the policy of the LoC is that big a deal. It's beaurocrats doing what beaurocrats do. It's not an indication that they, in their heart of hearts, think that they're preventing access to the information. It's just CYA.

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Insider Shop - Show Your Support!

Essential Reading
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.