US Government Seeks 'Willful Denial' Software That Will Block Wikileaks Data From Federal Employees

from the are-they-serious? dept

It's been both depressing and amusing to watch the federal government react to Wikileaks with some of the dumbest policy decisions possible. First, we saw the Library of Congress block access to Wikileaks' site, not realizing that the site was barely a part of how the documents were being distributed, while still frustrating Congressional Research Service analysts who needed to access the site as a part of their research. Then, we had reports of the Defense Department crudely blocking access to any website that had Wikileaks in the title, followed by the Air Force's decision to block access to news sites, such as the NY Times, that are discussing Wikileaks.

This is all downright bizarre. Basically, this is content that everyone else in the world can access and read about, except for government employees who don't look at it at home. The whole exercise seems like a complete waste of time and money by the US government, and it's about to get worse. According to some reports, the federal government is reaching out to security firms to see if they can build a system to block all access to Wikileaks content from within the federal government's computer system. One company asked about this notes that it's different than what they normally do, which is focused on keeping documents in a network (too late for that), rather than architecting a system to keep documents out.

At what point will the government finally admit that if a classified document is leaked and widely available, it's counterproductive to keep pretending that it's still classified. It doesn't help anyone, and it just makes the government look silly and in denial. I prefer my government to respond to reality, not pretend reality doesn't exist.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:03am

    In an alternative world, all lobbists become car salesmen

    I'm pretty sure this is being asked for by the old farts that are still in office. You know the ones- they are the same fools who are suckered into buying extended warranties and under-car rust protection.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:06am

    Not so bizarre

    Basically, this is content that everyone else in the world can access and read about, except for government employees who don't look at it at home.


    This is not so bizarre or surprising. As former US AG Gen. Ramsey Clark once said, "The United States is not nearly so concerned that its acts be kept secret from its intended victims as it is that the American people not know of them."

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:15am

      Re: Not so bizarre

      The American people don't seem to care? Abu ghraib torture, arguably the most startling imagery from the past decade, barely issued a collective sigh from the populace.

       

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:14am

    This is why...

     

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    weneedhelp (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:16am

    US Gov theme song

     

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    Zed, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:17am

    Good luck with that preference...

    "I prefer my government to respond to reality, not pretend reality doesn't exist."

     

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      weneedhelp (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Good luck with that preference...

      "I prefer my government to respond to reality, not pretend reality doesn't exist."

      I prefer my blog posts to be original and creative, not ripped from some website without credit.

      http://whytewolf.us/us-government-seeks-willful-denial-software-will-block-wikileaks-data -federal-employees

       

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        Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 12:19pm

        Re: Re: Good luck with that preference...

        "I prefer my blog posts to be original and creative, not ripped from some website without credit."

        The site you linked to references Techdirt as the feed and creator of the original article.

        Do you have any idea how hard you just failed?

         

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          weneedhelp (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 1:26pm

          Re: Re: Re: Good luck with that preference...

          Do you have any idea how hard you just failed?

          Yes....(head hung low) I do. LOL. F'd up. Isn't the first, wont be the last. Didnt see it. Was on a 15" monitor in a rack. D'oh!!!

           

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            Dark Helmet (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 1:29pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: Good luck with that preference...

            Meh, happens to everyone. I once submitted a story to Techdirt that I was all amped up about until Mike helpfully pointed out that it was from 2002....

             

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              weneedhelp (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 1:54pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Good luck with that preference...

              Yeah, for that one I feel there should be a FAIL button next to report, and would be proud to be the first to receive that one for my blunder. (Head still hung in shame)

              An error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it - JFK

               

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                nasch (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 4:10pm

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Good luck with that preference...

                Well you owned up to it beautifully. You get more credit for failing gracefully than for being a correct dickhead.

                 

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                BearGriz72 (profile), Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 12:01am

                Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Good luck with that preference...

                "Well you owned up to it beautifully. You get more credit for failing gracefully than for being a correct dickhead."

                Agreed!

                 

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          nasch (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 1:29pm

          Re: Re: Re: Good luck with that preference...

          Maybe he was saying he likes TechDirt better than WhyteWolf! OK, probably not.

           

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 12:11pm

      Re: Good luck with that preference...

      The source of the term is a quotation in an October 17, 2004, The New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoting an unnamed aide to George W. Bush (later attributed to Karl Rove[1]):

      The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "We're an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

       

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    Free Capitalist (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:25am

    Pointless and Wasteful

    So, to block all Wikileaks sourced content, they would need to do something like maintain a local database of all Wikileaks content and do real-time session analysis comparing text blocks over multiple packets to the content database.

    The net result (no pun intended), is government employees will have very slow or disconnect prone Internet access. Personally I like the idea of keeping government off the Internet, but I'm not sure that is their intent...

    Sure they can block all sites known to have posted Wikileaks data in the past, like the NY Times and the Washington Post. But this does nothing to prevent access to the content from new sources which are popping up everywhere.

     

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      Hans B PUFAL (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 12:14pm

      Re: Pointless and Wasteful

      So, with this system in place, anyone can simply append a Wikileaks text to an email to ensure that no one in the US government will see it? Perhaps not so pointless after all ;-).

      Should we all add leaked text to our email sigs?

       

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        monkyyy, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 2:51pm

        Re: Re: Pointless and Wasteful

        that would be good in educating the dumb masses as well

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 4:53am

        Re: Re: Pointless and Wasteful

        Someone needs to come up with a random/semirandom signature generator that uses highlights from wikileaks for source material.

        For that matter I wonder if just using a term like 'from the US State Department data on Wikileaks' is enough.

         

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    Mike C. (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:30am

    Document classification

    I don't think it's a problem in document classification as much as it is employment policies. My take on this is that there is a policy forbidding employees from accessing documents that are classified above their security level. Additionally, there are no exceptions allowed to the rule. To ensure employees follow the policy, they are taking extreme steps to block any potential access and thus prevent people from "accidentally" breaking the rule. This unfortunately impacts the people who do need an exception.

    The solution isn't necessarily to declassify the document, but add exceptions for when classified documents are released to the public. This will allow those that need access to read and/or review without fear of reprisal.

    Those that don't need it for their job can read, but still have to follow whatever rules are in place for personal use of the network, etc. Just like I can't use work resources to check PowerBall numbers or watch NCAA basketball streams, personal curiosity for government employees over the documents should probably wait until they get home.

     

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      Anonymous Howard, Cowering, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 12:15pm

      Re: #8 Document classification

      I believe the complaint was not that government employees can't access the actual leaked documents from work, it was that the DoD and other agencies are blocking articles and commentary with the work "Wikileaks" in the URL.

      I agree with the stance of this blog that such a policy is poorly-thought-out and pointless. A government employee who is dim enough to know s/he has no clearance but still attempts to access classified material using a government system deserves the punishment such actions would take. An employee who wants to maintain a relatively current status on world-wide political events should be able to use the government system for current news while on break or lunch time. There are no restrictions (that I am aware of) on break time use of heating/cooling, lighting, or other government-provided utilities; many agences even provide parking space for employees' personally-owned vehicles not used in government service. Why should internet access be differently treated?

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:45am

    The key word in the title of this post...

    ... is "denial".

    Seriously in denial.

     

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    phil jones, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:52am

    What do they want to block?

    Arguably what they are trying to block is the sense that leaking may be a good idea.

    If your employees can't see what the leaks actually say or the questions that they raise in the media, then it's easier to persuade them that leaks are a wholly bad and damaging thing that they should not emulate.

    If they see that people actually care about some of the leaked information, that leakers are applauded, then they may be willing to supplement with information of their own.

     

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    pixelpusher220 (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 11:59am

    Easy solution

    What type of software keeps things 'out' of a network? or better yet, processes things and removes them from the network?

    Virus Software!

    We define anything containing the word 'classified' as a virus and set the scanning software to destroy immediately.

    It's a win win since there will no longer be anything for Wikileaks to leak! ;-)

     

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    anon, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 12:11pm

    "I prefer my blog posts to be original and creative, not ripped from some website without credit."

    You apparently missed the link at the bottom that says "original article" and links here.

     

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    cannonfodder (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 12:27pm

    Police State USA Global Terrorists

    And you think its your way of life that ppl hate, now you will get to know even less of the atrocities that are committed in your name with your tax dollars...

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3g5blyGYeHw

    http://www.collateralmurder.com/

     

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    Ess (profile), Dec 21st, 2010 @ 12:56pm

    What I would like to see as an article: Patents & Copyrights Useess

    The key thing everyone forgets is that a patent or copyright is entirely useless without the MONEY needed to protect it from infringement. In fact many a company has explored patented inventions only to copy them wilfully and knowingly as in the intermittent wiper case (and film). They can do this because the cost of litigation is so high that it pushes any small player out. Has this decimated the economy? No it prompts people to keep inventing rather than rest on their laurels (or IP) as many companies often do, after all Apple didn't think of the iPod first. The world the Crimson speaks of is right here and now, and the ideas for many of the products you see around you may have been stolen. Imagine if that wasn't the case and any person could simply patent anything and have it enforced, we may never have seen many of the products we use to today because the applicant lacked cash or business acumen; unfortunately patent application abuse isn't limited to individuals though and that is dangerous. What the MPAA wants is for the whole economy to like it does for domain names, and so we have bookstores called Amazon, auction sites called eBay, and magazines called TechDirt. We work around it as much as we can, although name issues aren't as broad as whole product issues. In the end all the obvious names people bought became worthless, and courts simply took others away. Innovation kills stringent patent and copyright enforcement, it has to, and there are many examples of that.

    As for copyright I think it's absurd that someone can have one hit single and live a modest life never having to work again. Are these items priced correctly? How are we promoting innovation there? Should we compile a list of one hit wonders?

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 2:34pm

      Re: What I would like to see as an article: Patents & Copyrights Useess

      "As for copyright I think it's absurd that someone can have one hit single and live a modest life never having to work again"

      Not just their lives but the lives of their children and grandchildren. Remember it's life+70 years. By then it will just be extended to perpetuity.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Dec 21st, 2010 @ 7:34pm

    Testing grounds?

    Perhaps creating this for government networks is just the testing grounds. See how well they can work with it on their own networks and then slowly high ISP's implement this software on a much larger scale. Then next time something like this happens they block everyone's access at once and pretend it doesn't exist.

     

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    isaac the k, Dec 22nd, 2010 @ 12:48pm

    This is missing the point

    If they can actually realize "Active Denial" within the governments own systems, than it becomes a much more acheivable matter to enforce the installation of this software on computers an devices imported into the country.

    "It isn't censorship! It's just active denial of classified information!"

    Just like that Chinese diplomat that baldly stated that there is no censorship in China.

    It's not a bug -- it's a feature.

    God help us all.

     

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