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.