Posting of WikiLeaks cables March 18, 2011 10:02 AM   Subscribe

What is MeFi's policy on posting the text of WikiLeaks cables? Posts like these effectively ban anyone who works for a US government agency, defense contractor and who knows who else from even viewing the thread while at work. Couldn't people just post links instead and leave it up to the viewer to click on them? After all, it's generally accepted courtesy elsewhere on MeFi to label NSFW links as such before posting them.
posted by indubitable to Etiquette/Policy at 10:02 AM (224 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

I think posting clearly labelled links (instead of straight copy&pasted excerpts) would be a nice courtesy, but be prepared for the general consensus to be "you shouldn't be reading MeFi at work".
posted by EndsOfInvention at 10:07 AM on March 18, 2011 [8 favorites]


The policy is that we can't be everywhere at once and so people have to use their best judgment and this concerns reading as well as posting. It would be nice if people would link to the cables instead of posting them inline [more friendly to more people, as you say] but there is no way to effectively police that before the fact so any fixing we did as mods (even if we decided we were going to fix something like that, which I don't think we have) would happen after the fact.

If you are in a job that has restrictive policies about the words you can read on a screen, you need to be extra careful on the internet generally and that extends to MeFi. NSFW is explained in the FAQ and generally understood to be nudity, loud sounds and shocking images generally that exist behind a link. We don't have a NSFW indicator for text. We can't anticipate other people's restrictive work environments so NSFW is intended to be a general, broad and after-the-fact thing we'll sometimes add.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


First off, I should note that I work for a defense contractor, so I'm very much the "problem" audience here.

I don't think we ought to modify posting practices based on where people happen to work, or what their jobs happen to be. Metafilter isn't automatically SFW anyway, and it's generally up to an individual to make sure that reading/posting from their workplace is acceptable.

Also, there are plenty of places other than metafilter that these leaks are being presented. Strictly speaking, I've incurred security violations by sitting in a doctor's office whose TV had cable news on, when said cable news started discussing the contents of a classified document. Until and unless someone's actually trolling with classified material - poking into a thread that happens to have a lot of government employees/contractors posting due to its content, and slapping in the contents of a sensitive leaked document just to create a security issue for the readers - I don't see why the policies of my workplace, or anyone else's, should dictate what others post.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:10 AM on March 18, 2011 [32 favorites]


Adding classified materiel to NSFW seems like a good line to draw, though obviously it could never be perfect.
posted by Blasdelb at 10:13 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Adding classified materiel to NSFW seems like a good line to draw

I strongly disagree. Metafilter should not be in the business of enforcing the internal policies of any employer, even very large ones with armies.
posted by enn at 10:14 AM on March 18, 2011 [123 favorites]


Quit goofing off on the taxpayer's dollar. Read metafilter at home.
posted by crunchland at 10:16 AM on March 18, 2011 [22 favorites]


They are classified documents. By their very definition, it is illegal to be viewing them without the appropriate security clearance. Just because the internet "has them now", does not make them legal. See warez, phreaking, stolen credit cards, etcetera.
posted by cavalier at 10:17 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Strictly speaking, I've incurred security violations by sitting in a doctor's office whose TV had cable news on, when said cable news started discussing the contents of a classified document.

This is a separate issue, though. What happens here is that you download classified information on to a company machine not intended for such use, which amounts to mishandling classified information and is a big no-no.

I strongly disagree. Metafilter should not be in the business of enforcing the internal policies of any employer, even very large ones with armies.

Then why even have an NSFW tag? Do you work for a bunch of squares who don't let you look at porn during the work day? Why should everyone have to conform to their arbitrary standards?
posted by indubitable at 10:17 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I strongly disagree. Metafilter should not be in the business of enforcing the internal policies of any employer nation, even very large ones with armies.

FTFY
posted by blue_beetle at 10:17 AM on March 18, 2011


I think asking commenters or people posting FPPs to mark things [Warning WikLeaks] is not an unreasonable request, but asking the mods to police that is pretty much not practicable. Suggestion, yes. Strict policy, impossible.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:17 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


For those bringing up the "NSFW" point, I don't necessarily think that's relevant. As I understand it, there are groups of people for whom viewing Wikileaks cables is prohibited at any time, not just during work hours.
posted by jferg at 10:19 AM on March 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


To amplify: [WikiLeaks] and broadly-defined [NSFW] are two different things, really. I don't think conflating them is really possible.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:20 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think asking commenters or people posting FPPs to mark things [Warning WikLeaks] is not an unreasonable request, but asking the mods to police that is pretty much not practicable.

Could that suggestion then be added to the posting guidelines? The poster in the example I provided was acting in good faith as far as I can tell, I'm sure this could be an acceptable solution to this problem.
posted by indubitable at 10:20 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


People here don't seem to really be grasping the full extent of the meaning of government contractor or subcontractor. There are few employers in the United States that are not one of those two things.
posted by The World Famous at 10:20 AM on March 18, 2011


> There are few employers in the United States that are not one of those two things.

I work for a shell corporation that is basically a legal front so a foreign company can dump product on the US market! Nyah!
posted by Burhanistan at 10:23 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


nsfgovw
posted by the aloha at 10:24 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


want a cookie?
posted by clavdivs at 10:24 AM on March 18, 2011


Quit goofing off on the taxpayer's dollar. Read metafilter at home.

Hey, even worker drones get lunch breaks! Actually, some of us have enforced lunch breaks, during which we're not allowed to work. It can get annoying.

People here don't seem to really be grasping the full extent of the meaning of government contractor or subcontractor. There are few employers in the United States that are not one of those two things.

Yes, but only a (relatively) small subset of those people have an explicit responsibility to treat classified material with a certain set of procedures for which they've received official training. My friend Tom used to work for the Census Bureau; if you handed him a document that listed US troop deployments in Iraq, he doesn't have the obligations to react in particular ways that (I assume) my friend Jim does, who works for an unspecified part of the national security apparatus.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:25 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


DoD civilian employee here. Post away, no need for warnings of any kind. I'm all grown up and fully aware of the policies of my employer. Stop whining, or stop reading at work.

As I understand it, there are groups of people for whom viewing Wikileaks cables is prohibited at any time, not just during work hours.

I'm in that group (as is anyone whose employer is enforcing a ban) but I'm choosing to ignore the unreasonable ban.
posted by fixedgear at 10:26 AM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


But if you put a big "NSFW" tag on it, my employers will think I'm looking at porn.
posted by Stagger Lee at 10:28 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


nsfgovw

Bless you!
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:29 AM on March 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Posts like these effectively ban anyone who works for a US government agency, defense contractor and who knows who else from even viewing the thread while at work.

Bullshit. If anything's banning those people from reading, it's their employers' Kafkaesque policies. A MetaFilter censored to comply with the arbitrary authority that the military-industrial complex has exercised over its own employees, in a brazen attempt to manipulate the political conversation about its own misdeeds, would be a MetaFilter I wouldn't want to read or post on. Fortunately, this isn't that MetaFilter.
posted by RogerB at 10:30 AM on March 18, 2011 [20 favorites]


(U) We should just have posters tag each paragraph with its security level, and then government workers can install special browsers that prevent then from viewing classified material.

(PG-13//TEAMJESSAMYN) Can you imagine anyone putting up with that level of text mangling?

(TV-M//SAVEDBYTHEBELL) I mean, seriously.
posted by zippy at 10:34 AM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Could that suggestion then be added to the posting guidelines?

No, I don't see us doing that. This is a problem where an external organization is making broad external constraints on what people should and should not be looking at, and us trying to enforce that for them is pretty impractical from the get go and in any case very far from being a priority.

I think it sucks that the US government constraints on what employees can view is intersecting with the reality that this information is now extremely public in such a way as to create a stupid no-win situation for those employees, in theory at least if not probably so much in practice. That sucks, it's gotta be frustrating. But it's not really a Metafilter issue, and changing how Metafilter operates to try and avoid letting people talk about something that people have every reason to talk about would be weird and pretty quixotic in any case. I don't want to be Leak Police.

Then why even have an NSFW tag?

As an unenforced courtesy practice that acknowledges the brightest of the bright lines. I think NSFW warnings are a little bit silly on a site that is not in principle safe for work, but if people want to put them up for the really obvious over-the-shoulder-glance fireable-offence stuff (e.g. HEY THERE'S A NAKED LADY ON THE SCREEN), fine. But that's a general issue, not driven by a specific employer or organization, and one that effects basically an undifferentiated mass of users, not employees of a specific organization. It's a far more general situation.

I put this more in the territory of spoilers. If you need to not be accidentally exposed to something, you pretty much need to do your risk assessment up front and avoid threads that might contain that thing. There can be and will be no guarantees against something topical showing up, and while we think it's great for people to be thoughtful about what they put where and will look at taking action for really egregious stuff, that's about as far as Metafilter's going with it. Helping you avoid casual encounters with stuff that's problematic for personal rather than really broadly general reasons isn't really the core idea, much as we sympathize with the desire to avoid that stuff in a way that doesn't inconvenience your normal reading habits.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:35 AM on March 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


My wife gives me shit whenever she catches me reading about fonts or looking at pictures of lettering. Could we also have some sort of Font Minutia warning as well?
posted by Slack-a-gogo at 10:37 AM on March 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's a completely unreasonable policy that deserves zero respect or accomodation.
posted by otio at 10:38 AM on March 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


My wife gives me shit whenever she catches me reading about fonts or looking at pictures of lettering.

I would need a [Warning MetaFilter] tag.
posted by Devils Rancher at 10:39 AM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


At any rate, I doubt that any but a small percentage of thepeople affected by this policy are actually monitored specifically for looking at Wikileaks content. About the only way it will come back on them is if they lie to an investigator or auditor about viewing the cables when they are interviewed.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:41 AM on March 18, 2011

They are classified documents. By their very definition, it is illegal to be viewing them without the appropriate security clearance. Just because the internet "has them now", does not make them legal. See warez, phreaking, stolen credit cards, etcetera.
That's not how that works.

Anyway, the idea that we should censor material that's relevant to the discussion is completely absurd. If it violates your companies policies to read this stuff you're free to find another job, or read another website to read.
posted by delmoi at 10:43 AM on March 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


By their very definition, it is illegal to be viewing them without the appropriate security clearance.

That is not true. The United States has no equivalent of the Official Secrets Act.
posted by enn at 10:45 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


If I print out and laminate a few sentences from wikileaks and post them on the front and back of my car, will it protect me from speeding cameras? (assuming that I was to venture above the posted speed limit)

even if it doesn't really work, I'd love to see someone make a small fortune selling such bumper stickers
posted by b1tr0t at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2011 [9 favorites]


cavalier writes "By their very definition, it is illegal to be viewing them without the appropriate security clearance."

It isn't illegal for me to view them anymore than it would be illegal for me to have a beer with breakfast.
posted by Mitheral at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems clear to me, as Jessamyn says, that the policing of text content like this would be highly impractical.
But I feel that this post can nevertheless serve as a good reminder to maybe not copy and paste all too freely. I mean, if you're reading MeFi at work you might be operating along the edge of what's okay anyway, and to be pushed over the cliff by some hey-whoops-I-can-actually-paste-some-wikileaks-here-have-you-seen-that action isn't cool. Linking ain't that hard.

(and in Sweden, you're not even allowed to have a beer at lunch - it was spelled out in my old work contract)
posted by Namlit at 10:55 AM on March 18, 2011


You can bet I'm having a beer at work today.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 10:56 AM on March 18, 2011 [32 favorites]


cavalier: “They are classified documents. By their very definition, it is illegal to be viewing them without the appropriate security clearance. Just because the internet "has them now", does not make them legal. See warez, phreaking, stolen credit cards, etcetera.”

As enn points out, this is flatly not true. There might be an arguable case, but it's difficult to make. The constitution and body of laws don't contain anything concerning the dissemination of information having nothing directly to do with military actions by our government (which is what the Wikileaks cables constitute.)

Even if it were true, Metafilter has not in general been in the business of enforcing restrictive rules about speech. Nor should it be, in my opinion.

indubitable: “Then why even have an NSFW tag? Do you work for a bunch of squares who don't let you look at porn during the work day? Why should everyone have to conform to their arbitrary standards?”

We have the NSFW tag as a courtesy to people who work in more restrictive environments; we don't have it as a strict rule which must be followed at all. As far as I can tell, Metafilter has always erred on the side of openness. It think that's the right way to approach the problem.

This was an issue back when we could still post images in threads; people would sometimes complain that such images were NSFW. However, to the chagrin of many, that in itself wasn't reason for deletion of comments. Yes, this means browsing metafilter requires discretion; but that is as it should be, I believe.
posted by koeselitz at 11:00 AM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


They are classified documents. By their very definition, it is illegal to be viewing them without the appropriate security clearance. Just because the internet "has them now", does not make them legal. See warez, phreaking, stolen credit cards, etcetera.

That's a very expansive definition of the Espionage Act. There's a huge difference between possession of stolen credit card numbers and the discussion of a classified government document that directly relates to a current event. Ironically, it may well be illegal for people who do have a security clearance to read them (as they would be reading classified material outside of their clearance over an unsecured network), but for those without clearances, a successful prosecution would be pretty tricky. Most of this law is far from settled, but this interpretation of the Act would make criminals out of virtually everyone who has read the New York Times.

Which brings me to my main point to those who are complaining about this: are you allowed to read the New York Times? The Guardian? Le Monde? El Pais? Der Spiegel? Unlike Metafilter, these publications actively collaborated with WikiLeaks and were the source of first publication for classified documents. If you can read the websites of these news sources, certainly Metafilter, an organization which unlike all of these has never to my knowledge (these is no cabal!) participated in an international conspiracy to distribute secret government documents, is kosher. If, as a condition of holding a security clearance, you can never read the New York Times, you have bigger problems than a MeFi comment.

Certainly, people shouldn't copy and paste giant walls of text of any sort into MeFi comments, because that's stupid whether the text is classified or not, and links should accurately describe where they are going so people can make their own decision as to whether to click on them, but people like to quote the documents they are discussing, and it's unreasonable to ban this practice when the documents come from a particular source.
posted by zachlipton at 11:02 AM on March 18, 2011


The Sugru website was recently banned from my workplace internet.

"CATEGORY: Hacking"
posted by dirtdirt at 11:25 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


They are classified documents HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA
Get real. To whom? Not me. Are you telling us that if you read the content of a newspaper you will be joining Manning in Quantico.
I would prefer a bumpersticker saying I Read wikileaks. What you gonna do. Though in the USA it seems someone would shoot me or run me off the road.
Seriously though this is an adult website. (sometimes)
posted by adamvasco at 11:25 AM on March 18, 2011


DearMrs. Slack-a-gogo,

This is really none of my business and I'm not quite sure how to go about mentioning it, so I'll come right out and say it.

Earlier today, at lunch, I saw your husband with a type specimen book. Oh he had the pages spread wide and was buying his nose in that book like it was some hussy! He barely came up for air for 45 minutes, only pausing a bite of his sandwich or sip from a glass of diet cherry coke, it was disgraceful! Everyone who's anyone drinks diet Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper!

I sorry to have be the one to tell you this, but I thought you should know.

Best,
Barbara

PS: You are coming to this Sunday's book burning right? It's not a party without your broccoli salad!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:26 AM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


FWIW: i would post ALL OF WIKILEAKS if MetaFilter became a nanny for the US government. so keep on posting :)
posted by liza at 11:27 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


twice?
posted by b1tr0t at 11:29 AM on March 18, 2011


It's public information now. As in, it's been published and disseminated to anyone and everyone publicly. This government can continue to claim it's classified, but that's just silly from a practical perspective.

I'm sorry if your employer mandates "the emperor has no clothes" as actual company policy. I don't think MeFi can fix that with any posting policy one might dream up.
posted by y6y6y6 at 11:29 AM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


FWIW gratuitous posting of Wikileaks content in response to this post will be considered poor form and treated appropriately.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 11:29 AM on March 18, 2011 [15 favorites]


It is really demoralizing to me to find out that the people with security clearances in our government are prohibited from reading Wikileaks cables.

It seems like these are exactly the people who should be reading the Wikileaks cables.

I am so sad. I am so unbelievably depressed by this. I guess I should have known. Of course they are prohibited from reading them. Of course they follow those instructions. Of course. But as a citizen, who is VERY FUCKING CONCERNED about the atrocities committed behind closed doors in the name of justice, in this country and the world over, I am fucking upset.

If a whistleblower blows in the Capitol and there is no one to hear, did the whistleblower still blow?
posted by whimsicalnymph at 11:33 AM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


How about a [GEFGW] (good enough for government work) warning?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:44 AM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think the impact of accidentally reading a wikileaks cable as a government employee with a clearance is really being overstated here. I know lots of people with clearances and almost all of them have read the leaks in some manner or another. I really, really doubt that anybody is going to lose their clearance over it. Just be honest about your exposure to them if it ever comes up.
posted by empath at 11:53 AM on March 18, 2011


Surely if the content of the cables is unacceptable to the employer, then a paraphrase of that content would be also unacceptable, which probably means that any discussion of the cables would be unacceptable to that employer.

Which, if needing to be linked or flagged, would kill conversation, somewhat, given that the cables and their content are a huge news story which could come up in the context of subjects as diverse as my country's dimwit and venal royal sons and the safety record of the Japanese nuclear industry.
posted by reynir at 12:08 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Can we also be a little more diligent about using the NSFW warning? I work for hookers and coke R US and my boss gets annoyed when work related stuff gets tagged otherwise. kthxbai.
posted by special-k at 12:11 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fair point, special-k. People could be very disappointed if using Metafilter as titillation-filter and clicked sweaty-handedly on a NSFW link only to find a discussion about corruption and Khazak trade delegations. Unless that's your thing. It's bound to be somebody's.
posted by reynir at 12:17 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]




only a (relatively) small subset of those people have an explicit responsibility to treat classified material with a certain set of procedures for which they've received official training

I'm curious what those procedures generally are in practice. I just spent a while digging through Wikipedia and DoD webpages on the subject and, for material that you aren't responsible for or have any control over, I found little information on how you have to treat it. Report your exposure to your security officer, perhaps, but AFAICT the security officer's response is up to local policy. It's one thing to discover and report that someone left a file of secret stuff on the subway, but when you encounter classified info in an actual widely-disseminated publication, what is the typical burden on you?
posted by hattifattener at 12:25 PM on March 18, 2011


It's one thing to discover and report that someone left a file of secret stuff on the subway, but when you encounter classified info in an actual widely-disseminated publication, what is the typical burden on you?

Apparently, throw a hissy fit in a MeFi thread, and here we are...
posted by Chuckles at 12:43 PM on March 18, 2011


Posts like these effectively ban anyone who works for a US government agency, defense contractor and who knows who else from even viewing the thread while at work.

I defend the security clearances of federal employees. Viewing raw wikileaks cables is considered a violation of security clearance guidelines. You could lose your clearance. However, reading news stories based on the cables is not a violation.

Keep that in mind.

At any rate, I doubt that any but a small percentage of the people affected by this policy are actually monitored specifically for looking at Wikileaks content. About the only way it will come back on them is if they lie to an investigator or auditor about viewing the cables when they are interviewed.

Yes and no. Direct viewing of the cables at work will get you caught. At home you are on the honor system. However, if you admit to viewing the cables after the government issued its warning is a violation of Guideline K of the Security clearance adjudicative guidelines. I cannot advise government employees strongly enough not to view this content. However, if you have no reason to expect the information to show up in the thread, it would likely be a mitigating condition.

Note also that some persons with high level clearances will be polygraphed. Those persons need to be very, very careful.

I advise all government personnel with a security clearance to act in accordance with these guidelines.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:02 PM on March 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


Yes, but only a (relatively) small subset of those people have an explicit responsibility to treat classified material with a certain set of procedures for which they've received official training. My friend Tom used to work for the Census Bureau; if you handed him a document that listed US troop deployments in Iraq, he doesn't have the obligations to react in particular ways that (I assume) my friend Jim does, who works for an unspecified part of the national security apparatus.

EVERY federal employee holding a clearance has the explicit responsibility you describe. There are no exceptions.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:04 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I advise all government personnel with a security clearance to act in accordance with these guidelines.
I too am someone on a website and I advise all government employees with or without a security clearance to read as many wikileaks as possible to find out what is happening in your name.
posted by adamvasco at 1:05 PM on March 18, 2011 [14 favorites]


> Yes and no. Direct viewing of the cables at work will get you caught.

Really, that depends on which agency you work for and which network you're connected to when you're surfing the web. But having plausible deniability is the key here.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:06 PM on March 18, 2011


Direct viewing of the cables at work will get you caught.

Direct viewing of the cables is not possible on my gov't issued laptop connected to my non-classified gov't network. Ironmouth is not my attorney.
posted by fixedgear at 1:09 PM on March 18, 2011


Which, if needing to be linked or flagged, would kill conversation, somewhat, given that the cables and their content are a huge news story which could come up in the context of subjects as diverse as my country's dimwit and venal royal sons and the safety record of the Japanese nuclear industry.

Yeah, it seems a bad idea to memory-hole Metafilter, especially when relevant cables keep popping up in subjects that we discuss, even if the contexts are embarrassing to either the US or the cable's subject.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:09 PM on March 18, 2011


I think, if we circle back to the original incident that brought this up, we see that a wiki leaks cable excerpt was posted verbatim in the newest Japan nuclear emergency thread. The subsequent reaction being "Argh! I can't read this thread anymore now!".

Is it reasonable to expect that the Japanese incident thread did not need a direct printing of the confidential material in thread?

Recognizing that I, once again, shorthanded my message and in that way broke its intent (illegal versus being a violation of Federal employee security clearance guidelines), can I restate my earlier statement to ask the question – should a federal employee or contractor or subcontractor be expected to expect confidential leaked material posted in a thread not inherently discussing that material -- i.e., another country's emergency thread?

I think it was fine to provide a hyperlink or a brief summary to the confidential material; it's when the actual material itself was included in thread which made this all go south.
posted by cavalier at 1:14 PM on March 18, 2011


Is it reasonable to expect that the Japanese incident thread did not need a direct printing of the confidential material in thread?

No. The cited material was perfectly relevant and is in the public domain, at this point.

Given how much WL and Cablegate gets discussed on Metafilter, perhaps US government employees should reconsider reading the entire site. It seems like a bad precedent to censor Metafilter because of some people's choice of employment.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 1:20 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think it was fine to provide a hyperlink or a brief summary to the confidential material; it's when the actual material itself was included in thread which made this all go south.

And again, as a point of etiquette it's not a terrible one. But as a point of policy it's a non-starter. All we can do as mods is check this stuff after the fact and we don't want to play whack-a-mole trying to figure out which Wikileaks information is too touchy and needs to be tucked behind a link (and what if we can't find the link, and what if reading a page with links to Wikileaks content is a problem?). So asking other MeFites "Hey be considerate that your US Govt employees may have to not participate in a thread if you include the full-text of cables from Wikileaks. Consider linking to them instead" but don't be surprised when people decide not to do it.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:21 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


You could write a KL about this post, and then write another everytime a new comment is added, and another, and another, and... ???
posted by buzzman at 1:22 PM on March 18, 2011


Many employers might have many different policies about what they deem suitable to be viewed on the web by their employees - beyond the obvious NSFW. While I have sympathy for the employees in question who are covered by this policy, I don't think that catering to the draconian requirements of any one of those employers is a sensible way forward for the site.

I used to read Metafilter at work during lunchtimes. A couple of innocent looking links later, or discussions that took a particular turn, and I decided with regret that it would have to wait until home.
posted by reynir at 1:23 PM on March 18, 2011


The leaked cables are NOT public domain, that is in fact the basis of my question. They are leaked documents, they have remarkable worth, they demonstrate all sorts of national security concerns, and they are not intentionally in the public space! They are there illicitly.

We can certainly agree that their worth is potent and reveal stunning revelations that informed citizens can draw conclusions from; but freely and openly available for anyone's perusal they are not with regards to their creator. It is against the wish of their origination that they are in public hands.

So Genie's out, yada yada, etcetera, and viva the freedom, etc, but the people with security clearance still have to treat them as hot potatoes.
posted by cavalier at 1:26 PM on March 18, 2011


Really, that depends on which agency you work for and which network you're connected to when you're surfing the web. But having plausible deniability is the key here.

If you are cleared, do not view the cables at work. Plausible deniability means nothing. If you've ever actually defended a clearance, you'd know differently. They can take your clearance even if it was an accident.

Very simply, there is no right to a clearance. None. So they can take it away. And for most employees, that means they lose the job.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:27 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I too am someone on a website and I advise all government employees with or without a security clearance to read as many wikileaks as possible to find out what is happening in your name.

They can read the news coverage about them, just like the rest of us. That won't get their asses punished or fired.
posted by zarq at 1:29 PM on March 18, 2011


We can certainly agree that their worth is potent and reveal stunning revelations that informed citizens can draw conclusions from; but freely and openly available for anyone's perusal they are not with regards to their creator. It is against the wish of their origination that they are in public hands.

Quite frankly, I don't care what the government says about it. They simply don't have the right to tell me what I can't read or talk about.
posted by empath at 1:30 PM on March 18, 2011


The leaked cables are NOT public domain, that is in fact the basis of my question. They are leaked documents, they have remarkable worth, they demonstrate all sorts of national security concerns, and they are not intentionally in the public space! They are there illicitly.

This is more complicated than that. Actually they are in the public domain. Public domain is a term of art referring to copyright law. The documents may not be copyrighted by the government within the United States. The US may hold copyright in other countries, however.

They are in the public discourse legally, except with regards to the person charged with leaking them, Bradley Manning. There is some question as to whether or not the original publisher, Julian Assange has legal liability as to their release.

It is not a crime for any person to view the documents to the best of my knowledge, not even government employees. It may however, cost a government employee his or her clearance and job.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:31 PM on March 18, 2011 [7 favorites]


Good for you; we are talking about the effect this would have on the metafilter users who WOULD be affected by this.

This is something I find myself wrestling with quite often on the Internet – heck I guess in real life as well – I feel we must ask ourselves to look outside our own personal needs and interests and consider the interests of the community and its members as a whole when looking at rules and policies that govern a community. The outcome of the decision might not always affect you directly, but it affects those around you, could you... empathize....:)... with their condition??
posted by cavalier at 1:33 PM on March 18, 2011


Missed preview. Ack. Huh, no shit. My apologies to Mr. Pileon and yet another retraction of my statements (sure am rocking that today, huh) -- my understanding of their confidential status in relation to the methods to control their access in the general public is wrong. So, woo hoo non-security clearanced type folks.
posted by cavalier at 1:36 PM on March 18, 2011


Text filter idea:

"wikileakify" - a program that uses a genetic algorithm guided by a fitness function incorporating Levenshtein difference between strings and length of excerpt to create an approximation of your input text from wikileak cable excerpts.

Literally everything you communicate on a digital medium could be 100% wikileaks quotes!
posted by idiopath at 1:47 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


I seriously considered piping cable text into a Markov table for regurgitation as nonsensical leaks, but I decided the ethical implications of the whole thing were a little too sticky to really unpack and feel okay about.
posted by cortex (staff) at 1:57 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I do empathize certainly and generally don't think that Metafilter should be in the business of getting people fired. I'm sure you take excellent care of any classified material to which you are entrusted, and I fully respect and support the need of the government to safeguard certain valuable information. But what you're asking for is a fairly bold restriction on legitimate discussion here.

What happened in the Japan thread is that Gen (who lives in Tokyo) posted (LINK CONTAINS CLASSIFIED MATERIAL. DO NOT CLICK IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO BE EXPOSED TO SUCH INFORMATION.) the first paragraph of a 2008 cable reporting on a Diet Member who criticized the Japanese nuclear industry and the government's regulation of the same. The cable goes on to discuss the issues in more depth.

This is directly related to the topic under discussion. No one was randomly citing classified information for the hell of it; this was a Japanese mefite quoting a document as one of the reasons why he is so contemptuous of TEPCO. It puts the current crisis in context by shedding light on the company's prior behavior and the Japanese government's approach to managing nuclear power. This kind of information is very much relevant to the discussion of why this all has happened and what kinds of safety measures were in place at the plant. The document is certainly public: it's literally on thousands of websites and further distribution here cannot possibly do any more damage than has already been done. But despite its relevance and public nature, we can't quote it in brief because some man in a federal building somewhere has marked it with a red rubber stamp?

What if the situation were flipped around? Say a newspaper publishes a secret Japanese document on nuclear power plant safety and a mefite quoted the first paragraph in the crisis thread. What would your reaction be if a Japanese reader commented that he works for the government, isn't allowed to read this information, and asks that it be removed or he won't be able to read the thread? To take it to its logical extreme, what if a mefite says he lives in a country where blasphemy is punishable by death so he'd like all blasphemous comments removed? At some point, we just can't handle all the individual circumstances of what all the diverse members of this community want to or are permitted to read.
posted by zachlipton at 2:19 PM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Shouldn't there be a NSFW notice on your link to the post then?
posted by Neiltupper at 2:19 PM on March 18, 2011


Like in Not So Fantastically Witty?
posted by Namlit at 2:26 PM on March 18, 2011


And again, as a point of etiquette it's not a terrible one. But as a point of policy it's a non-starter. All we can do as mods is check this stuff after the fact and we don't want to play whack-a-mole trying to figure out which Wikileaks information is too touchy and needs to be tucked behind a link (and what if we can't find the link, and what if reading a page with links to Wikileaks content is a problem?). So asking other MeFites "Hey be considerate that your US Govt employees may have to not participate in a thread if you include the full-text of cables from Wikileaks. Consider linking to them instead" but don't be surprised when people decide not to do it.

I'm not really up on the finer points of Metafilter moderation policy (?) discussions, so I suppose the initial distinction between "etiquette" and "policy" was lost on me. I'm not asking for moderators to go around policing this, just that it's made known that posting this stuff verbatim into comments makes it impossible for a whole lot of people to read this site. It's really easy to just post a link instead, so why not do that?
posted by indubitable at 2:47 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shouldn't there be a NSFW notice on your link to the post then?

Cute, but the context makes it quite clear that it's a link to WikiLeaks content, and if you're one of the people who has to worry about this, you're already aware that it's verboten.
posted by indubitable at 2:49 PM on March 18, 2011


The leaked cables are NOT public domain, that is in fact the basis of my question. They are leaked documents, they have remarkable worth, they demonstrate all sorts of national security concerns, and they are not intentionally in the public space! They are there illicitly.

The 96% of the world who aren't US citizens, and a fair proportion who are, don't give a shit. If you want to work for a government department with a batshitinsane rules, that's your problem. Don't go waving a big assertion-and-demand stick around the rest of us.
posted by rodgerd at 2:50 PM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


"I see that your record records your record on the leaked records"

"and?"

"the agency frowns upon this"

"I see"

"Ok then"
posted by clavdivs at 2:52 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


If it violates your companies policies to read this stuff you're free to find another job*

If you want to work for a government department with a batshitinsane rules, that's your problem.*

I find this attitude puzzling on a site like MetaFilter. Would you say the same to public school teachers dissatisfied with their shrinking benefits packages? Go find another job and quit whining? It's a pretty strong reaction to someone just asking people to be considerate of others.
posted by indubitable at 2:59 PM on March 18, 2011 [10 favorites]


just that it's made known that posting this stuff verbatim into comments makes it impossible for a whole lot of people to read this site.

And I guess this is the rub. Is it really "a whole lot of people"? What about the people like fixedgear who technically come under this heading but don't care? Impossible is a strong word. It's possible to still read MetaFilter, it's just not a good idea depending on what the rules are like at your particular workplace and how strongly you feel that you need to adhere to them in order to stay employed. I'm not trying to make light of this, but explaining that I think people for whom this is a problem may be overstating the extent to which other people should consider it a problem.

So from an etiquette perspective, yeah the more you can be considerate the better. But the line between policy and etiquette means we're not going to put an explanation on the posting page, we're not going to tell people this is how we require them to interact with the site and we're not going to let people get shouted down who decide to post Wikileaks content anyhow.

This is usually how consideration discussions in MeTa go. And usually in practice people who are having a problem can email/contact the OP of whatever is problematic and ask them to ask us to change it [this is usually what we do for all-but-the-worst spoilers and a lot of borderline NSFW stuff] and we can do that. But you're not going to be guaranteed to come to a MeFi free of Wikileaks cable content [and wouldn't even if we had a policy forbidding such comments, which we don't] and so people have to assess the risks and see how they feel about them.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 3:04 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would you say the same to public school teachers dissatisfied with their shrinking benefits packages? Go find another job and quit whining?

I guessed you missed a few threads.
posted by fixedgear at 3:05 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


indubitable, it's like the old debate about flagging NSFW or not. While it may be considerate, you can't rely on people doing it. Some people won't realise why it might be helpful. Others might not give a shit, or take amusement from the idea. Others might object on principle. Others might mean to do it, but forget. And there might be times when to not include the text within a discussion seems ridiculous, making everyone on the thread jump through hoops.

So really, it seems a vain expectation that it would or could happen or that you could rely on it - and also rather selective: newspapers don't put warnings on under a link. Other websites don't. The same danger exists all over the web, not just on Mefi. So why here? And as I said above, other employers might have other strictures on what employees can read, other than wikileaks and the obviously nsfw: and I'm not convinced that our approach to posting on this site ought to be dictated by that.
posted by reynir at 3:06 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm not asking for moderators to go around policing this, just that it's made known that posting this stuff verbatim into comments makes it impossible for a whole lot of people to read this site. It's really easy to just post a link instead, so why not do that?

And it's totally okay for you to bring it up in Metatalk. As far as that goes, that's pretty much what "making it known" comes down to around here in the absence of some actual change in moderation policy, is what we're saying. We don't change the rules for what's allowed around here lightly, nor do we add signage to the various pages on the site without a really specific good reason that has to do with how folks in general use the site for the site's sake.

So, talking about it works. Maybe some folks will take something from having read this thread and act accordingly in the future, and that's great if it happens. We're just trying to be clear that Getting The Word Out pretty much starts and stops there; as you say, we're not going to start policing this in some more iron-fisted way, so it's pretty much up to people to agree and act accordingly or to not do so.
posted by cortex (staff) at 3:11 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


As someone outside the U.S., I don't think the U.S. government's policies should influence how I use metafilter.

You chose to work wherever it is your working, so suck it up. I chose not to work there, so I can do what I please.
posted by dripdripdrop at 3:12 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I understood that while mefi's servers are in the US, it is still a globally accessible website with a diverse international membership - many of whom may not quite comprehend to the depth and degree of nuance why posting information (in this case a nearby danger in a region currently challenged significantly by disasters, natural and unnatural) that is helpful may be harming the employee of a different government/country.

It took a while to read through this read before I was able to release the initial response of "Huh?"
posted by infini at 3:16 PM on March 18, 2011


'read through this thread'
posted by infini at 3:17 PM on March 18, 2011


In the US system, people with permission to read classified documents are periodically asked by security personnel if they've done anything that warrants further investigation.

Some of these questions cover how they've handled classified materials, and whether they've read any that they didn't have permission to read.

Wikileaks contains classified materials. To any normal person, these are obviously no longer secret - they're out in the world - but to the bureaucracy that checks on whether people handle classified material appropriately, the fact that this stuff was in the NY Times is ... well, the security people know it's a ridiculous situation, but any time you get into a vague area in a periodic reviews, the odds that your permission to view classified documents will be revoked increase.

If your permission is revoked, you may be fired, or you may be consigned to work on the level of restocking the soda machine until retirement. And if you leave the defense industry entirely, an industry that you have probably spent your entire career in, your background may not be so great for getting a job in the outside world. You'll also have a hard time talking to your old co-workers, not because they dislike you, but because there is often little mixing of the inside and outside worlds.

I'm not saying we shouldn't talk about Wikileaks, but I just wanted to explain what this issue is like for some.
posted by zippy at 3:20 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


zippy: I understand where you're coming from, but the only solution that helps that situation is making us all live under that kind of silliness. Some of us have made conscious decisions not to work at places that control our lives outside work (and I would say the same thing about a company that blocks facebook, it's not an anti-gov/defense thing).

I think part of the reason this really rubs some people the wrong way is that we have people in the defense industry trying to limit the spread of information that makes the defense industry look bad.
posted by dripdripdrop at 3:26 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


rodgerd: The 96% of the world who aren't US citizens, and a fair proportion who are, don't give a shit.

Get real. That number is way high once you dismiss all those who hail from useless countries like Mexico, China, Canada, etc.
posted by gman at 3:26 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


In the US system, people with permission to read classified documents are periodically asked by security personnel if they've done anything that warrants further investigation.

Would truthfully answering "once I was reading a blog, someone posted a paragraph of a classified WikiLeaks cable as part of what I was reading. I glanced at it but as soon as I realized what it was I immediately closed the window and cleared the cache on my web browser" not be a more than reasonable answer? Add "I informed my supervisor the next morning" if that's an appropriate response too. I know Ironmouth has far more experience with this stuff than any of us, but getting fired for reading Metafilter seems pretty darn far-fetched, even it is conceivable within the written policies. If it is truly always that arbitrary and capricious, you shouldn't have any expectation of job security anyway.

By this logic, you can lose your security clearance if you read the Pentagon Papers, which are still classified top secret to this day (just now starting to enter the declassification process), despite excerpts having been published in virtually every newspaper in the country and the documents freely and openly available in books found in thousands of public libraries, including the Library of Congress. In the past 40 years, have any federal employees or contractors lost their clearances for reading the Pentagon Papers?
posted by zachlipton at 3:40 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


just that it's made known that posting this stuff verbatim into comments makes it impossible for a whole lot of people to read this site.

Most of us don't buy the argument that something which is common knowledge somehow becomes tainted when certain people accidentally encounter it. This is what the U.S. government would have people believe, but rational individuals don't buy a supposition which rests on the premise that inadvertently reading something which has been published by international news conglomerates somehow violates arbitrary regulations. Support for this idea condones thought-crime. Censoring important information about corrupt practices because workers employed by defense contractors and other scurrilous entities might then be negatively impacted is not an undesirable outcome to many. Some would argue that this could be seen as a benefit actually, in that crippling the machinations of these despots might be a good thing.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 3:52 PM on March 18, 2011


indubitable writes "I'm not asking for moderators to go around policing this, just that it's made known that posting this stuff verbatim into comments makes it impossible for a whole lot of people to read this site. It's really easy to just post a link instead, so why not do that?"

Because it is self censorship at the behest of the US federal government that would reduce the level of discord here and that pisses me off. I'm not going to be stunt posting wikileaks material but if I find a document that is relevant to the discussion at hand and there is a particularity relevant sentence or two I'm probably going to pull in a quote I often do1. That someone could get in trouble for accidentally reading classified material (whose secret is well out of the bag to boot) is but one of an outrageous list of out right wrongs being committed by the US government against it's citizens and residents. It's small potatoes compared to indefinite detention without trial and torture as public policy but it is still wrong and we shouldn't be encouraging it.

1Honestly it probably wouldn't even occur to me to a)check whether particular material is wikileak originated and b)if it did I'd have no idea how to tell if it is actually classified.
posted by Mitheral at 4:06 PM on March 18, 2011 [5 favorites]


News stories about the cables at sites like the NYT often contain direct quotes from the cables. smoothvirus et all are allowed to read those.

Threads about the cables at sites like MeFi often contain direct quotes from the cables. smoothvirus et all are not allowed to read those.

*laughs*

Are smoothvirus et al allowed to read comments at the NYT site about the articles about the cables they're allowed to read?
posted by mediareport at 4:35 PM on March 18, 2011


"I strongly disagree. Metafilter should not be in the business of enforcing the internal policies of any employer, even very large ones with armies."

No one in this thread is asking anyone to enforce anything and one liners, even if they're good, don't change the fact that this site has a policy against things as absolutely harmless as spoilers because OH GOD someone could read something they don't want to see yet. However, we don't yet have a policy against text that could honestly fuck up someone's life.

Of course we shouldn't stop posting the wikileaks related materiel, NO ONE IS SAYING THAT, it's just that a few mefites with lot to lose would rather not get fucked by someone unaware or some jackass playing gotchya.
posted by Blasdelb at 4:37 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


That "absolutely harmless" thing works both ways, Blasdelb. The wikileaks cables are extremely important; movie spoilers are not.
posted by mediareport at 4:42 PM on March 18, 2011


this site has a policy against things as absolutely harmless as spoilers because OH GOD someone could read something they don't want to see yet

We don't actually have much of a spoiler policy at all. There's the "don't be a fucker" umbrella rule that obviously catches some things that happen to be spoiler-related issues in form, but the problem there is the fuckery, not the possibility of pop culture spoilage.

If people want to be courteous about things when posting in good faith that's nice of them. I encourage that in a "be nice to each other" sort of way but that's about it. Nine times out of ten if I'm answering a comment or email about a spoiler issue it's to say "reader beware". There's been a number of requests for this or that sort of community or mod spoiler alert enforcement mechanism and the answer is basically always no, because Mefi is not in the business of being a fundamentally spoiler-free zone, any more than it's in the business of being SFW or being safe for employees of the US government et al.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:46 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Comment or vote?
posted by infini at 4:48 PM on March 18, 2011


some jackass playing gotchya

I have not yet seen any comments or posts on Metafilter where WL cables were posted at random, or just for the fun of copying and pasting. Do you have any examples?
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:51 PM on March 18, 2011


Because it is self censorship at the behest of the US federal government that would reduce the level of discord here and that pisses me off.

How is it censorship? What are you censoring when it's a click away rather than directly in front of your eyes (whether you expected it or not)? People already self-censor here to a degree to maintain community standards; I can't possibly be the only one who would've loved to tell people to go fuck themselves and thought better of it.
posted by indubitable at 4:56 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


mediareport, The wikileaks cables are extremely important, we should quote them. However, we are not the New York Times, we are not journalists, and we would not impress anyone's review committee. I don't think it is really so much skin off of our noses to allow people in sensitive positions to choose for themselves whether or not they want to disregard their security clearance adjudicative guidelines.

Blazecock Pileon, here you go: "FWIW: i would post ALL OF WIKILEAKS if MetaFilter became a nanny for the US government. so keep on posting :)"
posted by Blasdelb at 5:05 PM on March 18, 2011


Discord or discourse?
posted by fixedgear at 5:07 PM on March 18, 2011


Blazecock Pileon, here you go: "FWIW: i would post ALL OF WIKILEAKS if MetaFilter became a nanny for the US government. so keep on posting :)"

I guess I don't agree that this is a representative example of what you were referring to. Apologies if that was the type of comment you were really concerned about.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 5:09 PM on March 18, 2011


How is it censorship? What are you censoring when it's a click away rather than directly in front of your eyes (whether you expected it or not)? People already self-censor here to a degree to maintain community standards; I can't possibly be the only one who would've loved to tell people to go fuck themselves and thought better of it.

Because to talk about textual information, we often want to quote portions of that information. This has been an established practice in debate for about as long as debates have been around. I'm not just going to link to a four page document and expect people to wade through it when I mostly want to direct their attention to a couple sentences that are relevant to the discussion at hand. There's a massive difference between not being a dick (deciding not to tell someone to go fuck themselves) and deciding not to post a relevant short quotation from a massively available public document.

I emphasize, and certainly will think more carefully about using WikiLeaks material because of this thread, but it seems awfully unreasonable to suggest that Gen did anything at all wrong in his comment.
posted by zachlipton at 5:15 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, we are not the New York Times, we are not journalists

My question still stands: are the folks with clearance allowed to read comments that might include quoted material from the cables attached to stories at sites like the NYT?
posted by mediareport at 5:16 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb: “I don't think it is really so much skin off of our noses to allow people in sensitive positions to choose for themselves whether or not they want to disregard their security clearance adjudicative guidelines.”

I'm trying to think about this, and I guess I don't really know what this would look like. Yes, we have "NSFW" warnings; but they are, as people have said, completely different, as we don't (generally) recognize text to be unsafe for work. That means there's really no danger at least of browsing MeFi as long as you don't leave; the NSFW stuff will always be behind an outbound link. Moreover, yes, we also have an accepted custom (not a guideline; this is something we do as a courtesy to each other) of warning if there are going to be spoilers in text; but spoiler warnings are comment-specific, and the problem as brought up in the post above seems to be post-specific. That makes the difficulty much harder, because it means that apparently it wouldn't be enough to say "I'm going to quote the WikiLeaks cables below;" the mods would have to go into the business of slapping a "contains references to the WikiLeaks cables" warning on every thread where that came up. I mean, in the example, it's in the Japan tsunami thread – not exactly a place you'd expect to find it, and I'm certain the original poster had no way of knowing it'd come up.

Or what other solution are you suggesting? I'm having a hard time picturing something that isn't going to be (a) a waste of a lot of mod time and (b) will require them to further edit posts and (c) is just in general unworkable.
posted by koeselitz at 5:18 PM on March 18, 2011


Thank you cortex, my understanding of policy is corrected. It totally makes sense that, so long as no one is actively being a fucker, this shouldn't add to you guys' burden.

I would hope though that, as a result of this thread, we might be more aware of how we can impact each other.
posted by Blasdelb at 5:18 PM on March 18, 2011

The leaked cables are NOT public domain, that is in fact the basis of my question. They are leaked documents, they have remarkable worth, they demonstrate all sorts of national security concerns, and they are not intentionally in the public space! They are there illicitly.
They may have gotten there illicitly, but they are not copyrighted (and never were). In fact, up until the Obama administration anything that had entered the public domain was considered declassified, so government employees could read them. Recently the policy was changed to this nonsensical version via executive order.

There is no law that prevents people from reading them if they do not have a security clearance.
Would you say the same to public school teachers dissatisfied with their shrinking benefits packages? Go find another job and quit whining?
I would if their predicament required me to censor myself for some reason.
My question still stands: are the folks with clearance allowed to read comments that might include quoted material from the cables attached to stories at sites like the NYT?
They are not allowed to read the cables themselves. I'm not sure if there's a 'minimum quote length' or something, since the articles about the cables did have short quotes, then usually a link.
posted by delmoi at 5:20 PM on March 18, 2011


cavalier: “The leaked cables are NOT public domain, that is in fact the basis of my question. They are leaked documents, they have remarkable worth, they demonstrate all sorts of national security concerns, and they are not intentionally in the public space! They are there illicitly.”

This, again, is flatly untrue. You may believe that they shouldn't be in the public domain; and, moreover, I'll even grant that it may be illegal to disseminate them; but they are still in the public domain. I know this seems complicated, but please keep in mind that it is federal law that all federal documents are by fiat in the public domain.
posted by koeselitz at 5:24 PM on March 18, 2011


it seems awfully unreasonable to suggest that Gen did anything at all wrong in his comment.

Nor did I suggest that he did!

I would if their predicament required me to censor myself for some reason.

It's a weird line to draw when taxation and self-censorship are both personal sacrifices. Personally, I find it a lot easier to take a few seconds to write an HTML link than sacrifice hours of my labor.
posted by indubitable at 5:40 PM on March 18, 2011


indubitable, what exactly do you propose people do, then? Write HTML links every time they want to talk about WikiLeaks material? What about moments when a conversation is appropriate, or just five words from the cables are going to be discussed? How is it feasible to leave an HTML link every single time one wishes to refer to the cables?

Again, I really can't understand how this would work in practice. It doesn't seem like a reasonable solution at all.
posted by koeselitz at 5:42 PM on March 18, 2011


I still think hookman stories have more social stigma then the cables.
posted by clavdivs at 5:42 PM on March 18, 2011


what exactly do you propose people do, then?

*sigh* I dunno, man. When you start picking apart an insane policy, it's results are predictably insane. I don't know how fine-grained you can get with quotes before you drop under whatever threshold there is, if there is one; I'm no lawyer. I just feel that if you're going to post a cable with full headers including an all-caps "CONFIDENTIAL", maybe you could rethink that. As it stands, I guess I'll just have to find something else to do during my lunch break.
posted by indubitable at 5:56 PM on March 18, 2011


As it stands, I guess I'll just have to find something else to do during my lunch break.

Go for a walk.
posted by fixedgear at 5:58 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


I don't know how fine-grained you can get with quotes before you drop under whatever threshold there is, if there is one

Exactly. But if you're telling me we have to be more careful about national security concerns when we comment here than folks have to be when they comment at the New York Times, I'm gonna say no thanks.
posted by mediareport at 6:01 PM on March 18, 2011


"My question still stands: are the folks with clearance allowed to read comments that might include quoted material from the cables attached to stories at sites like the NYT?"

My understanding is that The New York Times publishing sensitive information is illegal according to current legislation, but that the constitutional protection of freedom of the press trumps (ie: the Pentagon Papers). Similarly, that reading the newspaper of note in this country cannot be made forbidden, even if it is forbidden. Hopefully Ironmouth is still around to correct whichever one of us, or of course both of us, has the wrong idea.

Regardless, would you want to be the guy who tests these murky legal theories?
posted by Blasdelb at 6:02 PM on March 18, 2011


today is my birthday.
posted by clavdivs at 6:03 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


HAPPY BIRTHDAY clavdivs! I hope it is awesome!
posted by Blasdelb at 6:05 PM on March 18, 2011


FTR, I don't think gen's way of prefacing hir quote was so unreasonable given that zhe did preface it with a big distinctive header and that zhe was only referencing one part of it; and of course this whole business is indeed insane.

That said, Hyper-linking to things that could really mess up other MeFites seems more like another way in which we can be awesome to each other than a memory hole or even a significant burden to me. I'll certainly make sure I'm careful in the future, thank you indubitable for this thread.
posted by Blasdelb at 6:18 PM on March 18, 2011


I work in an environment where reading WL at work is not ok.

Many websites are now blocked because of their WL coverage = nytimes, guardian.

Don't add metafilter to that list. Work would suck without it.
posted by k8t at 6:29 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't normally highlight a typo but I really like substituting zhe for she, its kind of exotic sounding.
posted by biffa at 6:29 PM on March 18, 2011


I don't think it's a typo... zhe is using gender-neutral pronouns.
posted by team lowkey at 6:49 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I just feel that if you're going to post a cable with full headers including an all-caps "CONFIDENTIAL", maybe you could rethink that.

I guess I'd still like to see an answer to mediareport's reasonable question. I still don't understand why we're supposed to protect visitors to Metafilter from seeing information that is a matter of public record and reprinted in numerous, prominent locations.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 7:00 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Seems straightforward enough to me - we've been made aware that directly posting classified information from Wikileaks can get our government employee members in trouble. Whatever the principle you're attempting to protect, it seems it would be kinder to take a few extra seconds and either a) link to it or b) put a [WARNING: WIKILEAKS] on the line above the offending text.
posted by Mooski at 7:07 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


So Genie's out, yada yada, etcetera, and viva the freedom, etc, but the people with security clearance still have to treat them as hot potatoes.

al Qaida terrorsts, Russian spies, and Moammar Gadhafi can read wikileaks cables, but US government employees aren't allowed to. Am I missing some potential justification that makes this policy something less that drooling insanity?
posted by steambadger at 7:11 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Posts like these effectively ban anyone who works for a US government agency, defense contractor and who knows who else from even viewing the thread while at work.

I believe you are unfamiliar with the definitition of "ban".

Sure it COULD get you in trouble...but here's what it comes down to:

1. If your job really did depend on this, you wouldn't be the kind of guy signing onto metafilter at your government job...with your government computer...over a government network.

2. If you are a government employee, sure that proclamation was made...but its 10,000 more likely they fire you for facebooking, myspacing, and metafiltering way before they have the time, effort, money, and cheap enough technology to monitor all employees.

Your argument is to not propogate that information, and I gotta disagree like a motherfucker.
posted by hal_c_on at 7:24 PM on March 18, 2011


or b) put a [WARNING: WIKILEAKS] on the line above the offending text.

smoothvirus seems to be saying that the mere presence of content from Wikileaks in a thread is enough to prevent workers with clearance from continuing to read that thread. If that's not actually the case and a spoiler warning would satisfy smoothvirus, it would be great to hear that.
posted by mediareport at 7:30 PM on March 18, 2011


k8t: I'm sorry to say this but if your work has chosen to block such most basic and fundamental media organizations as The New York Times and The Guardian, it's your work that has the problem, not us. I can't imagine most white collar jobs that do not not, at least on an occasional basis, call for the need to read an article in the Times. I don't want you to not be able to use MeFi at work and I would be upset if someone went out of their way to cause that to happen, but virtually every media organization in the country (via AP and Reuters if not original reporting) has published classified information from WikiLeaks cables. If being fired for glancing at a web page that contains three sentences from a leaked document is a real possibility, then I'd say you shouldn't be using the internet at all, because you're going to be exposed to something problematic sooner or later. The entire internet is not going to change to accommodate your workplace's policies.

Metafilter is a whole lot more likely to contain something that can get you fired than the Times or the Guardian websites. Those news organizations have actual editors and professional writers, while here any random dude with $5 and a paypal account can post or link to whatever nonsense he chooses and that content will stay up unless one of a handful of moderators sees it, decides it doesn't belong here, and removes it.

Should we have avoided discussing pedophilia to prevent this situation? I'd imagine an employee of some religious institutions could be fired if their employers knew they were reading some of the threads here on abortion or atheism or homosexuality, so should we back off of those topics? Jurors can't read any outside sources about their case, so we'd better not discuss any pending criminal trials. What about an Iranian MeFite who could subject to investigation for reading too much about Hoder? Maybe we'd better avoid that topic too. ASCII art depictions of Mohammed? Defamation of the King of Thailand? Secret Scientology sacred texts? Why take special measures for WikiLeaks and not any o the above scenarios.

it seems it would be kinder to take a few extra seconds and either a) link to it or b) put a [WARNING: WIKILEAKS] on the line above the offending text.

Apparently a warning tag isn't good enough. Gen's quotation was preceded by a giant header that expressly set out the document's classification status. smoothvirus was clear that he cannot read the thread anymore at all because of the couple of sentences that were quoted.

al Qaida terrorsts, Russian spies, and Moammar Gadhafi can read wikileaks cables, but US government employees aren't allowed to. Am I missing some potential justification that makes this policy something less that drooling insanity?

The completely misguided belief that you can somehow shove leaked information back into the hole it came from even after portions have been published by virtually every general news organization in the country?
posted by zachlipton at 7:40 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


Whatever the principle you're attempting to protect, it seems it would be kinder to take a few extra seconds and either a) link to it or b) put a [WARNING: WIKILEAKS] on the line above the offending text.

Sorry, but this assumes facts not proven. Wikileaks material is not "offending text". The vast majority of the world does not not buy this argument, and the U.S. government doesn't get to set the standard for what can be published online, yet. I, for one, will do nothing to aid them in their desire to control information, and if that means that some of those who benefit from the security clearances required to support that agenda need to not read MetaFilter at work ( also not proven) then that's a price I'm entirely willing to pay.

I wouldn't deliberately post any of this laughably labeled "offending material", but I have no intention of vetting anything I might post either, because of any unproven assertion that it is "classified". The U.S. Government would classify the consistency of my bowel movements if they thought they could get away with it, that doesn't mean that's it's a national security issue.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 7:47 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't deliberately post any of this laughably labeled "offending material", but I have no intention of vetting anything I might post either, because of any unproven assertion that it is "classified". The U.S. Government would classify the consistency of my bowel movements if they thought they could get away with it, that doesn't mean that's it's a national security issue.

That's not the point I was making. Sure, Damn The Man and all that, but whether you believe the information to be classified or not, the U.S. Government certainly does, and they're in a position to make things difficult for people who view documents they deem classified. If I can prevent them from having that happened to them with three to five seconds of extra typing, it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg, to borrow a phrase.
posted by Mooski at 7:58 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


"I guess I'd still like to see an answer to mediareport's reasonable question. I still don't understand why we're supposed to protect visitors to Metafilter from seeing information that is a matter of public record and reprinted in numerous, prominent locations."

Because to not do so when it is so easy and unobtrusive compared to the potential consequences is kind of shitty to our internet friends. Even if we all know the reasons why are uncontroversially stupid.
posted by Blasdelb at 7:59 PM on March 18, 2011 [3 favorites]


If pterodactyl porn is good enough for this place, then leaked diplomatic cables should be just dandy.
posted by Burhanistan at 8:04 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


Even if we all know the reasons why are uncontroversially stupid.

Sounds like more stupidity, to humor stupidity this way. Count me out, not because I want to be inconsiderate, so much as I have no interest in joining in and propping up such obvious stupidity.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:12 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Count me out, not because I want to be inconsiderate, so much as I have no interest in joining in and propping up such obvious stupidity.

I share the instinct; but I'm not sure posting wikileaks memos inline instead of behind a link is going to register as resistance with the lunatics who promulgated this policy. Absent any reason to think the government would even notice my defiance, I'd prefer to err on the side of courtesy toward my fellow mefites.

That said, working for people who are openly insane must be an interesting challenge.
posted by steambadger at 8:33 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ironmouth: EVERY federal employee holding a clearance has the explicit responsibility you describe. There are no exceptions.

Right. To clarify, I was reacting to the statement by The World Famous: People here don't seem to really be grasping the full extent of the meaning of government contractor or subcontractor. There are few employers in the United States that are not one of those two things.

My point was simply that while, yes, lots and lots of people work for a government contractor or subcontractor, only those people who hold a clearance have explicit responsibilities on the treatment of classified material, and while that's a lot of people in the absolute sense, we're talking about people with clearances and they know who they are and not an enormous percentage of the employed population.
posted by Tomorrowful at 8:42 PM on March 18, 2011


"If pterodactyl porn is good enough for this place, then leaked diplomatic cables should be just dandy."

You'll note that BrotherCaine had the good sense, technical limitation, and decency to link to it with fair warning, as well as posting it in a thread that was already dedicated to alien porn.
(I laughed, I cried, I questioned my sexuality and loved metafilter a little bit more because of it)
A not insignificant number of Mefites don't want to see pterodactyl porn and, while as far as I know pterodactyl porn is not banned, posting it in such a way as people would come across it unawares, I imagine, would be uncool.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:43 PM on March 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


whether you believe the information to be classified or not, the U.S. Government certainly does, and they're in a position to make things difficult for people who view documents they deem classified

Right now, the governments of Libya, China, and Bahrain ( to name a few), would love to restrict the rights of their citizens to read information posted here, and they're in a position to make things difficult for people who view documents they deem classified. Would you have us mark all those posts as possibly being of some jeopardy (perhaps to the very lives) of those readers as well? Or is it only the concerns of the U.S. government that merit consideration? Because there are plenty of people in the world who don't believe that the American government is a special entitie, deserving of preferential treatment.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 8:47 PM on March 18, 2011 [6 favorites]


Couldn't someone just write some greasemonkey thingy that would hide things between the "Cable dated:YYYY-MM-DDTHH:MM:SS" and the "End Summary" so people won't accidentally see the dirty filthy secrets?
posted by birdherder at 8:54 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


It's not our job to make Metafilter SFW. A lot of us don't have the luxury of sitting around browsing the Internet when we're at work, anyway.
posted by dunkadunc at 9:08 PM on March 18, 2011 [4 favorites]


I don't think it's just a SFW/NSFW issue -- those folks are not supposed to read material from Wikileaks cables at all, ever, even on their mom's computer while on vacation in Fiji on a national holiday, are they?

Regardless, I think it's totally unrealistic to think a community this large is ever going to successfully implement a Wikileaks-spoiler courtesy measure. The 40,000 people who don't read MeTa but who do discuss Wikileaks frequently won't get the memo.

And seriously, if the security clearance goons do ask govt. workers if they have inadvertently seen/read/heard any classified material they're not permitted to, can any of them honestly say "no" at this point? I never, ever watch TV news and practically live in a cave and don't care at all about Wikileaks, and I've seen several chunks of the material here and there.
posted by FelliniBlank at 9:23 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


NSFWeWhoThinkWeHaveAlwaysBeenAtWarWithOceania
posted by BrotherCaine at 9:56 PM on March 18, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb writes "My understanding is that The New York Times publishing sensitive information is illegal according to current legislation, but that the constitutional protection of freedom of the press trumps (ie: the Pentagon Papers). Similarly, that reading the newspaper of note in this country cannot be made forbidden, even if it is forbidden. Hopefully Ironmouth is still around to correct whichever one of us, or of course both of us, has the wrong idea. "

Has what constitutes a press been defined by the courts? I'd thought they'd basically considered all publicly available speech to be covered by the 1st amendment whether it's the newspaper of record or some guy writing on his blog that is is only checked by his mother and his cat.
posted by Mitheral at 10:34 PM on March 18, 2011


wait, where was the pterodactyl porn?
posted by empath at 10:50 PM on March 18, 2011


(strictly out of scientific curiosity)
posted by empath at 10:51 PM on March 18, 2011


Posting in a troll thread!
posted by finite at 11:16 PM on March 18, 2011


Empath, see your email. Although probably best left to the imagination. The link on my original comment is broken.
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:41 AM on March 19, 2011


A lot of us don't have the luxury of sitting around browsing the Internet when we're at work, anyway.

And I bet when you do browse the internet, you have to do it on your hands and knees in the snow.
posted by doublehappy at 1:10 AM on March 19, 2011


birdherder, what indubitable and smoothvirus seem to be saying is that he very act of posting a quote from a Wikileaks cable in a thread makes workers with clearance complicit by just loading the thread.

It's not totally clear, but I think that's what they're saying (I sent smoothvirus a memail to verify). So spoiler warnings, greasemonkey "hide this text" scripts, etc., won't solve the problem. The only thing that will solve the problem is for everybody here to agree to never directly quote from a Wikileaks cable again in any thread.

That seems an awful lot to ask.
posted by mediareport at 5:12 AM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


"My understanding is that The New York Times publishing sensitive information is illegal according to current legislation, but that the constitutional protection of freedom of the press trumps (ie: the Pentagon Papers). Similarly, that reading the newspaper of note in this country cannot be made forbidden, even if it is forbidden. Hopefully Ironmouth is still around to correct whichever one of us, or of course both of us, has the wrong idea. "

The vexing problem of "procedural posture." the New York Times case involving the Pentagon Papers was a civil action attempting to enjoin the paper from publishing the Pentagon Papers before they had actually been printed. The bar is set very high for the government in these "prior restraint" cases.

The government then chose not to prosecute the New York Times in a criminal action, for a lot of reasons. You can publish and then be prosecuted. That way the info gets out and if there is an underlying crime, it gets punished.

As for reading excerpted things in the newspaper, the guidance I've seen from the government is that you can read stories based on cables but not the text of the cables themselves.

This isn't a black and white thing. The context of the problem is during renewal, where an employee is re-investigated to determine if they should maintain their access to classified material. They will be asked if they have viewed the cables. If so, the Agency may or may not end their access to classified information. The Agency looks at a set of criteria and mitigating factors and then decides if it will revoke. The employee usually gets a chance to respond, in writing to the charges.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:13 AM on March 19, 2011


birdherder, what indubitable and smoothvirus seem to be saying is that he very act of posting a quote from a Wikileaks cable in a thread makes workers with clearance complicit by just loading the thread.

I'd say that's not the case. see above re: context of when and how the questions will be asked.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:15 AM on March 19, 2011


I don't think it's just a SFW/NSFW issue -- those folks are not supposed to read material from Wikileaks cables at all, ever, even on their mom's computer while on vacation in Fiji on a national holiday, are they?

That is correct. You can read the news stories, but don't go to a wikileaks site to read the cables.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:17 AM on March 19, 2011


So, Ironmouth, what do you make of smoothvirus' statement?

do NOT cut and paste wikileaks cables here

Now I cannot read this thread anymore. Just great.

posted by mediareport at 5:19 AM on March 19, 2011


note that the public can read the documents, as 18 U.S.C. 798 prohibits transmittal, not reading
posted by Ironmouth at 5:26 AM on March 19, 2011


So, Ironmouth, what do you make of smoothvirus' statement?

do NOT cut and paste wikileaks cables here

Now I cannot read this thread anymore. Just great.


He could read the thread, just not the cable.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:27 AM on March 19, 2011


the "very act of posting a quote from a Wikileaks cable in a thread makes workers with clearance complicit by just loading the thread."

In my understanding, this is the case. At my work, sites that references WL are blocked. The blocker even says "wikileaks" in the text. It is incredibly annoying to not be able to read newspapers that are a part of our jobs.

People can request that sites not be blocked, but they have to justify them. NYT was justified by someone pretty early on, but about every other day, I encounter a site that is blocked and I usually say "eff it" and read it at home.

Note that one could certainly read WL stuff on their home computer or personal smartphone. It would not be smart to tweet or Facebook about it though.

All in all, this is a weird time to work in a position that involves clearance.
posted by k8t at 5:49 AM on March 19, 2011


the "very act of posting a quote from a Wikileaks cable in a thread makes workers with clearance complicit by just loading the thread."

In my understanding, this is the case.


Ok, let's get technical. Security Clearance Adjudicative Guidelines provide you with the rules by which your clearance will be granted or not granted. Guideline K controls information handling:
Guideline K:
Handling Protected Information


33. The Concern. Deliberate or negligent failure to comply with rules and regulations for protecting classified or other sensitive information raises doubt about an individual's trustworthiness, judgment, reliability, or willingness and ability to safeguard such information, and is a serious security concern.
34. Conditions that could raise a security concern and may be disqualifying include:

(a) deliberate or negligent disclosure of classified or other protected information to unauthorized persons, including but not limited to personal or business contacts, to the media, or to persons present at seminars, meetings, or conferences;
(b) collecting or storing classified or other protected information in any unauthorized location;
(c) loading, drafting, editing, modifying, storing, transmitting, or otherwise handling classified reports, data, or other information on any unapproved equipment including but not limited to any typewriter, word processor, or computer hardware, software, drive, system, gameboard, handheld, "palm" or pocket device or other adjunct equipment;
(d) inappropriate efforts to obtain or view classified or other protected information outside one's need to know;
(e) copying classified or other protected information in a manner designed to conceal or remove classification or other document control markings;
(f) viewing or downloading information from a secure system when the information is beyond the individual's need to know;
(g) any failure to comply with rules for the protection of classified or other sensitive information;
(h) negligence or lax security habits that persist despite counseling by management;
(i) failure to comply with rules or regulations that results in damage to the National Security, regardless of whether it was deliberate or negligent.

35. Conditions that could mitigate security concerns include:

(a) so much time has elapsed since the behavior, or it happened so infrequently or under such unusual circumstances that it is unlikely to recur or does not cast doubt on the individual's current reliability, trustworthiness, or good judgment;
(b) the individual responded favorably to counseling or remedial security training and now demonstrates a positive attitude toward the discharge of security responsibilities;
(c) the security violations were due to improper or inadequate training.
I've bolded the key provisions here. If you violate these rules, and the decision-maker decides that the mitigating factors are not enough, you will lose your clearance upon reinvestigation.

This isn't a black and white thing--its a judgment call on the part of the official deciding whether or not you get your clearance. Merely loading a page you did not know contained wikileaks cables isn't going to cause anyone a problem. But once you see there is a cable on there, don't read it. The mere fact that a web blocker will block out the word does not make it a violation of the guidelines to read a page with the word "wikileaks" on it.

There is a second issue--if you have been ordered not to view the cables, and you do, you might be subject to discipline or adverse action for failure to follow orders.
posted by Ironmouth at 6:02 AM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would also think that it would be prudent to not leave evidence that you're participating in a thread with questionable content. It kind of puts a big red x with "I was here!" under it if you complain about not being able to read a thread in the thread you're not supposed to be reading.
posted by cjorgensen at 8:04 AM on March 19, 2011


"Would you have us mark all those posts as possibly being of some jeopardy (perhaps to the very lives) of those readers as well?"

YES

Especially yes if reduced to that yet more consequential absurdity. I for one hope that you never have the opportunity to impose a dangerous moral choice like that on anyone, much less a Mefite.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:17 AM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


I posted a couple of rant-ish comments above about this, but I'd like to try again; because I really am hoping that somebody who knows more than I do can ease my mind. Has the government offered any justification for this policy? If so, I haven't seen it; and I haven't been ignoring the issue. Is it just bureaucratic intransigence; a case of managers deciding to enforce rules far beyond the point where they actually serve any purpose? Is it some sort of strange loyalty test for government workers? Or do the people in charge of the national security apparatus actually believe there's some reason government employees with security classifications shouldn't read material the rest of the world has already seen?

Because, absent some explanation, this really does look like institutional insanity. And that's a bit frightening.
posted by steambadger at 8:45 AM on March 19, 2011


Then in this case I think pb should just add NSFW and WIKILEAKS and SPOILERS and TRIGGERS and SQUIK to the metadata of the site and be done with it.

I think you can pretty much assume metafilter will continue to have similar content going forward as it has had in the past. If discussion of what constitutes surprise sex vs. rape, discussions of molestation, medical procedures, government documents, pornographic art, movies, and pretty much anything that gets posted to the front page disturb you, your employer, or your government, then there are tons of other sites that can probably be considered safe. No matter the warning or the perceived prohibition metafilter is never going to be considered "safe."
posted by cjorgensen at 8:45 AM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


If your permission is revoked, you may be fired, or you may be consigned to work on the level of restocking the soda machine until retirement. And if you leave the defense industry entirely, an industry that you have probably spent your entire career in, your background may not be so great for getting a job in the outside world. You'll also have a hard time talking to your old co-workers, not because they dislike you, but because there is often little mixing of the inside and outside worlds.


Wow, I just wanted to say without reading much more of the thread that I didn't even think about the harm that "secrets" mentality and the overclassification of document could do in a workplace or interpersonally. It's clearly a hurtful and dysfunctional institution if browsing your favorite webpage can result in such psychosocial harm.

It's like the worst of the clichish, dramatic NYC events industry but worse because of what you said about not having any outside skills. That's really bad, in fact, the defense industry seems to be built systematically like a toxic workplace (no, you can't do this thing that everyone else in the world is doing. You are Special! It's different for y-CRISIS! You can't leave me, no one else will take you! You shouldn't view your favorite webpage because it might turn on you! Don't hang out with people outside this relationsh-CRISIS!)

Count me out for that (not that I could get security clearance anyways). It sounds like your employer's policies have the effects of isolating you from the outside work, and alienating you from other people. It makes me think of that incredibly sad Ask.me about the defense worker who had trouble socializing with dates because they literally were not able to talk about work because of these laws and policies. I mean, I deal with confidential materials but it's not so ridiculous as this and there are support groups that provide a confidential forum to discuss confidential subjects.

More good reasons to support leaking and the revoking and roll-back of unnecessary or corrupt security-policy.

my user name is only NSFW if you say it out loud.
posted by fuq at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


steambadger, what else could they possibly say? My employer (DLA) said what most defense agencies and some civilian agencies said: "If you click the link and read the cable you've introduced classified data into a non-classified, non-secured network." Full stop.

They further stated that publication of the cables does not change their status (they have not become declassified). It's the party line and they've stuck to it, despite its insanity. It might be that folks just don't understand how things work in a huge bureaucracy. Justice Dept issued a memo, OMB issued a memo, and all the agencies, military and civilian, issued memos. It doesn't occur to anyone to question or debate, we just move on. It's the mark of the truly advanced and enlightened bureaucrat to be able to hold two contradictory ideas in mind at the same time. We eat cognitive dissonance for breakfast.
posted by fixedgear at 9:03 AM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Right now, the governments of Libya, China, and Bahrain ( to name a few), would love to restrict the rights of their citizens to read information posted here, and they're in a position to make things difficult for people who view documents they deem classified. Would you have us mark all those posts as possibly being of some jeopardy (perhaps to the very lives) of those readers as well? Or is it only the concerns of the U.S. government that merit consideration?

For a moment, eliminate the background of the request and get to the basic premise: a member of a community of which you are a part has indicated that doing a certain thing may have immediate and negative employment consequences for them, to the point that they may not be able to continue participating in the community, for fear of running across that thing. It's not about being offended, because they're not offended; it's not about your right to speak or post or link to whatever you want to, because they support your right to do so. What they'd like, if you could take the time, is for you to take a moment and indicate when you're doing that thing.

You don't have to agree with the person's boss to not want to hurt the community member.
posted by Mooski at 9:09 AM on March 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Ironmouth: you know, the Guidelines you cited forbid "classified or other protected information". My reading of it is that talking about material contained in the Wikileaks cables falls under that. You seem to think your government would distinguish between actual quotations and mere references, but I don't think that it's justified by the Guidelines. Suppose I'm right. Do you think we should avoid talking about world politics? Because once people here talk about politics there will inevitably be someone who mentions something based on the Wikileaks cables, and they won't necessarily say what their source is. That's not necessarily a "deliberate" revelation or access of classified information, but it's arguably negligent - you expect to find this stuff being discussed.

Perhaps the best solution for people who work for the US government is to simply stop reading political posts or doing other things that may lead them to read or hear information that is classified.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:13 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mooski: only at work. OP is saying "change the policies of the site to accommodate me and my employer's unreasonable request." People are saying no, read MeFi at home, your life will go on.
posted by fixedgear at 9:15 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I read an article about Tom Clancy somewhere, years ago. Apparently much "classified" information has appeared in his novels. He was asked where he gets the classified information, and he replied that it frequently appears in newspapers.
posted by jayder at 9:26 AM on March 19, 2011


Joe in Australia, several people in this thread have said that they already do that. This Meta post is in reaction to Wikileaks materiel being posted in the Japanese nuclear disaster thread, where it was certainly unexpected, and asking people to be more careful with that.

fixedgear, are you even reading the same thread? That is not what the OP, or anyone else I can find, is asking for. All the OP is asking for is people to be aware of how they could unintentionally hurt their internet friends who have made different choices than you have, and to please not do that.
posted by Blasdelb at 9:46 AM on March 19, 2011


MeTa: We eat cognitive dissonance for breakfast.
posted by infini at 10:03 AM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Blasdelb, are you reading the same thread? People, including two moderators, have commented on the OPs request. It's not going to be a site policy change. I am aware that in your opinion I could unintentionally hurt my Internet friends who have made different choices than I have. My Internet friends must make their own informed choices, including whether they participate here.
posted by fixedgear at 10:05 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mooski: only at work. OP is saying "change the policies of the site to accommodate me and my employer's unreasonable request." People are saying no, read MeFi at home, your life will go on.

...and I'm saying, "Well, if it'll make your life easier, sure."

Today you, tomorrow me, and whatnot, eh?
posted by Mooski at 10:39 AM on March 19, 2011


a member of a community of which you are a part has indicated that doing a certain thing may have immediate and negative employment consequences for them, to the point that they may not be able to continue participating in the community, for fear of running across that thing

This argument is absurd, on it's face. Arguing that we should never post anything that might get someone in trouble with some some authority somewhere is preposterous. But what other result could one possibly expect from a policy that is demonstrably inane? Insisting that we have some duty to protect the jobs of members whose employment is dependent on a policy that defies all logical reason is stretching the bounds of credulity. Anyone who thinks this is at all necessary really fails to understand the purpose of sites like this, or even what information is for.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 10:55 AM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


You don't have to agree with the person's boss to not want to hurt the community member.

Well, I guess we can't discuss Islam, the Thai Royal Family, or Catholicism unless we want to risk hurting community members subject to Thailand's lese-majeste laws, or Ireland, Italy, and Iran's blasphemy laws.
posted by rodgerd at 10:59 AM on March 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


MeTa: We eat cognitive dissonance for breakfast.

Speaking of which, I was under the impression that I lived in a more or less free culture, and that yes, the distribution of the WikiLeaks info is in aid of this freedom. I read the concerns of those who are not allowed to be confronted by WikiLeaks info and all I can think is, how sadly, desperately WEIRD! And, more to the point, what a naked admission of (a kind of) wage slavery!

Seriously, folks, the WikiLeaks information is already out there and very available, and over time, more and more of it will no doubt get filtered and put into relevant context (ie: cited in various news reports and investigations), so trying to imagine a MetaFilter that discretely avoids it ALWAYS is like trying to imagine a MetaFilter that doesn't use cuss words EVER. It feels absurd.

Keep on rockin in the free world.
posted by philip-random at 11:03 AM on March 19, 2011


Suppose I'm right. Do you think we should avoid talking about world politics? Because once people here talk about politics there will inevitably be someone who mentions something based on the Wikileaks cables, and they won't necessarily say what their source is.

Except that's not how it is. There are thousands of security clearance decisions available at the Defense Office of Hearings and Appeals.

I suspect your government has even stronger rules than we do. I'd check those before ranting about ours.

Having said that, its quite simple. To have a clearance, you need to follow the rules. The rules include a simple one "need to know." If you don't need to know, don't look. This protects the government from accidental disclosures, which might be small, but when added together could give a picture of a program the government wants to keep secret.

This is called compatmentalization. Its important to keep secrets secret, because the less big picture any one person has, the less they can accidentally disclose.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:05 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

What they'd like, if you could take the time, is for you to take a moment and indicate when you're doing that thing.
and
All the OP is asking for is people to be aware of how they could unintentionally hurt their internet friends who have made different choices than you have, and to please not do that.
But how many of these things are there? I've heard people ask to be warned if the thread has animal cruelty, if it contains anything about sex abuse, if it has movie spoilers, or if it has gross pictures. I'm sure I've forgotten some, which is my point. I'm not saying it's too onerous to have to add to the list, but that at some point the list becomes ludicrous. Add this to all the commentary that's looked down on (mouth breather, etc.) and things will be forgotten and then suddenly you're in the wrong for having posted something most people don't have a problem with.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:08 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Arguing that we should never post anything that might get someone in trouble with some some authority somewhere is preposterous.

Sure is. Fortunately, I'm not arguing that.
posted by Mooski at 11:09 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


But how many of these things are there? I've heard people ask to be warned if the thread has animal cruelty, if it contains anything about sex abuse, if it has movie spoilers, or if it has gross pictures. I'm sure I've forgotten some, which is my point. I'm not saying it's too onerous to have to add to the list, but that at some point the list becomes ludicrous.

That's a really good point, and I'm not sure what the answer is. I guess the ill-defined line in my head is 'actual harm versus perceived harm.' I might get a case of ass if I come across the ending to the Dark Tower series when I'm on book two, or go to the bathroom to puke if I'm grief linked to goaste, but if I accidentally read something declared verboten by my employer and my pedantic prick of a boss finds out and gets my clearance stripped, that's a little higher order issue.

I agree it shouldn't be policy, and by and large I'm in agreement with the principle that MetaFilter is not work safe by default. I just think that for the effort involved and the possible consequence, if I happen to be making a post or a point with Wikileaks cables, I'll warn a brother (or sister).
posted by Mooski at 11:15 AM on March 19, 2011


Arguing that we should never post anything that might get someone in trouble with some some authority somewhere is preposterous.

Sure is. Fortunately, I'm not arguing that.


Yes, you are arguing precisely that, Mooski. You just don't grasp the implications of your argument. rodgerd, points this out as well, using a different set of possible criteria, as does cjorgensen. There is no end to possible list of potentially troublesome subjects. However, I notice that those arguing that we owe this duty of care to identify wiki-leaks material ( like I know or care if some material I've found online contains the specific text that meets the restricted material requirements ) don't actually really care about anything except what the U.S. government and their business partners wants to have happen.

I honestly couldn't care less about the tiny possibility that someone who works for the Defense Department having to read Metafilter at home to avoid running afoul of the rules of a thoroughly corrupt policy designed to hide nefarious undertakings. I think that the exposure of things like the complicit forced anal rape of adolescent boys trumps that concern.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 11:18 AM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


I notice that those arguing that we owe this duty of care to identify wiki-leaks material ( like I know or care if some material I've found online contains the specific text that meets the restricted material requirements ) don't actually really care about anything except what the U.S. government and their business partners wants to have happen.

I think they care about their jobs.

a thoroughly corrupt policy designed to hide nefarious undertakings. I think that the exposure of things like the complicit forced anal rape of adolescent boys trumps that concern.

There are a lot of things that are not corrupt which are kept secret.

Personally, I don't see that much of a risk in terms of accidental viewing. But to just act like one's point of view is the only one and that it is illegitimate to ask for this is really not thinking of others.
posted by Ironmouth at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2011


Hey look everybody it's everybody looking out for their own interests yaaay!
posted by cavalier at 11:25 AM on March 19, 2011


Sure is. Fortunately, I'm not arguing that.

Actually, you are arguing for treating cable material specially on Metafilter, whether you realize it or not, without understanding the underlying arbitrariness of that request.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:26 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


Actually, you are arguing for treating cable material specially on Metafilter, whether you realize it or not, without understanding the underlying arbitrariness of that request.

Actually, 'Wikileaks cable' is pretty specific, BP, as is 'I could get fired for reading them', as is 'could you link to/post warnings about.'

I agree it simply adds to a long (and getting longer) list of things it'd be nice to do so you don't end up standing on someone's foot by accident, but I'm okay with that; it's not that hard to keep up with.
posted by Mooski at 11:45 AM on March 19, 2011


Hey look everybody it's everybody looking out for their own interests yaaay!

Fortunately that generally works out well. I don't read all kinds of askme questions while at work. Also, when looking out for one's own interest you'd be surprised at how many other's interests coincide with your own. Also, by pointing out that having to note something in a thread isn't realistic, we're looking out for everyone's interest.

Unless you are going to have a flaggable option that says "Wiki-leaks" there will be no way to adopt this idea in any meaningful way. The mods have already said this isn't going to happen, so it's pretty much a non-starter.

I'd be surprised if even 10% of this site reads metatalk. Of that maybe a third will see this thread. A hugely smaller percentage will participate. So unless there is going to be a sitewide note at the top and a sidebarred policy this just isn't going to take hold. Even if it did there would be people who disagree and flaunt it just to make a point.
posted by cjorgensen at 11:47 AM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


I think we've already gotten past the idea of a policy or site note, cj. It was also a blue thread, not an ask thread.

My contempt was mainly for the scores of "What! Someone will be affected by this!? Well SCREW THEM, They work for the government! HA HA! My personal habits should not change due to someone else's misfortune, it's their fault! ha!"

It's a bit un-settling when you realize that one side can be just as self centered as the other side, and threads like this make me feel just a bit more /facepalm when thinking of a community as a whole. Meh.
posted by cavalier at 12:09 PM on March 19, 2011 [6 favorites]


Its important to keep secrets secret, because the less big picture any one person has, the less they can accidentally disclose.

Ironmouth, how in the hell could it be important to keep secrets secret after they've been published in the New York Times? What possible difference could it make if a government employee accidentally disclosed something that everybody in the world heard discussed on CNN months ago?

You seem to know more about the details of this policy than anybody else on MeFi -- is there some sense to it that I'm missing?
posted by steambadger at 12:18 PM on March 19, 2011


steambadger, if I can try, the documents are still classified. That's the whole "leaks" part of the deal. They have not been de-classified. I know it screams of insanity when you can pull up a website and see copies of them yet you're supposed to treat them as classified, but that sort of duality can exist in a burearcuracy. The documents were not meant for the general public, so if your employer says "Hey, no looking at classified material you're not allowed to look at", well, there you are -- it's classified, you're not supposed to see it, seeing it puts your clearance in joepardy because you are not treating classified material as your clearance guidelines dictate you should.

I am not ignoring the bizarreness of the duality, it's certainly very peculiar. But it's policy right now, and that would make an employee culpable for disobeying it.
posted by cavalier at 12:25 PM on March 19, 2011


My spell checking is awesome.
posted by cavalier at 12:28 PM on March 19, 2011


It was also a blue thread, not an ask thread.

Yeah, got that. My employer isn't going to care if I print off the wiki cables on work printers, but if I read a question about how to get one's girlfriend interesting in anal sex, while on the clock, my work will probably be less than happy. My point was that you have to know where you are in danger of content you don't want to be associated with.

I think we've already gotten past the idea of a policy or site note.

If that's the case then the discussion is over. It's just not practical. Even if everyone was in agreement here (and they are obviously not) that's still a minority of the site. There'd be no way to make sure everyone was informed that this was the new way wilileaks should be handled, so you'd have people committing infractions and others complaining about that and some stepping up to explain it was decided this shouldn't be done anymore.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:29 PM on March 19, 2011


This seems to have gotten lost in the shuffle, but as koeselitz explained earlier, the only thing that would really help in this situation are post-level markers, so that any thread that contains comments with wikileaks material is marked on the front page so that nobody inadvertently loads the offending thread onto their government computers.

Some of you are arguing that people shouldn't mind making comment-level spoiler-alerts to say "hey, wikileaks material coming up" - but from what dubitable has said here, that wouldn't help at all anyway, because the thread would already be loaded into their cache, complete with wikileaks cables.

Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that nobody is arguing that it's too difficult to put spoiler warnings on comments - the issue is that the spoiler warning would need to be on the front page in order to make any difference at all, and per the mods, that is simply not going to happen.
posted by dialetheia at 12:37 PM on March 19, 2011


You get a lunch break?
posted by buzzman at 12:40 PM on March 19, 2011


the issue is that the spoiler warning would need to be on the front page in order to make any difference at all

Then you are back to my point about putting WIKILEAKS in the metadata for the entire site, since you don't know when someone is going to think some aspect of the cables are on-topic.

I wouldn't have known there would be stuff in there about the Japanese reactors, but there it is. Who knows where else they will come up.
posted by cjorgensen at 12:44 PM on March 19, 2011


Jesus.

What kind of fucked up topsy-turvy world must these people live in that they aren't allowed to view freely available information that may be particularly relevant to them?

Freedom is a thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 12:47 PM on March 19, 2011 [4 favorites]


LOOSE LIPS, PINK SLIPS
posted by Sys Rq at 12:49 PM on March 19, 2011 [7 favorites]


I think it's "LOOSE TWEETS SINK FLEETS."
posted by fixedgear at 12:51 PM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


!Critic!
posted by buzzman at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2011


Please correct me if I'm wrong, but my understanding is that nobody is arguing that it's too difficult to put spoiler warnings on comments - the issue is that the spoiler warning would need to be on the front page in order to make any difference at all, and per the mods, that is simply not going to happen.

That's part of the issue. There's no practical way to do this, if you agreed that it should be done. By the time you've scrolled to a comment containing Wikileaks material, you've already loaded the thread and are already potentially in trouble. We-as-mods could potentially, if we agreed that this was a thing to be done, try to be valiant about adding a Wikileaks spoiler note to any thread that contained Wikileaks material but realistically speaking we couldn't do this with anything approaching 100% accuracy and in a short enough time period to assure that someone wouldn't accidentally load such a thread anyhow. Asking people to try to be considerate and note when there's WIkileaks material coming up in a thread [if gen had done this, for example] also doesn't solve the problem. And, short of mods posting an after-the-fact "Wikileaks Spoilers" note to a thread, there's no way to mark if someone's added this in the comments.

So, again, I sympathize and I think there are a good chunk of MeFites who also sympathize, but while we can ask for people to be helpful here, if all it takes is one unhelpful person to get you potentially fired, you'll have to be super duper careful here, as with many other places on the internet.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 12:56 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Wikileaks Spoilers"

In the end, it turns out that it was the government that was the villain all along.
posted by reynir at 1:07 PM on March 19, 2011 [8 favorites]


Wow. I actually feel bad for everybody involved in this situation. The victims of the various ethical violations detailed in some of the leaks, the people who did the leaking being hounded by our government for telling the truth, and the government workers potentially facing their entire lives being ruined just for reading the truth.

It's weird when nobody wins at all. Not even the insurance companies.
posted by Ryvar at 1:20 PM on March 19, 2011


I got my first william Gibson novel today: 'Pattern Recognition'.

Look, the policy concerning reading the cables is like jaywalking, doesnt really matter unless someone gets hurt or wants to make an issue of it.

the golden rule is cover your ass, which makes the policy pathetic and really just enboldens people IMO. dual-use really.
posted by clavdivs at 1:40 PM on March 19, 2011


Why are we comfortable with the government having secrets anyway?
posted by doublehappy at 1:43 PM on March 19, 2011


Even if it did there would be people who disagree and flaunt it just to make a point.

Except that no one is or has been doing this, which makes it a really odd defense for a policy that no one on either side seems to think is defensible.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:03 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


My contempt was mainly for the scores of "What! Someone will be affected by this!? Well SCREW THEM, They work for the government! HA HA! My personal habits should not change due to someone else's misfortune, it's their fault! ha!"
posted by cavalier


This is disingenuous. No one has argued such a position. What has put been put forth is the proposition that the U.S. Government's goals to suppress certain information from one specific source for certain workers need not have any extra-special, super-duper, precious-snowflake, there-be-dragons-there, early-warning status, perhaps on a level with Japan's earthquake-warning system. It is a complete misconception on the part of some readers such as yourself that the desire of some Americans to not have their work-place-related, on-line browsing habits inconvenienced in the slightest degree is a goal worth pursuing. That such an impossible outcome is somehow more worthy than this web-site's policy of encouraging independent thought and open discourse is completely incorrect.

Characterizing the defense of this principle as the heartless casting off of any consideration for others is willfully myopic at best. I, for one, think that it's outright obnoxious. The U.S. Government is not the arbiter of what gets to appear online, and if you are employed by a U.S. Government agency that wants to restrict what you can see and hear, well then, that is your problem, not this site's. This principle also applies equally to the governments of China, Iraq, Syria, Iran, Bahrain, Libya, and any other "authorities" who would punish others for what they read. But no one argues that those other entities wishes need to be considered. No, instead it is only the woories of the American government that bear scrupulous concern, according to those who think that Wikileaks material needs a warning label.

Insisting that the needs of some Americans trump all others is offensive. This imperialistic attitude is what gets America into so much trouble in the first place. We are not your subjects, stop acting as though we are. It is not the role of Metafilter's members to placate and kowtow to authoritarianism and capricious censorship. If someone works for an agency that is impacted by this oppressive and arbitrary policy of the U.S. Government then they really shouldn't read this site, or indeed any news-source at work.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 4:04 PM on March 19, 2011 [5 favorites]


Why are we comfortable with the government having secrets anyway?

Uh, because some things need to be kept secret or people die? I'm a pretty big advocate for transparency and think the current government secrecy system needs massive reform, but arguing that the government shouldn't have any secrets is incredibly extreme. If a CIA officer is going undercover to meet an arms dealer or infiltrate a terrorist cell, I'd really prefer that his identity and the details of his cover are kept as secret as humanly possible. If a submarine is attempting to intercept communications off North Korean waters, their destination and time of arrival really shouldn't be a matter of public record. If a supply convoy is to travel across Afghanistan, I'd prefer the folks with the IEDs don't know when and where they are coming. If we damaged Iranian centrifuges with Stuxnet, it's for the best if we don't directly admit that fact and the source code really ought not to be open source. As long as we have people in harm's way, some secrecy is nessecery to protect them.
posted by zachlipton at 4:09 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


NPR did a pretty cool story on this that addresses many of the issues people have brought up here: Professors Differ On Ethics Of Using WikiLeaks Cables.

Can a professor in a journalism program require a student to read something that will potentially disqualify her for future employment? I won't spoil the ending for you.

> Except that no one is or has been doing this, which makes it a really odd defense for a policy that no one on either side seems to think is defensible.

My point here was that it's a possibility. If it weren't then jessamyn wouldn't have had to warn against it. Sure, stunt posts are stunty, but if your job depends on you not accidentally being exposed to particular content, then a grab-bag site probably isn't your preferred work browsing site. And a lot of people are saying the ideas of a warning are stupid or allowing the government to dictate how information is presented or whatever, so it's possible that even if the majority got behind the idea of marking material as "dangerous," that all it would take is one individual to not tow the line and someone is fired.

Maybe I sold books for too long, but this strikes me along the lines of people who don't want certain books to be carried, or want those books to be only behind the counter, because children might accidentally see them. There's no practical way to insure this doesn't happen. People take the sex books over to the NASCAR section because they don't want to look pervey looking at a sex book. Your NASCAR loving kid might find one there. The only way to insure that content isn't accessed is to completely censor that content. Anything less isn't going to work. You have to take the assumption that threads may contain information your employer may find objectionable.
posted by cjorgensen at 5:49 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where can I donate to a collection to post Wikileaks content on billboards around the Washington DC metro area?
posted by Jacqueline at 5:55 PM on March 19, 2011 [11 favorites]


Can a professor in a journalism program require a student to read something that will potentially disqualify her for future employment? I won't spoil the ending for you.

So a class on the Vietnam War shouldn't require students to read portions of the Pentagon Papers? Legally, the situation is the same–more serious even since the Pentagon Papers are still classified Top Secret, where the WikiLeaks cables are all Secret and below. Personally, I would think it would be a red flag if an aspiring diplomat had not read some of the WikiLeaks cables, as it would be a pretty big sign they clearly had no interest in international diplomacy and the State Department. You don't to condone the leaking of classified material to read documents published by the New York Times.
posted by zachlipton at 6:13 PM on March 19, 2011 [1 favorite]


To have a clearance, you need to follow the rules. The rules include a simple one "need to know." ...This is called compatmentalization. Its important to keep secrets secret, because the less big picture any one person has, the less they can accidentally disclose.

The truth is that the government, in essence, extends this system to the American (and international public). There is a zero-level security clearance, and it's called not having any security clearance. And the government has determined that there are a great many things that people with that level of non-clearance do not need to know.

The supposition that governing bodies have the right to draw that line, and that everyone in the lowest need-to-know category should assume that it's being drawn in the right place, is a supposition that Wikileaks is, by definition, against. Of course you're not supposed to be viewing a classified document. Neither am I, and I don't even work for the government.

Yes, I haven't taken an oath not to view it, and nobody ever put me in a room and told me about all the bad things that would happen if I did, and my employer (a magazine publisher) wouldn't care. But, as far as the government is concerned, I as a private citizen am still not part of the need-to-know group.

Being a supporter of Wikileaks means that I do not believe that this hierarchy of knowledge should always be respected. And any media outlet, including Metafilter, that chooses to acknowledge Wikileaks as an even semi-legitimate source of information, is implicitly saying the same thing. There is a balance between security and dissemination of information, and any cooperation with Wikileaks (which I advocate) inherently puts more weight on the latter half of the equation.

Of course, as a government employee, Wikileaks, and anyone who helps them distribute information, is inconvenient to you. Your dilemma is just the low-key, white-collar version of the dilemma a cop faces when he watches his best friend break a law that he has been ordered to enforce. What does he do? How can his friend put him in that situation? Can't people see that his life would be easier if they didn't force him to make these difficult decisions?

Because morality is not black and white, overly-secretive power structures tend to employ people with good hearts, just like any other institution does. And when those power structures are threatened, those people are going to feel some angst.

Appeasing that angst simply cannot be a priority in a free society.
posted by bingo at 6:13 PM on March 19, 2011 [2 favorites]


Where can I donate to a collection to post Wikileaks content on billboards around the Washington DC metro area?
posted by Jacqueline


Or, better yet, rent a sound truck and drive around Langley Virginia broadcasting the actual cable content at precisely one decibel below the permitted Sound Pressure Level. Now EVERY ONE becomes a suspect, and might possibly be guilty of thought-crime. Tests will be taken to see. Everyone will get a chance to prove their innocence.

Eric Blair was an optimist, I swear.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 6:22 PM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


I keep reading this thread and picturing an ostrich with its head in the sand.
posted by crunchland at 7:37 PM on March 19, 2011


Uh, because some things need to be kept secret or people die? I'm a pretty big advocate for transparency and think the current government secrecy system needs massive reform, but arguing that the government shouldn't have any secrets is incredibly extreme. If a CIA officer is going undercover to meet an arms dealer or infiltrate a terrorist cell, I'd really prefer that his identity and the details of his cover are kept as secret as humanly possible. If a submarine is attempting to intercept communications off North Korean waters, their destination and time of arrival really shouldn't be a matter of public record. If a supply convoy is to travel across Afghanistan, I'd prefer the folks with the IEDs don't know when and where they are coming. If we damaged Iranian centrifuges with Stuxnet, it's for the best if we don't directly admit that fact and the source code really ought not to be open source. As long as we have people in harm's way, some secrecy is nessecery to protect them.

Oh, I totally understand why we have government secrets, but I don't think we should be comfortable with it. None of the activities listed above are things I really want my government to be doing.
posted by doublehappy at 10:43 PM on March 19, 2011


You know, I was on the side of "of course we can be considerate," and for the most part, I still am. I agree with cavalier that we want to avoid "and I thought this was 'a community'? /facepalm" events when respondents defend their right to disregard how certain things impact people or even whole large groups of people (one arguable example).

But when I got to the code citations above, the requests for permissible quote lengths, and the discussion of whether the warning would have to be on the front page, it sunk in that either (a) we really are being asked to know and follow another organization's rules, or (b) the level of consideration being requested wouldn't be enough to actually implement the law to its letter, meaning that our half-assed warnings would accomplish nothing besides making us participants in some theatrical performance.

And while at first, I had thought that saying this was like asking us to follow blasphemy laws and any number of other rules was a laughable comparison, that point has really sunk in; some of those comparisons are not far afield. I'd still be up for personally honoring the request if the requesters would address relevant concerns, like "how do you expect people to highlight two key sentences from the 75-page linked document?" But I also agree with those who are saying that this request is a bit more significant than it's being portrayed.

Serious question: if only 2/3 of metafilter commenters read and take up this suggestion, then what does it mean that 1/3 might occasionally post a wikileaks excerpt? And if so, does that negate the value of the 2/3's caution? And if it doesn't negate that value, then why do the 2/3 need to follow it? The rate of quoting seems fairly low right now, so a reduction in the rate doesn't seem all that valuable. I can see that it would be valuable if we could guarantee it would be at zero, but apparently that's not what's being requested. If the policy is zero-tolerance, then don't those with clearance have to avoid the site knowing that it's impossible to prevent any leak-posting, and if the policy is flexible at low levels, then are we really above that low level? How many millileaks/month are a safe dosage? Could we get TEPCO to monitor the situation for us?
posted by salvia at 11:46 PM on March 19, 2011 [3 favorites]


Request withdrawn. It is clear to me now that it is not possible to comply with such a vaguely-defined and irrational policy (newspapers OK, sentence fragments not? etc.) while still being able to discuss current events. I guess I'll just have to find some other solution on my own.
posted by indubitable at 7:25 AM on March 20, 2011 [3 favorites]


I guess I'll just have to find some other solution on my own.

How about a Greasemonkey script that checks incoming text against a dictionary of all the wikileaks cables before rendering the text?

For bonus points the cable dictionary could be encrypted using strong encryption under the jurisdiction of export controls.
posted by loquacious at 11:50 AM on March 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Its important to keep secrets secret, because the less big picture any one person has, the less they can accidentally disclose.

Ironmouth, how in the hell could it be important to keep secrets secret after they've been published in the New York Times? What possible difference could it make if a government employee accidentally disclosed something that everybody in the world heard discussed on CNN months ago?

You seem to know more about the details of this policy than anybody else on MeFi -- is there some sense to it that I'm missing?


For rules to work, they remain the same at all times. This is what I don't get. People want rules to protect them and rules to work, except for when they disagree with those rules, so then, the hell with them. No. That is not how it works.
We all agree to the rules, and we agree to the program for changing them when they don't work. We don't change every five minutes with the wind. Why people don't get that I don't understand.

The rule is "need to know only" the government is opposed to the release of its secret information. How could it consistently enforce that rule if "this one time" they are going to do something different.

They want to encourage people to always follow the rules, without exception. That is the purpose of rules and laws, no?
posted by Ironmouth at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2011


If a CIA officer is going undercover to meet an arms dealer or infiltrate a terrorist cell, I'd really prefer that his identity and the details of his cover are kept as secret as humanly possible. If a submarine is attempting to intercept communications off North Korean waters, their destination and time of arrival really shouldn't be a matter of public record. If a supply convoy is to travel across Afghanistan, I'd prefer the folks with the IEDs don't know when and where they are coming. If we damaged Iranian centrifuges with Stuxnet, it's for the best if we don't directly admit that fact and the source code really ought not to be open source.

Oh, I totally understand why we have government secrets, but I don't think we should be comfortable with it. None of the activities listed above are things I really want my government to be doing.


What is wrong with any of those things? I would like our subs to track what N. Korea is doing with its nuke program. I would like our supply convoys not to be hit by IEDs (Do you want our supply columns to be hit with IEDs?) I would like as little as possible to be known about stuxnet as possible (do you want even more countries with the Bomb?)

Seriously. Do not understand any of this.
posted by Ironmouth at 1:08 PM on March 21, 2011


I understand the idea that people with security clearances should not share information to which their clearance level makes them privy, but I can't for the life of me understand the idea that as someone with a security clearance, you wouldn't be allowed to know or learn things that a whole bunch of people with no clearance whatsoever already know. Truly, it boggles the mind.
posted by freecellwizard at 1:54 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Worship the rules.
posted by Burhanistan at 1:59 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


For rules to work, they remain the same at all times.

For rules to work, it has to be possible and practical to obey them.

This is what I don't get. People want rules to protect them and rules to work, except for when they disagree with those rules, so then, the hell with them. No. That is not how it works.

Or, you know, when the application of those rules in certain situations proves either impossible or counterintuitive.

We all agree to the rules,

No, we don't. I can count on one hand the people in this thread who do, and still have plenty of fingers left over.

and we agree to the program for changing them when they don't work.

One's accidental existence in a particular jurisdiction does not automatically mean one agrees with all its laws, let alone its system of government. That's kind of basically why war is a thing that happens.

We don't change every five minutes with the wind. Why people don't get that I don't understand.

Well, people tend not to "get" things that are totally made up bullshit. This is one specific rule being deemed (or not, as the case may be) Not Applicable to one specific type of situation, for sensibly pragmatic reasons. It's not "change every five minutes with the wind."

Jeez.
posted by Sys Rq at 2:36 PM on March 21, 2011


They want to encourage people to always follow the rules, without exception. That is the purpose of rules and laws, no?

Ironically, one exception that applies to nearly all laws* is when the law is being broken for the purpose of law enforcement.

*Except the laws that are specific to law enforcement.**

**In theory, anyway.

posted by Sys Rq at 2:43 PM on March 21, 2011


I thought we'd agreed The Rules don't work?
posted by infini at 2:46 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ironmouth have you ever read Orwell ?
posted by adamvasco at 2:57 PM on March 21, 2011


Rule #1: There are no rules.

Rule #2: Rules are useful to the degree to which we do not worship them.

Interestingly, many say the same thing about gods.
posted by philip-random at 3:07 PM on March 21, 2011


What is wrong with any of those things? I would like our subs to track what N. Korea is doing with its nuke program. I would like our supply convoys not to be hit by IEDs (Do you want our supply columns to be hit with IEDs?) I would like as little as possible to be known about stuxnet as possible (do you want even more countries with the Bomb?)

Oh horseshit. What a steaming pile of reeking manure. Standard reactionary misdirection. It comes up from the champions of the death merchants every time WikiLeaks is mentioned. "Won't you think of the spies!" WikiLeaks gives the material to news outlets, and lets them decide what to publish. Names of operatives are redacted.

Please provide concrete examples of actual undercover operations and operators exposed by Wikileaks. Not bleating about the possibility, like a poor-man's constipated Rush Limbaugh or Bill O'Reilly with a Loofah crammed up his ass. Actual, known, specific, examples of operations and oeratives exposed by Wikileaks. I might be wrong, but the the only example I can think of where an undercover agent of the C.I.A. has been publicly exposed lately was by that human pustule George Bush, and the cork up the asshole of human progress, Dick Cheney.

Now, here's what U.S. Defense Secretary William Gates had to say in October ...

As far as broader intelligence gathering, Mr. Gates told Mr. Levin, “Our initial review indicates most of the information contained in these documents relates to tactical military operations.” He added: “The initial assessment in no way discounts the risk to national security; however, the review to date has not revealed any sensitive intelligence sources and methods compromised by this disclosure.”

Conversely, what has been shown is that the U.S. government covers up and condones the torture and murder of innocent civilians, and the rape of female contractors. What has been shown is the absolute duplicity of authorities whenever there are resources to be exploited for the benefit of campaign contributors, or profits to be made on the backs of the powerless. There is more blood on the hands of many single low level Halliburton contractors than there ever will be on Wikileaks. Filthy, stinking, murdering, scumbags. And they do it for money. It's disgusting and needs to be exposed. THAT is what the government wants to keep secret, and THAT is what the government wants to prevent their drones from learning about, lest they question their role in manufacturing death.
posted by PareidoliaticBoy at 2:17 PM on March 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


> Please provide concrete examples of actual undercover operations and operators exposed by Wikileaks.

Valerie Plame!

Oh, wait...
posted by Burhanistan at 2:22 PM on March 22, 2011


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