WikiLeaks prompts government to order detailed security reviews
Updated 4:43 p.m. ET
A memo sent this week to government security officials details how they should conduct detailed security reviews of sensitive or classified information as the Obama administration attempts to safeguard against future leaks to the information-sharing Web site WikiLeaks and other news organizations.
Among about 100 questions, the memo asks how agencies are measuring the trustworthiness of employees with access to sensitive information and whether workers must report whenever they have contact with news reporters.
In the wake of an unprecedented document dump that is straining U.S. diplomatic relations in some corners of the world, the administration ordered agencies last month to ensure that unauthorized employees do not get access to sensitive or classified information. The Office of Management and Budget also ordered unauthorized federal employees to steer clear of leaked documents and the document-sharing Web site.
Further instructions sent this week by OMB to top government security officials asks them to review the 100 questions to help assess "what your agency has done or plans to do to address any perceived vulnerabilities, weaknesses, or gaps on automated systems in the post-WikiLeaks environment," according to the memo.
In a nod to the concerns surrounding alleged WikiLeaks leaker Bradley Manning, the administration wants to know whether agencies measure "trustworthiness" among employees without alienating them, the memo said.
It asks whether psychiatrists or sociologists are used to measure a worker's relative happiness as a means to gauge trustworthiness and whether they consider despondence or grumpiness as a sign of waning trustworthiness.
Such monitoring might have stopped Manning, who is accused of leaking classified videos and documents to a former hacker. Though the military hasn't leveled specific charges against him, officials say Manning had gone through a breakup and been demoted in rank by the Army shortly before leaking the information.
Agencies were also asked to detail how they determine who has access to classified information on automated computer systems and whether all employees are required to report any contacts with news reporters.
The review "was very likely in the aftermath of WikiLeaks," said Sean Moulton, director of federal information policy at OMB Watch, a nonpartisan organization that tracks federal budgetary and regulatory policy.
"It's pretty reasonable for them to at least take a look at the protocols they had in place," Moulton said. But some of the questions asked - including the one regarding contact with reporters - indicates the potential for an unnecessarily severe clampdown on information distribution.
"It's not that the system is massively broken," Moulton said, noting that Manning apparently acted alone.
Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive at George Washington University, said the ongoing review "takes for granted the existing classification system, which almost everybody agrees is decrepit and broken."
"I really don't see the kind of systemic reform that would protect the real secrets and push everything out into the public domain," Blanton said.
Government transparency advocates have long argued the government unnecessarily protects too much information from public distribution.
The reviews must be completed by Jan. 28, and officials from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence may visit agencies to inspect the ongoing reviews, according to the memo.
Results of the review are expected to earn intense scrutiny from House Republicans, who are planning to probe whether the administration did enough to prevent WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange from receiving and posting the information.
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This item has been updated and corrected.
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