Can you get fired for accessing Wikileaks from your home computer?
August 13, 2010 6:05 PM Subscribe
Can an employer fire you, or threaten to fire you or any other employee, for accessing the Wikileaks site from a personal (non-employer) computer? You are not directly employed by the government or a member of the military, but your employer does contract you and other employees with security clearances to the government.
posted by anonymous to Law & Government (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
In other words, is it really legal to fire (or otherwise discipline) someone with a security clearance for simply reading a public website from their private home computer?
In theory, the justification would be that the information on Wikileaks is still classified, even though it's in the public domain, because a section of Executive Order 13526 says that classified info isn't automatically declassified following an unauthorized disclosure. This means that even classified information leaked all over the Internet and other media is technically still considered "classified" until it is officially declassified by a government official. So the idea is that if a person with a security clearance who has agreed to certain restrictions regarding classified information accesses Wikileaks, even from home, s/he commits a security violation by viewing classified information from a computer that isn't authorized to access classified information, or viewing classified info above their clearance level, etc.
Such a policy does not appear to make any allowance for the fact that some information on Wikileaks is presumably not classified under U.S. standards. I presume a large amount of info available at Wikileaks is leaked info from other countries to which a U.S. employee with a clearance has no obligation.
A google search shows that government units like the marines have forbidden their personnel, including not just marines but also civilians and contractors, from accessing Wikileaks from even a personal computer. Can employers outside of the military also issue such a restriction with a threat of firing (or some lesser action) for noncompliance? And, even beyond the legality of it, is it right for an employer to do so instead of just letting the government prosecute any security violations it finds offensive?
I know someone who is thinking of quitting their job over this prohibition, so your thoughts are appreciated.
And just to give the full parade of horribles here, if an employer can do this, couldn't they also forbid employees from viewing NYT or Washington Post or Fox News stories covering Wikileaks issues since these would also presumably release information that is public but still classified? I can't imagine any employer actually doing this, but doesn't it follow from the logic used to forbid someone from accessing Wikileaks itself?
Finally, what if the restriction applied not just to employees with security clearances, but all employees? I really don't understand how that restriction could be justified, since an employee without a clearance never agreed to restrict their access to classified information in the first place.