We all know that reality and government mix really, really badly. So, even as much of the world peruses information revealed by Edward Snowden about the National Security Agency's creepy, intrusive and wide-ranging snooping of telephone communications and Internet activity, Senate staffers have been told to pretend that the document-dump never happened.
The Senate Security Office sent an email around the Hill Friday afternoon asking Senate employees and contractors to try to ignore the fact that top-secret, highly-classified documents are now floating around the Web freely (and, in the case of a terribly designed NSA Powerpoint, getting facelifts.) The email asks security managers to remind Senate employees and contractors that the documents are still technically classified and should be treated as if millions of people haven’t already read them. The email:
"Please share with your staff the guidance below.
- Classified information, whether or not posted on public websites, disclosed to the media, or otherwise in the public domain, remains classified and must be treated as such until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. government authority. ...
- Senate employees and contractors shall not, while accessing the web on unclassified government systems, access or download documents that are known or suspected to contain classified information. ...
- Senate employees and contractors who believe they may have inadvertently accessed or downloaded classified information via non-classified Senate systems, should contact the Office of Senate Security for assistance.
Note that this isn't an isolated head-in-the-sand moment. As Wired noted on Tuesday, the Defense Department issued a nearly identical order to employees and contractors regarding the NSA revelations. And when WikiLeaks released its treasure trove of diplomatic cables, the Obama administration issued similar guidance to all federal government employees and contractors.
Maybe this helps to explain why government employees sometimes seem like the most poorly informed people on the planet.
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