New Frontiers in Stupidity: CableGate Edition


Benjamin Wittes of the legal blog Lawfare writes:

Those of you concerned about the Wikileaks disclosures will be reassured to know that the military IT folks are on the case and are aggressively cracking down on–drum-roll, please–us. That's right, folks, Wikileaks, Lawfare. It's all the same. They're both on the Internet, after all.

a reasonable reaction

Apparently, an Army captain in Iraq wrote Wittes today to say that when he tries to access the site, he gets a message that begins with a big *** YOU HAVE SELECTED A SITE THAT MAY POTENTIALLY CONTAIN CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS *** and goes on to explain that while "Viewing these documents is not considered a spill in of itself…once a user identifies the information as classified or potentially classified, the individual should immediately cease viewing the item and close their web browser."

Wittes reacts:

I cannot tell you how much I resent this. It's not just the stupidity of the failure to distinguish between leaks and commentary on national security law–which inevitably will occasionally touch on leaks. It's also the ridiculous phrase "May Potentially Contain Classified Information," which in this instance translates roughly to "Does Not Contain or Discuss Classified Information Not Already Disclosed by Entities With Orders of Magnitude More Readers." We have not posted any State Department cables here on Lawfare. The most we have done is linked to a New York Times article that refers to some cables and re-quoted what the Times had already quoted. We have actually taken pains over the life of this blog–and before–to avoid compromising sensitive material in the course of work that necessarily brings us into contact with it. On a few occasions, we have gone so far as to decline to post on sensitive matters that have come our way as a result of accidental disclosures. We write off of the public record here at Lawfare. Some of my press friends may not admire that, but that's what we do. Glad to know the military appreciates the effort.

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    1. Was it MNG or Tony who was telling us what a good thing that is?

      1. I recall MNG saying he thought it was okay.

        I’m surprised that TVs aren’t sold with intelligent software to adjust the volume down for commercials.

        1. They are. It’s called a remote and you push this “volume down” thingy on it and presto, the volume goes down. And not just on commercials! Also for anything on cable news. And there’s even a “channel down” button for when Glee comes on.

          Speaking of which, what is Congress doing about Glee?!? I demand it be taken off the air so it can’t annoy me.

          1. People still watch commercials?

            1. I am constantly bewildered by the fact that people still watch TV.

              1. TV is awesome, better now than it ever has been. But commercials are for chumps.

                1. Which is why so much of my TV viewing is TCM.

              2. Ditto.

                1. To Hugh, I mean. I have no patience for TV any more.

              3. I sure don’t watch much of it. An occasional Mythbusters or Good Eats, some sports, and a history or science show if it isn’t dumbed down too much. Other than that, it’s DVDs. I do watch House and now Fringe on DVD, so I’m no longer network pure.

              4. Me too. I watch everything online or via Netflix.

            2. If you don’t have a DVR–lat alone a TiVo–there’s something wrong with you.

              1. ^^This.^^ I barely watch TV in real time any more. Blowing past commercials is the only way to fly.

                My problem is that the DVR that Verizon provides is too small for the HD programming. I can’t keep too much on there at a time.

                1. Then get a TiVo, cheapskate. It has external storage if you go past its already considerable storage.

                  1. It’s on the list, but new speakers and sub come first. I haven’t annoyed the family enough with the volume of my viewing.

                    1. I have no idea of your budget, but I’ve found good shit cheap at Cambridge Soundworks. Also, this guy has good reviews and leads on best values.

              2. If you don’t have a DVR–lat alone a TiVo–there’s something wrong with you.

                I guess there’s something wrong with me, then.

                1. Me too. Although I pretty just use my TV for the X-box not really for the cable.

            3. mac mini and plex. canceled cable about six months ago. haven’t missed it at all.

            4. I quit TV over a year ago. Feels good man.
              I get really uneasy anytime its on at someone elses house… Must be the conditioning.

          2. The only time it annoys me (I do as you suggest, normally) is when I’m in another room and the TV cranks up a few notches.

            Rather than regulate, I’d prefer a technological enhancement, even if it just rewards the lazy. After all, we’re talking about remotes.

          3. On the most recent episode of Glee, they covered (I’ve Had) The Time of My Life from Dirty Dancing. It was awesome, and what’s even better is that now that you know, you can’t unknow. Thanks, Glee!

            1. I can drink this knowledge away. Trust me.

              1. I don’t know what I love the most about Glee. Is it the songs, the extreme gay-ness (for anyone man enough, this is pretty much the gayest thing ever), or its ability to irritate all the right people?

            2. I’d like to see them do Donna Summer’s Love to Love You Baby, which was once described as 23 simulated orgasms in 16 minutes.

        2. Yes, it was MNG. He also complained about “negro boys that can’t pull up their damn pants” and bank tellers that “dress like whores.”

          1. I would like to bank where the tellers dress like whores. I belive the Net version of that would be a banking / porn hybrid site. Someone should look into that.

            1. This is relevant to my interests.

        3. I believe some TVs do have an automatic volume-leveling function. Mine probably does. I just haven’t bothered looking for it.

          1. But it’s so much easier to get an act of Congress to do something about it.

          2. Yes, they do have that feature. It holds the volume at a pre-set level irrespective of the volume of the programming it is receiving.
            Or you can buy an add-on.


    2. I used to watch my wife dub commercials into the server to be aired. There is already a range of volume the FCC mandates for commercials. There’s an oscilloscope and everything where the tapes are dubed in. Of course, the commercial is dubed in at the top of the range.

  1. Benjamin Wittes is a national security threat and should be assassinated!! He has blood on his handsssssssssss.





    1. Stop yelling at me!

      stop it . . . please

    2. Fuck you, Billy Mays. I don’t care how awesome Chipotlaway is, I’m not eating any goddamn Chipotle.

      1. Warty shits blood naturally; he doesn’t need Chipotle to cause it.

        1. I refuse to accept as legitimate the use of the word “natural” in the description of any of Warty’s metabolic processes.

          1. He’s not magic. It’s esoteric science, but science nonetheless.

            H&R: ARE YOU A WIZARD?

            WARTY: NO.

            1. WARTY: I AM A WARLOCK.

            2. MAX: I AM A WIZARD’S SLEEVE.


        2. Thanks for the visual.

  3. Government employees got an email about this, which basically said that, although it’s been splayed all over the internet for a week and talked about on every radio, television, and cable station, the information in the leaked cables is still considered classified, and they should not read it. So, in effect, what it’s telling them is that people who potentially have valid security clearance should not read the classified material that is now readily available to the general public on the internet.

    That’s awesome.

    1. Yeah, my wife told me about getting that email (though she is not technically a fed). Pretty much tells you everything you need to know about the government. I feel like Neal Stephenson’s version (in Snow Crash) is more accurate than Alex Jones’.

      1. Although now that I think about it, this shit is all right out of Cryptonomicon, complete with the nuke-resistant cave-based data storage facility.

  4. I’m the IT guy at a defense contractor and we recently received the below email and were told to distribute it to our organization. Not sure what to make of it….


    Important Information from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense, (Networks and Information Integration)/Department of Defense Chief Information Officer:

    Department of Defense military, civilian and contractor personnel

    should not access the Wiki Leaks website to view or download the

    publicized classified information. Doing so could introduce potentially

    classified information on unclassified networks. There has been rumor

    that the information is no longer classified since it resides in the

    public domain. This is NOT true. The subject information was not

    “declassified” by an appropriate authority and requires continued

    classification or reclassification.

    1. That’s hilarious. I thought “classified” implies that the information is hidden from view. Once it’s out, well, what’s the point?

      Truly Strangelovian.

      BTW did they send the URLs so you’d know what sites not to look at?

      1. no they didn’t include the URLs in the email. We did distribute it, although the most common response we got from our users was “What’s Wikileaks?”.

        So I guess we’re not a security threat.

        1. Not an intelligence threat, anyway.

          1. no, sadly our network users have never been an intelligence threat.

      2. The internet saw the big board!

    2. Not sure what to make of it….

      Why, you can make a hat or a brooch or a pterodactyl…

    3. So, a government employee who reads the NYT Wikileaks stories has improperly/illegally accessed classified documents? Presumably, then, they should be reprimanded and/or fired? If they don’t self-report this violation, I bet that ramps up the penalty, too.

      Let the witch-hunt begin!

      “Do you now, or have you ever, subscribed to the New York Times.”

    4. H&R commenter “Chris” is a national security threat and should be assassinated!! Also, he has blood on his handssssssesssss!!!!!ONE!!!!!1

    5. If you code your eyes, the elephant in the room ceases too exist.

      Oh, and never mind that odor. It’s harmless…

      1. Ack….


  5. Leave Bob Loblaw’s law blog alone.

  6. I am tempted to send a copy of the email to Wikileaks, but I don’t think they share my sense of humor.

  7. I’m thoroughly enjoying this whole Wikipocolypse. I have no idea why, but the longer it goes on, and the more people FREAK OUT about it, the happier I am.

    I think maybe this could be a test of a person’s “degree of libertarianism” or something. More likely, “degree of asshole”…whatever. Happy, happy, happy!

    1. I’m sitting on a happy glow myself, and not just because I got new batteries for Mr. Happy.

      1. New batteries = BONUS

  8. Kinda wondering when something like this would pop up. To make it even better, this isn’t an original idea or response, but likely a cut and paste or simple re-do of the standard reflexive rote response from the ‘security’ professionals cadre of the USG. I’ve seen similar verbiage, years ago, when various ‘leaks’ were picked up and published by the press.

    Original thinking and a Rhodes Scholarship are NOT job entry requirements for the folks that promulgate this stuff.

    1. A similar warning came out after either the Iraq or Afghanistan war logs were released, so it is hardly unexpected.

  9. From

    “I got this message yesterday from Army Reserve leadership:

    As a security reminder to all Soldiers, individuals should not access the WikiLeaks web site to view, download, or print any information which is potentially classified. All personnel are reminded that the accessing of classified information on an unclassified network, either on government or privately owned computers, could constitute a security violation or place our national security at risk. In accordance with Executive Order 13526, classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure and will remain classified until it is formally declassified by an appropriate authority. Therefore, information on the internet which is or appears to be classified should be handled as such until it is properly declassified. The unauthorized disclosure, unauthorized retention, or negligent handling of classified information may result in termination of security clearance, termination of employment, or prosecution.”

    The “conspiracy” coterie continues to sever links within its own network, and in this case, sever links between itself and its own data that is now outside its own network. Cutting itself off from its own data and information about how the outside world is processing it. Degrading its own cognitive abilities in a panicked, paranoid response to the realization that it can’t trust itself…

    Per Wikileaks’ plan.

    1. classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure and will remain classified until it is formally declassified

      Fuck. I guess “plain English” isn’t a requirement for gummint jobs, either.

    2. Considering that this statement is boilerplate (I have seen it years ago) I don’t see how this could cause any problems that don’t already exist.

    3. God, its like a mobius strip of stupidity.


  10. I want to see the prosecution of some poor schmuck for looking at classified information freely available on the internet. That would be a case for the ages.

  11. So when do we start Wiki-Rolling USG employees?

  12. It is surprising how many people here have no idea about classified documents (regardless of whether they should be classified or not). The information remains classified whether or not it gets released. For comparison, think of the information needed to get into your bank account. Just because it gets released doesn’t mean you just watch your bank account disappear. You try to keep the information from spreading (as well changing your bank information)

    1. That’s sort of a shitty analogy. Once you change your account information, it doesn’t really matter whether the old information is spread. And what exactly is the “account” supposed to be representing in this case? Are we stealing from State by reading about what asses diplomats are? If we keep reading, will they eventually run out of diplomacy?

    2. “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain”

      If my bank account info gets published, I change where the money is. I don’t pretend like my security is not yet compromised and force the publisher to retract the information. It takes a certain kind of idiocy to think that what is seen can be unseen. I believe military chiefs need a lesson in

  13. Once again, I’d like to rail against the idiotic -gate suffix and argue that it’s just as dumb as the cyber- prefix.

    1. We’ll call it “Cybergate”!!!!!11!!

  14. nstance translates roughly to “Does Not Contain or Discuss Classified Information Not

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