By Ruth Conniff
The Air Force Materiel Command has just backtracked on a recent "guidance" it issued to its members.
The guidance would have prohibited not only Air Force members from accessing Wikileaks. It threatened to prosecute any people in their family with espionage if they looked at the Wikileaks site.
"Classified information does not automatically become declassified as a result of unauthorized disclosure, and accessing the WikiLeaks site would introduce potentially classified information on unclassified networks," the Air Force Material Command explained, according to Rawstory.
"Guidance issued by the Office of the Secretary of the Air Force on Aug. 9, 2010, makes clear that Air Force personnel should not access the WikiLeaks website to view or download the publicized classified information."
The document added:
"According to AFMC's legal office, Air Force members -- military or civilian -- may not legally access WikiLeaks at home on their personal, non-governmental computers, either."
And it got worse. It even said family members of Air Force employees couldn't look at Wikileaks without risking espionage charges!
"If a family member of an Air Force employee accesses WikiLeaks on a home computer, the family member may be subject to prosecution for espionage under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 793. The Air Force member would have an obligation to safeguard the information under the general guidance to safeguard classified information."
The Air Force has since said that this policy, at least as it relates to family members, was in error.
"Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) recently published an internal news story that discussed the implications of downloading presumed classified information from WikiLeaks or other sources," says Lt. Col. Richard L. Johnson of the Air Force Press Desk. "The release was in error in many respects and has been removed from the AFMC website. The Air Force has provided guidance to military members and employees to avoid downloading what could be classified information into Air Force unclassified networks and reminded them that publication of information does not itself constitute declassification of such information. The Air Force guidance did not address family members who are not Air Force members or employees, nor does it apply to personally owned computers."
Hina Shamsi, director of the ACLU's national security project, says, "Government censorship of the Internet and the press is never the right approach." She adds: "The government should not be punishing or threatening to punish its employees for accessing information on their private computers that's generally available to the entire world."
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