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MoD halfheartedly blocks Wikileaker 'dissidents'

More likely to be bin-diving crusties, actually

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The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has made a not-very-serious attempt to block access by its staff to Wikileaks, apparently in response to uploads of not-very-significant material by "dissidents", possibly within the Ministry itself.

The Guardian reports today on the matter, pointing out that large numbers of MoD documents have been uploaded to Wikileaks. However, none of them appear to be marked higher than "Restricted".

In theory there's a lower marking than "Restricted" - namely "Unclas" - but in fact "Unclas" is seldom used. The default setting for MoD written material is Restricted, no matter how unimportant it may be. A document marked Restricted can be shown to or discussed with one's family; it doesn't have to be shredded when being thrown away; you can copy or reproduce it without any approval or records. It isn't really restricted at all.

As a general rule of thumb, leaked or otherwise obtained MoD documents are only of any interest if marked "Secret" or above, ideally with some caveats added such as "UK/US Eyes Only" (Something marked NATO Secret, for instance, isn't usually a secret at all.) Wikileaks is down as of the time of writing - a result of lack of cash, apparently, rather than any action by the MoD - so it's difficult to check, but there's no suggestion that any such real MoD secrets have been uploaded.

Nonetheless, according to the internal emails FOIA'd out of the MoD by the Gruan, unnamed Ministry officials got their knickers in a mild twist after finding out how much stuff had been uploaded.

"There are thousands of things on here, I literally mean thousands," wrote one, referring to "Restricted" documents.

The Graun cites a couple of uploaded manuals, one on counterinsurgency methods to be used in Iraq and one on ISTAR (Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance). After a trawl, the broadsheet unearthed the following quotes:

Feel free to return a hug or kiss on the cheek, initiated by an Iraqi man. This is a sign of friendship, not homosexuality.

Immediate incapacitation of the suicide bomber, using lethal force, is likely to be the only means of stopping him.

Irritated by the revelation of such top-level info, the MoD instructed BT to block access from its UK network to Wikileaks' main server in Sweden and to the wikileaks.org domain. This is obviously not going to stop a determined leaker, but then the documents cited are scarcely evidence that the MoD has any such in its ranks.

"Wikileaks has many alternative names," a site rep told the paper. "MoD site blocking has not prevented dissident MoD staff providing us with material exposing the UK involvement in Iraq and elsewhere."

You have to say that these "dissidents" aren't terribly discriminating about what they upload, though. It's almost as though they were people unaware how insignificant a Restricted header is - not MoD people at all, in fact. Remember, you can find such documents unshredded in bins around any military base by the ton. Servicemen and civil servants can lose them or even give them away without fear of repercussions.

The MoD's halfhearted "block" seems unlikely to have any effect on the appearance of such stuff on Wikileaks. But anti-war activists busily toiling away over their hot scanners might like to take pity on Wikileaks' overstretched budget, and on time-pressed journos looking for the jewels buried under the piles of uploaded dross. ®

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