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White House forbids feds from reading WikiLeaked cables

Everyone else on earth can read them. But they're still classified

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The epic collection of classified US documents exposed by WikiLeaks over the past several weeks offer little more than good gossip. But watching the response to Julian Assange and his whistle-blowing website is wonderfully entertaining.

The latest act in the worldwide WikiLeaks comedy: on Friday, the White House told federal employees and contractors that they're not allowed to read classified federal documents posted to WikiLeaks unless they have the proper security clearance. This rule applies when they're using government machines or their own personal computers.

As reported by CNN, the White House Office of Management and Budget sent a memo to the general counsels of various government agencies saying that the publishing of classified documents to WikiLeaks does "not alter the documents' classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents."

"To the contrary, classified information, whether or not already posted on public websites or disclosed to the media remains classified, and must be treated as such by federal employees and contractors, until it is declassified by an appropriate U.S. Government authority," the memo read.

Asked if employees and contractors could lose their jobs if they visit WikiLeaks, a White House spokeswoman told CNN: "Any breaches of protocols governing access to classified material are subject to applicable sanctions under long-standing and existing law."

But the memo does have its limits. It doen't bar employees and contractors from reading news articles about the WikiLeaked US State Department cables, and it doesn't instruct agencies to block access to WikiLeaks.

Not that this has stopped the Department of Defense and the Library of Congress. Both have blocked access to the site on their own.

Meanwhile, PayPal has shut the account that WikiLeaks used to take donations, saying that the site violated its terms of service. Last week, Amazon shut down WikiLeaks server mirrors on its AWS hosting service, and EveryDNS cut off WikiLeaks DNS service. Amazon claims its decision was not in response to a government inquiry, while EveryDNS said it booted WikiLeaks because of heavy DDoS attacks directed at the site. ®

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