Magazine article American Libraries

Federal Ban of WikiLeaks Website Embroils Library of Congress

Magazine article American Libraries

Federal Ban of WikiLeaks Website Embroils Library of Congress

Article excerpt

The Library of Congress confirmed December 3 that it had blocked access from all LC computers to the WikiLeaks website in order to prevent unauthorized downloading of classified records. The action raised red flags in libraries all over the country as librarians struggled with the implications of the nation's library barring staff and visitors' access to the classified diplomatic cables WikiLeaks released in November.

"The news media are reportingto-day, accurately, that the Library of Congress is blocking access to the Wikileaks site across its computer systems, including those for use by patrons in the reading rooms," said LC spokesperson Matt Raymond. "The Library decided to block WikiLeaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information."

Three days later, Secrecy News Editor Steven Aftergood observed, "Since the Congressional Research Service is a component of the Library, this means that CRS researchers will be unable to access or to cite the leaked materials in their research reports to Congress. Several current and former CRS analysts expressed perplexity and dismay about the move, and they said it could undermine the institution's research activities."

"It's a difficult situation," one unidentified CRS analyst told After-good. "The information was released illegally, and it's not right for government agencies to be aiding and abetting this illegal dissemination. But the information is out there. Presumably, any Library of Congress researcher who wants to access the information that WikiLeaks illegally released will simply use their home computers or cell phones to do so. Will they be able to refer directly to the information in their writings for the Library? Apparently not, unless a secondary source, like a newspaper, happens to have already cited it."

Addressing concerns raised by the governing Council of the American Library Association, ALA Executive Director Keith Michael Fiels issued a statement explaining that the decision to block online access to WikiLeaks would be added to the Midwinter Meeting discussion agenda in San Diego January 7-11 (see preview beginning on page 52).

"The Committee on Legislation (COL) and the Intellectual Freedom Committee (IFC) are reviewing the issues associated with WikiLeaks' ongoing disclosure of large numbers of classified United States government documents, including the decision by the Library of Congress and other government agencies to block online access to the WikiLeaks website," Fiels explained. …

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