Broadcasting board decides Voice of America can peruse WikiLeak documents

Al Kamen reports that,

Some new members of the Broadcasting Board of Governors were most upset by a column item last Wednesday noting that the IT and security folks at the International Broadcasting Bureau had instructed Voice of America employees to not read or e-mail any of the WikiLeaks material on their government computers (bit of a blow to original reporting).

The issue was apparently that the infrastructure component of the BBG, the International Broadcasting Bureau, or IBB, was dictating the rules of the game to VOA journalists. Fortunately, the brand new Board members authorized the Director of the VOA to “proceed with reporting on the disclosure of classified documents available on the WIkileaks website in a manner that is consistent with the VOA Charter and the BBG’s statutory mission, and to balance this effort with due consideration for the laws and executive orders” on using classified information.

Likely the IBB will take a more appropriate stance in the near future when Dick Lobo, the proposed new director, is confirmed.

See also Kim Elliott’s comments that RFE/RL, a surrogate station not under IBB, was able to report on Wikileaks without constraint.

2 Replies to “Broadcasting board decides Voice of America can peruse WikiLeak documents”

  1. You blogger guys continue to miss the story by continuing to re-print each other’s not-very-good work.Doesn’t anybody ask the “why” anymore? I thought that was part of journalism 101.
    The reason that VOA journalists were constrained in the Wikileaks situation is that they are federal employees with security clearances in play.
    The mistake here is in believing that the classified documents have somehow become unclassified documents or have become part of the public domain, just because they were leaked.
    They have not. They are classified secret documents.
    Any person trafficking in classified secret documents is in violation of the Espionage Act, and any federal employee doing the same is also in violation of Executive Order. The RFE/RL employees, as a grantee organization, fall under this Executive Order as well. They are not immune, and their legal team should know this.
    There was never a gag order on reporting the story. The problem was whether or not employees could download the classified documents from Wikileaks on government computers.
    If they do, they risk losing their security clearances and then likely, their jobs. Everyone in the newsroom knows this. It was part of the deal when they took a government job.
    There are dozens of angles to this story would allow reporting without actually having to peruse the documents. VOA could and did start there.
    It’s a fascinating conundrum and well worth debate. But let’s at least get the story right, so we all know what we’re debating.
    Also, do yourself a favor and stop re-printing or linking to Kim Elliott. He’s not a journalist.

  2. Anonymous,Your answer is confusing. If the constraint was the Espionage Act, you’re suggesting the Board gave staff a waiver, which is of course impossible. What then was the reason for the BBG to authorize “the Director of the Voice of America to proceed with reporting on the disclosure of classified documents available on the WikiLeaks website in a manner that is consistent with the VOA Charter and the BBG’s statutory mission, and to balance this effort with due consideration for the laws and executive orders applicable to the use, disclosure, and transmission of classified information by federal employees”, according to the BBG, if not to undue a self-imposed restriction?

Comments are closed.