Circulating WikiLeaks may affect candidacy for government jobs

| Editor in Chief

Students seeking jobs with the federal government may be at a disadvantage if they’ve used social media sites to comment on or post links to classified State Department documents released by WikiLeaks, according to emails sent out last month by several schools’ career service offices.

But though several U.S. agencies have warned their employees that reading the classified documents puts them at risk of losing their jobs, no one from the federal government has explicitly stated that reading, circulating or commenting on WikiLeaks content could hurt students applying for first-time jobs.

The emails sent at each school, including Boston University’s School of Law, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, claimed to be sent at the recommendation of an alumnus.

WikiLeaks, an international non-profit organization that publishes submissions of private, secret, and classified media from anonymous news sources and leaks, has published classified reports in venues as public as the front page of the New York Times.

But since WikiLeaks documents are still classified in the eyes of the federal government, reading and distributing these documents is a violation of Executive Order 13526, which concerns classified national security information.

Many continue to question the government’s judgment in its continued treatment of WikiLeaks as classified information.

“This is a case of technology outstripping conventionally accepted practices, and to some extent, the current legal system,” said Ewan Harrison, a lecturer in foreign policy at the University.

Mark Smith, director of the Career Center, said that students should be careful about how they use social media. Still, Smith said, the documents’ omnipresence means that it would be highly difficult for the federal government to actively penalize any student applying for a government job who has been exposed to WikiLeaks.

“They’re getting re-printed in the paper…it’s hard to avoid this stuff. The crime is reading something that’s a classified document, but does that make it a crime to read the New York Times?” Smith said.

Sophomore Anna Appelbaum, a former White House intern, pointed to the irony that the best candidates for government jobs might be the students most interested in keeping up with American foreign policy, including what is revealed in the documents that WikiLeaks has exposed.

“[The government] should be looking for people who are interested in and aware of what’s going on around them. Reading WikiLeaks may simply mean being aware of the news as it breaks. If a student isn’t interested…that’s a better reason not to hire them,” Appelbaum said.

Smith said that the need to be careful about social media use shouldn’t be news to students applying for government jobs.

“I don’t see [viewing WikiLeaks] being that big of a deal. No one’s been clear that that would disqualify you,” Smith said. “I’m much more concerned about what I see students posting on their Facebook pages and the pictures they put up than I am about them reading WikiLeaks.”

Smith encouraged students to come to the Career Center if they have any questions about how reading WikiLeaks could affect their job applications.

  • I agree reading Wikileaks in any format should not constitute a crime. Also saying your opinion on Wikileaks on the Internet, in blogs, on forums or whereever you choose should not be considered a crime or disqualification either. In America, we have the freedom of speech which should be protected by the government, not violated. We should use the civil service system created under the Penalton Act and pick who is most qualified, not pick them depending on their views.