WikiLeaks job scare

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The WikiLeaks job scare was an incident in November 2010 which was indirectly caused by the US diplomatic cables Wikileaks leak. An alumnus State Department employee wrote an email to SIPA's Office of Career Services on November 30 warning students that open discussion of the cables on the internet could disqualify them from future government employment, as it would indicate an inability to handle directives relating to confidential information. The OSC then made the decision to relay this information to its SIPA students.[1]

OSC's Email

The full email read as follows:

“Office of Career Services”
Date: November 30, 2010 15:26:53 EST
To: [redacted]

Hi students,

We received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. He asked us to pass along the following information to anyone who will be applying for jobs in the federal government, since all would require a background investigation and in some instances a security clearance. The documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with >confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.

Office of Career Services

One Bwog commenter reacted by noting that it would be a compliment to be considered incapable of keeping information confidential by the State Department, consider its own ineptitude in that matter.

SIPA's Response

In the ensuing media dust storm, the Huffington Post prominently displayed an image of Alma Mater being muffled by duct tape crossed over her mouth,[2]. After taking fire on multiple fronts, SIPA repudiated the State Department employee's email. In an official communication to students on December 6, Dean John Coatsworth noted that it would be contrary to SIPA's mission to discourage discussion of the cables:

Dear SIPA Community,

Last Tuesday, SIPA’s Office of Career Services received a call from a former student currently employed by the U.S. Department of State who pointed out that the U.S. government documents released during the past few months through WikiLeaks are still considered classified. The caller suggested that students who will be applying for federal jobs that require background checks avoid posting links to these documents or making comments about them on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter.

OCS emailed this cautionary suggestion to students, as it has done many times with other information that could be helpful in seeking employment after graduation. We know that many students today share a great deal about their lives online and that employers may use that information when evaluating their candidacy. Subsequent news stories have indicated that the Department of State has issued guidelines for its own employees, but has not issued any guidelines for prospective employees.

Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution. Thus, SIPA’s position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences. The WikiLeaks documents are accessible to SIPA students (and everyone else) from a wide variety of respected sources, as are multiple means of discussion and debate both in and outside of the classroom.

Should the U.S. Department of State issue any guidelines relating to the WikiLeaks documents for prospective employees, SIPA will make them available immediately.

John H. Coatsworth

SIPA Professor Gary Sick went so far as to label any SIPA student who had not sought out cables relevant to their area of study "undeserving" of their degree.[3]