USAF Issues WikiLeaks Contamination Warning for Civ-Mil Members, Spouses and Young’Uns, then Walks Back

Well, now, we’ve warned you here about going blind if you read WikiLeaks, didn’t we? Now apparently, if you’re in the Air Force Material Command and you read it at work or in your personal computer at home, you could be charged with espionage under the Espionage Act.  And not only that, if your spouse and kids read WikiLeaks, they, too, could be charged with espionage under the Espionage Act.

Okay, we can understand if they ban their civilian and military personnel from that evil, evil, website. But whose sparkling legal mind help them write this guidelines to include family members?  

This is much too early for April Fools. But apparently this is real and official:

To assist the Air Force Materiel Command workforce, the command’s legal and communication experts identified the key guidelines: DO NOT access the WikiLeaks information on government or personal computers; DO treat the leaked material like any other content assumed to be classified.
According to AFMC’s legal office, Air Force members — military or civilian — may not legally access WikiLeaks at home on their personal, non-governmental computers, either.

“To do so [on a government or personal computer] would not only violate the SECAF guidance on this issue, a violation of which subjects the violator to prosecution for dereliction of duty or for engaging in prejudicial/service discrediting conduct, it would also subject the violator to prosecution for violation of espionage under the Espionage Act,” they said.

Also according to the legal office, “if a family member of an Air Force employee accesses WikiLeaks on a home computer, the family member may be subject to prosecution for espionage under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 793. The Air Force member would have an obligation to safeguard the information under the general guidance to safeguard classified information.”

Spencer Ackerman of Danger Room has more details here, including an update from an Air Force spokesman who told Josh Gerstein of Politico that the legal guidance is now under review:

“We were just trying to give guidance to military and civilian servicemembers and employees to control their young’uns.”

Control the young’uns? Oh, dear.  What’s this world coming to? Next thing you know, somebody’s going to ban pregnant women from going anywhere near any computer that may/may be able to connect to WikiLeaks. The baby, you see, might get contaminated.

On Feb 8, 2011 10:18:24 EST, the Air Force Times reported that the Air Force is backing off the threat by one of its major commands to pursue espionage charges for airmen who access classified documents on WikiLeaks.

“The release was not previously coordinated with Headquarters Air Force and has been removed from the AFMC website,” spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Johnson wrote in an e-mail to reporters.

On the threat that “If a family member of an Air Force employee accesses WikiLeaks on a home computer, the family member may be subject to prosecution for espionage under U.S. Code Title 18 Section 793″ the spokesman had this to say:

“The Air Force guidance did not address family members who are not Air Force members or employees,” he wrote. “The Air Force defers to the Department of Justice in all non-military matters related to WikiLeaks.”

Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News yesterday called this “a breathtaking claim that goes far beyond any previous reading of the espionage statutes” in a posting on the FAS website.

He also cited William J. Bosanko, director of the Information Security Oversight Office who said “That has to be one of the worst policy/legal interpretations I have seen in my entire career.” 

Okay, so several somebodies will be counting paperclips for a while?