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WikiLeaks’ Aftermath: Big Chill on Information Sharing?

Image: wikileaks.org, Stephen Orsillo, acus.org

In the wake of WikiLeaks’ latest disclosures – the potential publication of more than 250,000 secret State Department diplomatic cables, Obama administration officials are vowing it won’t happen again.

But, the thought of a post-WikiLeaks clampdown has some observers predicting a possible chill for information sharing in the federal government.

Following WikiLeaks’ latest round of releases, which revealed sensitive and often unflattering portrayals and critical assessments of foreign leaders, “the challenge of containing sensitive data while fostering intergovernmental collaboration looms larger than ever,” Nextgov reports.

Former intelligence and Justice Department officials told Nextgov that using technology to limit leaking would not likely be enough to stop someone intent on stealing information, or what one expert called the “human factor.”

“You can try things like banning the use of external devices,” said former staff director of the House Homeland Security Committee Jessica R. Herrera-Flanigan. But there is also “the human factor that you can’t avoid if you’re relying on people to help you,” she added.

Since the 9/11 Commission’s recommendations, defense and intelligence officials have worked to implement better information-sharing, which the commission noted was lacking. But now, the Pentagon says those efforts have backfired, because it made it easier for people on the inside to steal sensitive information.

Since the first major WikiLeaks data dump in July, DoD has put security safeguards in place, for example, making it more difficult to move data to removable storage devices. Pfc. Bradley Manning, whom the Army accuses of being the site’s source for the first set of leaks, is alleged to have downloaded the data onto a homemade Lady Gaga CD.

DoD is also taking a number of steps on the tech front to stop unauthorized data disclosures, including assessing its networks and restricting authorizations to move data from classified to unclassified areas.

Meanwhile, the recently installed head of the Office of Management and Budget Jacob “Jack” Lew issued a memo Nov. 28 directing agency heads to establish security teams to review procedures for protecting sensitive information, according to a report on Computerworld.

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