Searches for “WikiLeaks” in the public search engine for the US National Archives have been blocked, according to a posting at Cryptome.org. Any search containing the word “WikiLeaks (like “Congress” and “WikiLeaks”) turns up an error message.
WikiLeaks reacted on Twitter, “The US National Archives has literally turned into Orwell’s Ministry of Truth.” In another more vivid message, “The US state is literally eating its own brain by censoring its own collective memories about WikiLeaks.” And, in another message, “The US National Archives censoring searches for its records containing the word ‘WikiLeaks’ is absolutely absurd.”
It is unknown when the Archives began blocking searches, but the United States government did adopt a generally accepted and understood policy of censorship back in December 2010 when the US State Embassy cables were being released.
The Library of Congress (LOC) blocked access to WikiLeaks on its computer system, including computers used by patrons in reading rooms. As a result of a recommendation by the White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB), they claimed to be following “applicable law” that required them to “protect classified information.” They went along with the absurd notion the US government was propagating—that “unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.”
This act by the government led the American Library Association (ALA) to write an open letter to US government officials, where the association of librarians condemned “government actors,” who had “made official and unofficial statements casting doubt on the right of government employees and others to download, read, or even discuss documents published by Wikileaks or news reporting based on those documents.” The ALA suggested this policy violated the First Amendment rights of Internet users to receive information.
Steven Aftergood of Secrecy News reported this would complicate the work of employees of the Congressional Research Service, a “component” of the LOC. One CRS analyst said, “The information was released illegally, and it’s not right for government agencies to be aiding and abetting this illegal dissemination. But the information is out there. Presumably, any Library of Congress researcher who wants to access the information that Wikileaks illegally released will simply use their home computers or cellphones to do so.” [*Note: WikiLeaks did not release or publish documents illegally, as they had a right as a media organization to publish.] More