Schools warn students not to look at WikiLeaks if they want a government job

Alexis Levinson Political Reporter
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WikiLeaks may have joined the ranks of naked pictures, drunken tweets, and pictures of you taking part in illegal activities as things that you probably shouldn’t post on your Facebook or Twitter if you’d like to get a job after graduating from school.

CNN reported today that career services at some graduate programs have been e-mailing students to advise them not to post links to any of the WikiLeaks cables if they intend to apply for a government job.

Boston University School of Law, School of Foreign Service at Georgetown University, and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA) have all e-mailed students on the subject.

“DO NOT post links to the documents or make comments on any social media sites,” wrote Maura Kelly, assistant dean for Career Development and Public Service at BU Law School, explaining that she had “received information” that this may be detrimental to students’ job prospects.

“The documents released by Wikileaks remain classified; thus, reading them, passing them on, commenting on them may be seen as a violation of Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information,” she wrote.

Columbia University’s Office of Career Services sent a similarly worded e-mail, saying that the information came by way of “a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department.” According to the letter, “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 State Department, in a Daily Press Briefing on Tuesday, expressed puzzlement as to the source of such information.

“We don’t know who that State Department official was,” said Phillip J. Crowley, assistant secretary for public affairs. “Whatever that individual passed to Columbia University is not a reflection of policy.”

“We do not control private internet access,” he added. “We do not control private networks. We have issued no authoritative instructions to people who are not employees of the Department of State.”

At Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School, Elizabeth Donahue says that such warnings have raised some alarm among students, but that they have not necessarily heard anything from government officials or faculty.

“We’re not telling the students to do anything,” she told The Daily Caller. “We’re not advising or dictating policy. We have told students if they’re worried individually and they want to make an individual decision, not to cite something from the New York Times. But we’re not going to censor students, particularly when it comes from a reliable source.”

At John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, the reaction has been similar.

“We have not actively received any direct calls from any of the government agency to actively provide guidance,” on the issue, said Felisa Neuringer Klubes, director of communications for John Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), in a phone interview with TheDC.

SAIS has sent out no official policy on the subject, though Klubes said that such an action was “still in discussion.”

A career services advisor explained that as SAIS is solely a graduate school, many of the students have either worked in government previously or currently do. As a result, he said, he is telling many students with concerns to go speak to their government employer. First and foremost, however, he said he is “making sure they’re well educated on the claims process, the adjudication guidelines,” and well informed on the government’s policy on the “handling of information.”

To obtain government clearance, he said, they’re looking at the big picture: not only whether you have “access to information,” but “how you gain access, how you use that information.” Klubes added that this is only “one aspect that they look at” in determining whether or not to give someone clearance. The decision is ultimately based on a “full composite of a person.”

On Monday, Columbia sent an e-mail to students, backtracking somewhat from its original statement. According to CNN, the new e-mail expressed the right of students to “discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens.”