Pentagon, state department tighten information controls following Wikileaks disclosure
Officials at the Pentagon and the State Department have ordered a tightening of procedures to prevent future leaks of secret and sensitive information, like the one that resulted in a series of revelations by the activist website WikiLeaks.
The Pentagon policy, announced Sunday, orders the deactivation of the "write" capability on all computers on the defense department's classified network and limits the number of computers that can be used to transfer data from the secret domain into the open. The orders require that two people be involved in any such move to ensure it has been properly authorized.
They also require the development of "procedures to monitor and detect suspicious, unusual or anomalous user behavior." That includes accelerating the process of installing monitoring software on all secure computers, 40 percent of which do not now have such software.
Pentagon Spokesman Marine Corps Colonel David Lapan says the moves are designed to add formal procedures and technological controls to what largely has been a system based on trust.
"What's different is that it uses technology and puts tools in place," said Colonel Lapan. "Previously, it had been through human processes that people were aware of what was going on, that there was oversight of these different facilities where information is being kept. And clearly, there were failures there."
The Pentagon's moves come after the publication of a third collection of documents by WikiLeaks on Sunday. The first two installments were Pentagon documents. The latest involves a quarter of a million State Department diplomatic cables. They include revelations about Iran's nuclear and missile programs as well as Arab views on those and many other confidential bits of information.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has been contacting her counterparts around the world to minimize embarrassment and damage to diplomatic relations. She said Monday that she has also ordered a tightening of procedures, and indicated she may limit the number of cables that are shared with the defense department, where the leak occurred.
"I have directed that specific actions be taken at the State Department in addition to new security safeguards at the Department of Defense and elsewhere to protect State Department information so that this kind of breach cannot and does not ever happen again," said Hillary Clinton.
Clinton said those responsible will be prosecuted.
The U.S. Army has arrested an enlisted soldier, Private First Class Bradley Manning, who allegedly provided the material to WikiLeaks. Pentagon spokesman Lapan said the ongoing investigation could identify other people who might be responsibile for the disclosure, as well as commanders who might be found to have been too lax in enforcing rules and monitoring Manning's alleged activities.
Lapan stressed that the Pentagon is working to make its secret information system more secure.
"I wouldn't say that it's vulnerable, but I would also not guarantee [it], again, because you are talking about individuals," he said. "Only so many procedures can be put into place to monitor and to safeguard information. Ultimately, it's the responsibility of individuals to follow those."
Lapan says that's why enhanced training for people who have access to secrets is also part of the plan. The colonel repeated a point often made by senior officials - that they want to make as much material as widely available as possible, within the secret domain, to ensure that significance key pieces of information are not missed.
"The larger question is that balance," said Lapan. "Where's the balance in sharing information widely, so that it can be useful but not creating, you know, problems by sharing it too widely?"
Lapan says the Pentagon believes WikiLeaks has another 15,000 documents related to Afghanistan, which it could publish at any time. He says officials think they know what information the group has, but he would not talk about it.
Officials have repeatedly called on WikiLeaks to return the secret material. WikiLeaks says the secret reports should be made public in the interest of "transparency" and "justice."VOANews