Why the Library of Congress Is Blocking Wikileaks

The news media are reporting today, accurately, that the Library of Congress is blocking access to the Wikileaks site across its computer systems, including those for use by patrons in the reading rooms.

I wanted to provide here the same statement we’ve been giving to reporters and patrons who are asking about it:

“The Library decided to block Wikileaks because applicable law obligates federal agencies to protect classified information.  Unauthorized disclosures of classified documents do not alter the documents’ classified status or automatically result in declassification of the documents.”

The White House’s Office of Management and Budget today provided the guidance that “[f]ederal agencies collectively, and each federal employee and contractor individually, are obligated to protect classified information pursuant to all applicable laws, as well as to protect the integrity of government information technology systems.”

190 Comments

  1. Michael Karp
    December 3, 2010 at 6:42 pm

    Thank you for clarifying your position on this very important issue. I now understand the reasons for your action; although I disagree with the policy in the case of already “leaked” material, I agree that you had to adhere to it… It is a relief to not feel at odds with the admirable Library of Congress.

  2. Sara Busse
    December 3, 2010 at 6:44 pm

    Bravo to the Library of Congress! Wikileaks is wrong, and you are not going down that illegal path!

  3. Max Axiom
    December 3, 2010 at 7:06 pm

    bad move. you can’t actually block it. there’s hundreds of domains. now you just look bad for trying.

  4. jessamyn
    December 3, 2010 at 7:28 pm

    Good luck doing this with the rest of the entire internet. I am curious to see how this plays out overall.

  5. John Smith
    December 3, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    Will the library be blocking access to the New York Times website and other websites that have published this classified information?

  6. Kevin Fitzpatrick
    December 3, 2010 at 8:03 pm

    While the cat is certainly out of the bag, the position of the LOC in blocking access in this case is completely reasonable. Anyone wishing to find the released information will have no real difficulty in doing so. That does not however mean that we the taxpayer need make it easier by providing that access.

  7. sadpanda
    December 3, 2010 at 8:11 pm

    @Max Axiom That may be, but they’re still legally obligated to try.

  8. roberto rincon paz
    December 3, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    While the investigations continue, I do agree that no Federal Government Agency shoul disclose further new information nor should mess and leave alone instead the information already leaked!

  9. J Parker
    December 3, 2010 at 8:16 pm

    Cowards.

    Please review the ALA Code of Ethics, point 2, which states “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.”

    http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/proethics/codeofethics/codeethics.cfm

  10. bob
    December 3, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    This action is embarrassing. An affront to the hard-earned reputation of librarians as defenders of our democracy and soldiers for the First Amendment. Please develop some courage. Efforts to keep information from citizens in a democracy do not fair well.

  11. Max
    December 3, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    Intruiging that the management of a library so full of knowledge and wisdom can make such a stupid decision. I’m sure you have a first print of Thoreau’s “Civil Disobedience” somewhere. Perhaps it’s an idea to pick it up and read it?

  12. Melinda
    December 3, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Thank you for blocking Wikileaks. Anything that could lead to dangering lives and the illegal release of government docs should be blocked.

  13. Judith Brown
    December 3, 2010 at 8:32 pm

    We rely on libraries and librarians to do their part to protect free speech and access to information. You have failed, again, but you are part of the federal autocracy and must adhere to its policies. Please be aware that censorship will become even more pervasive.

  14. J. Kemp
    December 3, 2010 at 8:33 pm

    “Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment.”

    Intellectual freedom and access to information are fundamental principles of librarianship. To see the Library of Congress so easily abandon them is a disgrace. You should be ashamed.

  15. A librarian
    December 3, 2010 at 8:40 pm

    Vision Statement of the Library of Congress

    We will foster a free and informed society by building, preserving and providing resources for human creativity, wisdom and achievement. We continually strive to place these resources at the fingertips of the American people, their elected representatives and the world for their mutual prosperity, enlightenment and inspiration.

    Shame on you! This decision is in direct contradiction with what you stand for.

  16. Xurxo Martínez
    December 3, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    Are you blocking the New York Times too? Obviously you can block whatever page you feel like, but what you have exposed are not reasons, just excuses.

  17. Phil Seymour
    December 3, 2010 at 8:44 pm

    It is kind of sad. Wikileaks shows that the emperor has no clothes, and to appear patriotic, we must pretend that we didn’t see the naked truth.

    Not only that, but there are some people who want to punish the kid for pointing out the emperors indecent exposure.

  18. LIS Student
    December 3, 2010 at 8:49 pm

    This is a disappointing and craven development: “Congress shall pass no law …”

  19. gregorylent
    December 3, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    yet another example of how china is leading the world, and america following.

  20. John Gilmore
    December 3, 2010 at 8:56 pm

    First run around claiming the sky is falling. Then bury your heads in the sand. Seems like the Feds are taking their cues from children’s fables. Wake up, you’re adults, and some of you even have spinal columns. This information is OUT, and official censorship is not going to stuff it back under the covers.

    If the cables get printed in a book, will the Library refuse to keep a copy of the book? Or refuse to let Congressmen see the book without proper clearances? Or are books exempt from censorship at the Library, while websites are not?

    PS: The vast majority of the material isn’t even classified. Get a grip on reality.

    PPS: Most libraries and librarians abhor censorship. By contrast, you’re part of the corrupt US Federal Government, which in theory has to follow the First Amendment, so: you embrace censorship. Hopelessly corrupt.

  21. BradC
    December 3, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Most of the government response to Wikileaks so far has only seemed political or foolish. This is the first thing I’ve seen that seems really dangerous. Someone at the Library of Congress needs to hire some lawyers and fight this. It’s bad enough that the situation is eroding the public trust in politicians, don’t let it do the same to the Library of Congress.

  22. skdadl
    December 3, 2010 at 9:06 pm

    Shameful. In years to come, this will go down as a shameful failure of the Library to uphold and defend its foundational principles against paranoid politics.

  23. Chris Ronk
    December 3, 2010 at 9:10 pm

    Ditto Max Axiom. And does the Library not also have an obligation to protect First Amendment values, if not the letter of the First Amendment, (which is arguably violated in strictly legal terms by this act)? Is the Library suggesting that the First Amendment is not implicated here? One would have thought that the quintessential Library would be out in front of this issue on the side of the right to know and to speak freely without government censorship, even if it goes under a fancy name like “classification.” What would Thomas Jefferson say about this?

  24. Mr. Gunn
    December 3, 2010 at 9:34 pm

    You’re not protecting classified information by blocking a small subset of links to the information. You’re also setting a dangerous precedent in complying with this ill-considered request because you don’t have any duty to do this. Do you not remember all the nonsense about blocking access from public libraries that happened back in the early Bush years? Expect it to get 10 times worse, and you won’t be able to take a stand against it.

  25. Jack
    December 3, 2010 at 9:53 pm

    So you’ll be blocking the NYTimes too, as it published classified info all the time, and in particular classified info from wikileaks.

  26. Patricia Wolf
    December 3, 2010 at 9:57 pm

    I am glad that you are doing that. We want good reliable information.

  27. Mike G.
    December 3, 2010 at 10:03 pm

    Thank you, Matt, for bringing this out into the open.

    Blocking one of the many sites that contain the leaked information does not protect classified information; it merely blocks the sites on a very small number of computers. Would closing the door on a farmhouse protect the chickens that just escaped the coop?

    I appreciate that LC was under immense pressure to do *something*. Ultimately, though, this action was completely ineffective — the information’s still out there, and being mirrored and copied hourly, so exactly *who* have you protected from *what*? — and it’s generated significant ill will towards your institution.

    This move by LC is about nothing other than a well-known D.C. acronym: CYA.

  28. Erik House
    December 3, 2010 at 10:20 pm

    Where I understand that you serve two masters in this case, one the federal government, and the other the people of the United States. I just want to remind you of a few things:
    “(….)
    I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

    II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” (http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/index.cfm)

    and also “The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.

    We therefore affirm these propositions:

    It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.
    Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to know not only what we believe but why we believe it.” (http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/ftrstatement/freedomreadstatement.cfm)

    How can you be a bastion of information for the people without censorship when you allow censorship?

  29. Ali Tekbali
    December 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    Public information remains public, whether you block it or not. You are supposed to promote the right to know.
    However, this shows that sponsors are bosses.

  30. Blair Hinson
    December 3, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    As a librarian, I am all for intellectual freedom. But as an American citizen, I want legally classified information to stay safe. The LOC properly notes that to pass on illegally gained information after the fact just because “it’s already out there” is no reason to perpetuate an illegal situation.

  31. David Lee
    December 3, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Institutional censorship of any sort speaks badly about the US. The information is already out there; trying to shovel back the tide is just an embarassment for our institutions. Isn’t this the Land of the Free?

  32. Aaron Hawley
    December 3, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Will LoC be blocking every media Web site? One hopes so, because Web sites of the NY Times and such are posting these wiki leaks as well.

  33. Dan
    December 3, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I think it’s a smart decision. Bravo for Library of Congress from doing this. I don’t think it would be right for any organization to be associated with any organization that are purposefully breaking the law for any suited agenda. I hate Wikileaks and what it represents, smart move LOC!

  34. Jay Dugger
    December 3, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    This futile action, while clearly required by law, damages the institution’s reputation. Some better solution must exist, and I encourage you to find and implement it.

    I remain very disappointed in the American government’s response to inconvenient honesty. It should do better, and I will vote accordingly.

    “The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society;” –JFK

  35. JP
    December 3, 2010 at 10:47 pm

    Thank you for clarifying and for taking the correct stand, even if it’s difficult.

  36. Godfried
    December 3, 2010 at 11:04 pm

    How much integrity do you think your information system has when you’re blatantly blocking access to some of the more enlightening information in decades. People go to libraries to learn not getting misinformed in the goings of the world. And as someone already said you will just look bad for trying.

  37. Chris P.
    December 3, 2010 at 11:20 pm

    Does the LoC have to block news media reporting on the leaked classified documents as well?

  38. Michael Barton
    December 3, 2010 at 11:28 pm

    Most employees with the exception perhaps of CRS would not need this material as part of their work but does this really stop employees from reading the material ? Of course not, they can use personal computers or mobile phones. It does effect users of the Library who expect access to information. To stick your head in the sand, pretending that the defacto declassification hasn’t happened is ludicrous.

    All this action does is to demonstrate how bloody minded and illogical the management of the Library is. It is a shame.

  39. Christopher Froehlich
    December 3, 2010 at 11:40 pm

    Doubleplusgood.

  40. Ellie
    December 4, 2010 at 12:13 am

    “Wikileaks is wrong, and you are not going down that illegal path!”

    “Wrong” and “illegal” aren’t one in the same.

  41. Ellie
    December 4, 2010 at 12:15 am

    “Wikileaks is wrong, and you are not going down that illegal path!”

    “Wrong” and “illegal” aren’t one in the same; however, and also speaking as a librarian, I understand the LC’s position and adherence to the law.

  42. Chris Ronk
    December 4, 2010 at 12:41 am

    What would Thomas Jefferson say?

  43. Gordon DeSpain
    December 4, 2010 at 12:43 am

    I’m glad to see that the Library of Congress is blocking it, but, I hadn’t considered why this must be so. I work for a Government Contractor, and, though I have read some of the Leaked documents on various websites, I never thought of going to the main website.

    However, not because it is classified information, just that no matter where I look it’s the main topic of conversation. I don’t think it’s blocked on this Company Computer, but, I haven’t tried to access the website, so, it’s a moot point.

    But, your absolutely ‘on point’ with your decision because theft is not defacto declassification.

  44. Foreheadslap
    December 4, 2010 at 1:37 am

    That’s a typical genius federal government move. News flash: the cat’s already out of the bag, folks. This is imbecilic.

  45. Joe
    December 4, 2010 at 1:43 am

    Transparency in government unless it embarrasses the government. The Library of Congress should ideally be above politics yet your budget depends on a very political Congress agreeing to fund it – so this is very disappointing but in the face of how our democracy truly works (i.e., it does not benefit you if you are not wealthy or powerful), this sadly is the reality our Republic faces. I wonder if the Founding Fathers would have been perfectly OK with this or aghast at it?

  46. John Galt
    December 4, 2010 at 2:09 am

    Shame on the Library of Congress for restricting access to this important information resource.

    What next? Will LC pull the Pentagon Papers from the stacks and burn them with all the other banned books in a bonfire in the main reading room?

    The ALA Library Bill of Rights says that:

    Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval. Libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment. Libraries should cooperate with all persons and groups concerned with resisting abridgment of free expression and free access to ideas.

    How can LC abandon these core principles so easily? Shame, shame, shame!

  47. Sam
    December 4, 2010 at 2:23 am

    This is sad for Americans. Perhaps the days when libraries were considered beacons of democracy that upheld the right to freedom of information are coming to a close. I can’t help but wonder what the next type of information will be that is blocked to US citizens. I hope that the LOC is not a sign of things to come for all libraries.

  48. Michael
    December 4, 2010 at 2:45 am

    So I assume you will also block The New York Times websites, along with other news outlets which have also published protected classified information?

  49. Bob
    December 4, 2010 at 2:53 am

    This will ensure that the poor people who can only get Internet access in a Library continue to be disadvantaged with regards to access to information and remain in the dark about things that citizens deserve to know.

    This 30-year old quote from a Supreme Court Justice seems fitting for the moment:

    “In the First Amendment, the Founding Fathers gave the free press the protection it must have to fulfill its essential role in our democracy. The press was to serve the governed, not the governors. The Government’s power to censor the press was abolished so that the press would remain forever free to censure the Government.

    The press was protected so that it could bare the secrets of government and inform the people. Only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government.

    And paramount among the responsibilities of a free press is the duty to prevent any part of the government from deceiving the people and sending them off to distant lands to die of foreign fevers and foreign shot and shell. In my view, far from deserving condemnation for their courageous reporting, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and other newspapers should be commended for serving the purpose that the Founding Fathers saw so clearly.

    In revealing the workings of government that led to the Vietnam war, the newspapers nobly did precisely that which the Founders hoped and trusted they would do.”

    (Justice Black in NY Times Co vs United States, 1971)

    Just some food for thought.

  50. A. Brock
    December 4, 2010 at 2:57 am

    You are a disgrace to America, the Constitution, and the freedom of speech and information that was once guaranteed to all Americans.

    I respect neither your actions nor your blind obedience to illegitimate authority.

    Resign now in partial disgrace, or remain in total disgrace.

    Or move to a different dictatorship.

    A. Brock, Ashamed American

  51. Michael Fischer
    December 4, 2010 at 3:14 am

    My understanding is that once former secrets have been made public, the information is no longer subject to the law because it is no longer secret.

    Is the LoC similarly blocking (for example) The New York Times’ website and destroying their copies of their recent issues for similar reasons? I suspect not.

  52. aaaaaa
    December 4, 2010 at 3:39 am

    No matter what happens to Assange, the truth is public and you can’t change that killing him or whatever you want to do! Wikileaks is here to stay.

  53. Lukas
    December 4, 2010 at 4:10 am

    While I understand the legal logic of blocking WikiLeaks, it still seems counterproductive. Everybody else has access to WikiLeaks. Blocking them will merely mean that your patrons lack access to information that everybody else can see, which doesn’t seem like a winning move.

  54. Russ
    December 4, 2010 at 4:15 am

    Rubbish. Do you block access to the New York Times and Washington Post when they publish leaked classified information? Like last week?

  55. Marie
    December 4, 2010 at 4:28 am

    It seems sort of silly if as the government you’re only preventing people from viewing that material while on these premises. A little late, too, and does nothing to solve the actual problem that wikileaks has created.

    Unfortunately, there’s no undoing the damage that has been done, and blocking people now won’t solve anything.

  56. name
    December 4, 2010 at 5:51 am

    Dozens of papers have also published this information, including the new York times. I assume you’ll be banning all these sites well, right?

  57. JD
    December 4, 2010 at 6:25 am

    So you are obviously blocking access to the New York Times, too?

    They have many unauthorized disclosures of this classified information.

  58. Solon
    December 4, 2010 at 7:17 am

    Wikileaks has NOT been charged with any crime whatsoever. Nor has the US gov’t declared the cables are authentic.

    Why are you setting yourself up as judge and jury on what people can read or not?

    (And if they are charged, what other “illegal” websites do you block?)

    —“protect classified information”

    Have you blocked the NYTimes, The Guardian and thousands of others newspapers yet? You just said you MUST block websites hosting that information, so what are you waiting for?

    Disgraceful and foolish. Following the exact same policies, if you were in China you’d be blocking the Dalai Lama’s website, don’t you realize that?

  59. Solon
    December 4, 2010 at 7:32 am

    The ACLU weighed in on reports of legal action by the U.S. by noting that they were “deeply skeptical” that prosecuting WikiLeaks would be constitutional, or a good idea.

    “The courts have made clear that the First Amendment protects independent third parties who publish classified information. Prosecuting WikiLeaks would be no different from prosecuting the media outlets that also published classified documents,” Hina Shamsi, the Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project said in a statement.

    “If newspapers could be held criminally liable for publishing leaked information about government practices, we might never have found out about the CIA’s secret prisons or the government spying on innocent Americans. Prosecuting publishers of classified information threatens investigative journalism that is necessary to an informed public debate about government conduct, and that is an unthinkable outcome.”

    Or as PRAVDA wrote:

    “It is the American people who should be outraged that its government has transformed a nation with a reputation for freedom, justice, tolerance and respect for human rights into a backwater that revels in its criminality, cover-ups, injustices and hypocrisies.”

  60. Peter Kelly
    December 4, 2010 at 7:37 am

    So are you blocking the New York Times’ website as well?

  61. James William
    December 4, 2010 at 7:51 am

    Sorry to see you joining the campaign against the circulation of truth and information.

  62. Paolo Murgia
    December 4, 2010 at 7:55 am

    US first library going against the First amendment. The patetic decadence of an Empire.

  63. Paolo Murgia
    December 4, 2010 at 7:59 am

    So is the library also banning from its shelves copies of this week New York Times publishing the classified documents?

  64. JB
    December 4, 2010 at 8:39 am

    Its good to know they are following the law. But can they please confirm if they have blocked access to every newspaper and blog site which has published these documents? I mean if they have to protect classified documents, they have to go all the way… Or they are also breaking the law.

  65. Jake
    December 4, 2010 at 9:03 am

    @ Sara Busse

    So we bash China for not allowing Free Speech (because to them everything is considered classified) but when it happens to us then it’s ok?

  66. Iria
    December 4, 2010 at 10:03 am

    It’s too bad; it looks like Wikileaks won’t get to take down the banks that it says it has dirt on. I would think most Americans would love to see that info.

  67. G Washington
    December 4, 2010 at 10:23 am

    Shame about that 1st Amendment….

  68. Abigail Baker
    December 4, 2010 at 10:29 am

    I am seriously disappointed in this non-library decision. I wish you had taken a stand and closed your doors rather than censor access to information.

  69. Jane Barry
    December 4, 2010 at 11:29 am

    So much for protecting our freedoms. Again you prove the nation our founding fathers created is gone forever. Big Business and slick politicians win again. Besides, why waste our tax $$$ blocking something that most people don’t even read?

  70. Eldon McMullen
    December 4, 2010 at 11:55 am

    I, a citizen of this Government. believes that the secrecy forced upon us by Our representatives Is not a healthy or nessasary action of Government. Therefore I belive that Wikileals has done us a favor.

  71. dks
    December 4, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    Matt, the statement you repeat here is absurd if not dishonest. If we take it seriously, you’d have to block access to every website that reveals classified information.

    Just two quick examples: Did the Library of Congress block access to the New York Times site when James Risen reported on the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping? Or did you block access to the Washington Post site when Dana Priest reported on our network of secret prisons?

    For that matter, Risen’s articles are still available on the NYT site — and the information therein is still classified. Are you therefore currently blocking access to the NYT site?

    If you do not have a coherent explanation for the Library’s ridiculous attempt to hide the truth — and apparently you do not — then the least you (I mean, the LC) can do is to not make things even worse by insulting our intelligence.

    Thank you.

  72. niku
    December 4, 2010 at 12:15 pm

    Didn’t the LoC start with Jefferson’s collection of books?

  73. Jim Brown
    December 4, 2010 at 12:16 pm

    Thank you, LOC, both for the clarification and for accepting responsibility to uphold the law. While I’m fully aware that the Wikileaks material is readily available through other venues, The Library of Congress — as our national repository of information and a service to this Country — by necessity must adhere to the standards and policies that we, as a Nation, have chosen to govern us all. If those standards are undesirable (censoring?), pointless (the information is readily available in the public domain), or wrong (restricting freedoms of speech and the press?), then it’s up to us to change them — or to change our representatives and administrations that develop and implement policies on our behalf.

  74. Mike Little
    December 4, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    Response to Max Axiom – the LOC is not trying to “block” it from everyone accessing it. They’re complying with Federal law by not allowing government computers to be used to download classified information into unclassified networks. Just because these documents are out there doesn’t mean they’re automatically declassified. These definitely aren’t. I work for the government also and although we haven’t been blocked we’ve received guidance not to access Wikileaks at work.

  75. Alex
    December 4, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    @Max — if this doesn’t sound too cynical, I’m not sure I’d even take the argument that they’re “trying,” only adhering to the (in this case, well-intended) “applicable law,” which is in fact enough to block patrons’ curiosity, if not their steadfastness.

  76. Diane Rossi
    December 4, 2010 at 1:26 pm

    Explanations for actions allow those who disagree to at least understand the rationale. Thanks for posting yours.

  77. wendallpauls
    December 4, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    It’s refreshing to see at least one ‘federal agency’ is acting responsible in adhering to the law that the feds have already broken themselves.

  78. solon
    December 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

    A shame you’re censoring replies to this post as well.

    You seem to have forgotten what “discussion” is.

  79. Steve
    December 4, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    Is the Library of Congress next going to block the New York Times website? The New York Times has been covering the leaked documents extensively.

  80. Concerned Citizen
    December 4, 2010 at 2:10 pm

    You can’t put the genie back in the bottle. While you may be obeying the letter of the law, and saving face with your superiors, you’re really going against the principles of truth and freedom upon which this nation was allegedly founded. If it wasn’t so scary, it would be laughable.

  81. Michael Cairns
    December 4, 2010 at 2:19 pm

    Presumably, the link will be live on the National Archives site….?

  82. KEM
    December 4, 2010 at 3:35 pm

    I’m outraged at the reaction of the LOC to Wikileaks–it’s repulsive and abhorrent that an institution such as the LOC would exhibit such behavior.

    Institutions such as Wikileaks should be supported in providing access to such information. Perhaps mistakes were made; maybe the information was obtained illegally. However, the issues at hand have nothing to do with Wikileaks–they have to do with who provided the info to Wikileaks in the first place. Prosecute the individuals providing info to Wikileaks, not Wikileaks itself.

    A news-providing institution has no obligation to compensate for failures of the government, either in terms of its diplomatic actions or information security.

    This is exactly why the US codifies protection of speech in the Constitution.

    I understand the political pressures on the LOC, but was hoping that it would have the strength to do the right thing and not cave into authoritarian pressures to violate rights to free speech.

  83. Gird_09
    December 4, 2010 at 3:59 pm

    As a fellow librarian I feel I need to say that wherever librarians turn their back on freedom of information and every citizen’s right to access ALL information affecting their lives, that librarian is not living up to his or her work ethics. We have a personal responsibility to never rest in our vigilance and always push the boundaries of information rights. Democracy is a process, not a condition. Cyber rights now!

  84. Janne Waage Berset
    December 4, 2010 at 4:21 pm

    Wikileaks said it would change the way we see the world. It has. Not so much bc of the content , but bc of the effects. People are waking up. What do we learn from government reactions? The more they try to ban and censor Wikileaks, the more we know it’s important & right. Hillary Clinton said: “countries that restrict free access to information or violate the
    basic rights of internet users risk walling themselves off from the
    progress of the next century”. But only in China mind you…not in her own country.

    These are dark and dangerous times. And if you don’t react ans speak up, you will wake up to a suffering world.

  85. Jon Wessel-Aas
    December 4, 2010 at 4:23 pm

    Does your reasoning in the case of Wikileaks’ “website” not lead to the logical conclusion that you must also block access to any website which publishes, i part or in whole, the same documents? Such as all the media websites all over the world that are currently reporting on the basis of such documents?
    And taking into account the massive spreading of the documents across the web, shouldn’t you just block access to the web in general?
    I’m sorry, but this is not only a ridiculously irrational and purely symbolic move, it also symbolizes an approach to liberal democracy whose parallel one must look to for instance China to find.

    Jon Wessel-Aas. media and human rights lawyer, Oslo, Norway.

  86. Paul
    December 4, 2010 at 4:35 pm

    Will you please also block access to the New York Times and all other media websites that are also publishing and analyzing this material? If not, why not?

  87. TQ White II
    December 4, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    Since you now allow the political branches to determine what is allowed in your collection, I guess you should change the name then to the Smithsonian Office of Propaganda.

    When will you suppress the New York Times? Their collection of Wikileaks material is quite impressive.

  88. Anna
    December 4, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    I think I hear Thomas Jefferson is calling, and he wants his books back because he still believes in the first amendment even if you don’t.

    Besides, does this sounds to any one else just little too close to the excuse that the Chinese government has for blocking “Google” sites?

    And, I guess someone should ask the age old riddle, is it still “classified” if everyone is the world now has it?

  89. billcat
    December 4, 2010 at 6:39 pm

    This is disturbing and reminiscent of Nazi Germany’s censorship. Got any more constitutional rights you’d like to trample?

    So much for openness and transparency. I guess China isn’t alone in it’s attempt to censor it’s people.

    I haven’t seen such nonsense since the McCarthy era. Be afraid, be very afraid.

  90. Steve
    December 4, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I have to agree with Max. The fact is that anyone using a “government” computer can access these documents at sites other than Wikileaks. Blocking Wikileaks doesn’t block access to the material. DOJ’s directive seems to suggest that LOC and every other government agency must begin to proactively block access to every domain (CNN, Bloomberg, ABC..etc) where said “classified” information is posted. How are you going to manage that process?

  91. Richard
    December 4, 2010 at 8:02 pm

    WikiLeaks has been displayed leaked classified documents for four years, without access to it being blocked by US federal institutions.
    By blocking it now, after leaking the diplomatic cables, it is clear that this is being done because it has directly angered the US government. And for no other reason.

  92. Dave
    December 4, 2010 at 9:43 pm

    Are you also blocking the New York Times, El Pais, Le Monde, and Der Spiegel?

    Are you blocking the Internet Archive?

    Does a site have to make the entire dump available for you to block the domain, or just one document? Presumably, given your argument, only one document is enough to get blocked. Are you blocking AP, Reuters, CNN, Fox News, ABC, CBS, NBC, etc?

    Please, follow your principles. Block all domains that reprint even a single document from this leak. Otherwise people will think you are unprincipled hypocrites.

  93. American Citizen
    December 4, 2010 at 9:47 pm

    *POOF*
    Suddenly I am in China…

  94. Jefferson
    December 4, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    Educate and inform the mass of the people…Enlighten the people generally and tyranny and oppression of the body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day…The people of every country are the only safe guardians of their own rights and are the only instruments which can be used for their destruction.

  95. Patriotic American
    December 5, 2010 at 1:02 am

    Frankly, I am a bit outraged at the US government response. This is not the USSR, or China we live in.

    Shame on OMB. Shame.

  96. Alex Andersson
    December 5, 2010 at 4:07 am

    @Sara Busse

    So the truth is illegal now?

    Thank you for clarifying that point with us.

  97. Rochelle
    December 5, 2010 at 5:10 am

    So much for transparency…

  98. ChimChim
    December 5, 2010 at 7:34 am

    In short, you were censored, and were just following orders.

  99. Dana Neacsu
    December 5, 2010 at 9:42 am

    It would be useful to know the legal norm cited by the library as basis of its behavior. Then we can verify whether the library is applying it correctly or excessively. It seems to me an excess of exuberance in applying a rule that cannot say that patrons are not allowed to read certain materials. In other words I do not see the reason for this library to engage in the type of censorship it should oppose.

  100. Mark C. Rosenzweig (for PLG-CC)
    December 5, 2010 at 9:49 am

    On Wikileaks and the Library of Congress:
    A Statement by the Progressive Librarians Guild

    December 4, 2010.

    The Progressive Librarians Guild (PLG) condemns in the strongest possible
    terms the blocking of Wikileaks by the Library of Congress and rejects on
    all grounds their arguments in defense of this move.

    The action is a violation of American librarianship’s historic commitments to the public’s right to know, to freedom of the press and to the very essence of the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. It is also in violation of the American Library Association’s most fundamental commitments to intellectual freedom as embodied in the
    Library Bill of Rights.

    We call on the American Library Association (ALA) to condemn unequivocally this move by the Library of Congress to actively conspire in preventing access to information in the public interest Blocking access to this published information is censorship,
    plain and simple, and supporting sanctions against reading is endorsing
    abridgment of intellectual freedom. The documentation’s open publication by
    an agency of the free press, Wikileaks, renders its government classification
    status irrelevant.

    For the Library of Congress, blocking access and rationalizing censorship is an
    unacceptable acquiescence to the government’s abusive attempt to put the
    genie back in the bottle with regards to leaked documents which, among other things, expose the government’s own malfeasance, malevolence and even criminality in the conduct of the people’s affairs, in matters of vital public concern, citizen’s fullest knowledge and discussion of which are in the interest of democracy, freedom, peace, rule of law and good governance here and around the world.

    We also call on ALA to oppose the government’s directives barring individuals in other Federal agencies, the armed forces and working for government contractors from viewing published material
    discomfiting to the authorities.

    We call on ALA as well to join us in condemning the ongoing and
    escalating US government-led witch-hunt against Wikileaks and its founder
    Julian Assange.

    Progressive Librarians Guild, Coordinating Committee (PLG-CC)
    December 4, 2010

    Links
    American Library Association. Library Bill of Rights.
    Library of Congress Blocks Access To Wikileaks. December 3, 2010. Talking Points Memo.
    Progressive Librarians Guild.

  101. Greshk
    December 5, 2010 at 10:53 am

    I find this unfortunate, though likely necessary.

    I do hope you personally support Wikileaks, though I understand if you and your coworkers are unable to publicly speak on the matter.

  102. TC
    December 5, 2010 at 11:42 am

    WikiLeaks has no broken any laws. It’s illegal to leak classified information, but not to report or publish it. It seems the lessons the Nixon administration learned about secrecy were not passed on to subsequent administrations. In any case, it’s nice to see investigative journalism -one that can make actually matter in making a difference in the work- make a comeback. It has to fortunate side-effect of exposing the workings of governmental propaganda machinery in the media and the state stenographers posing as journalists.

  103. J. Bee
    December 5, 2010 at 1:17 pm

    @Sara Busse:

    Would you care to identify any specific action of Wikileaks that is illegal under international law, and the specific law it violates, or are you merely parroting the State Department’s hypocrisy? IF you can name any, I’ll match you one-for-one with illegal US government actions revealed in Wikileak’s REPORTING of leaked information.

    I stress REPORTING, because Wikileaks didn’t steal the information, it was given to them, and in any case they are under no obligation to observe US law. I refer you to the definition of “sovereignty”

    Whether you agree with them or not, neither Mr. Assange nor Wikileaks are under any obligation to abide by US law, but US legislators calling for political assassination of Mr. Assange are so obliged. Specifically, they are conspiring to commit murder, a two-for-one violation of US AND international law.

    The most damning condemnation of the US government’s reaction to Wikileaks comes from none other than Hillary Clinton herself, in her January 2010 speech “Remarks on Internet Freedom”

    http://www.state.gov/secretary/rm/2010/01/135519.htm

    JB

  104. paul leary
    December 5, 2010 at 1:27 pm

    I disagree with your decision. Although I understand the rationale behind your action. I have always believed that “public”libraries are the primary repositiories of information and culture in our society. In a free society, the citizens may choose for themselves what kinds of inforamtion they deem appropriate. When a public library allows itself to be drawn into the contraversial positon of censoring public access, it is drawn into to the dangerous practice of censoring free speech.
    In an age when independent investigative journalism is fading away, the people are relying more and more on fewer and fewer sources for inforamtion on which to make judgements that are vital to the course of the republic. A ” free” public library is one of those sources. “Eternal vigilience is the watchword of liberty.”

  105. Ned Ulbricht
    December 5, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    The Library of Congress looks stupid.

    Rules must be reasonable. Enforcing silly rules merely for the sake of enforcing silly rules is a hallmark of tyranny.

    Your mission at the LoC is “to sustain and preserve a universal collection of knowledge” in order to educate Congress and the American people. Your mission is important to our republic.

    America has a right to expect that you will use your best judgment, discrretion, and intelligence as you interpret and apply your governing law. America expects you to fulfill your mission in a manner consistent with the values and interests expressed in our Constitution.

    Patent stupidity encourages mutiny and disunion.

    Rules must be reasonable. Enforcing silly rules merely for the sake of enforcing silly rules is an unreasonable tyranny.

  106. Richard Kramer
    December 5, 2010 at 6:12 pm

    Is the Library of Congress also blocking the New York Times?

    I found some classified cables over at their website.

  107. Tracy Nectoux
    December 5, 2010 at 8:10 pm

    This is disgraceful. I can understand blocking access on employee computers (seeing as you are government employees), but patron reading rooms? It’s a violation of everything we, as librarians, say we represent.

    You are blocking access to information. You are officially censors. You’ve made an incredibly unfortunate and shameful decision here.

  108. ELIZABETH BEHRENS
    December 5, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Pointless — this info. is easily available and simply gives credence to the idea of govt. obfuscation.

  109. Bob Brister
    December 5, 2010 at 9:01 pm

    Max is right. This makes the Library of Congress look both ridiculous and craven

  110. Charles Yarmaby
    December 5, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    WikiLeaks is now (Dec 5) mirrored on over 200 websites. Will you be blocking these sites, too? Will you be censoring your newspapers and journals (and blocking those sites), if they quote from and discuss the leaked cables? This makes me very sad. I’m a librarian myself, and I think what you’re doing is completely wrong. Welcome to the new era of “digital McCarthyism.”

  111. George Vreeland Hill
    December 5, 2010 at 10:54 pm

    I applaud WikiLeaks and what they are doing on the Internet.
    WikiLeaks is exposing the U.S. Government and others for the frauds they are.
    The U.S. Government lies, cheats, steals, kills, takes, ruins and on and on.
    When it comes to war, the government is just as bad.
    The numbers are way off and the truth is hidden.
    The military lies and covers up.
    Want proof?
    Just ask the family of Pat Tillman.
    Look at the self interest politicians.
    Look at the IRS.
    Look at the FBI, the CIA and other government groups that waste your money, bully, spy and worse.
    Look at the police, the courts and others who get away with far worse crimes than the people they put away.
    The U.S. Government is a load of bs and needs to be brought down.
    The people have had enough.
    In George Orwell’s novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, there is a legendary phrase … “Big Brother is watching you.”
    That big brother turned out to be big government.
    Times are changing.
    Now we are watching them and the truth is being told.
    Thank God for WikiLeaks.
    Instead of trying to shut it down, we the people need to shut down the U.S. Government and all of the others that WikiLeaks has exposed.
    It is clear that the truth is something governments, leaders, bankers and many others do not like.
    They can shut down Websites, but they can’t shut us up.
    I am,

    GEORGE VREELAND HILL

  112. Gideon Balzar
    December 5, 2010 at 11:25 pm

    Your blocking it does not keep me, or anyone else, from reading it on the myriad sites that are carrying it. And i will read it, I may not find it that interesting, but I will read it BECAUSE you blocked it.
    It is sunday, I am bored, and this stuff has you rattled, more than enough reason to read it.

    ttul
    Balzar

  113. Bill Mosby
    December 5, 2010 at 11:35 pm

    Seems reasonable. In about 1994, the Clinton Administration decided to declassify the exact amount of plutonium held in the vaults at the National Laboratory where I worked. Then about a week later, after somebody who counted apparently was able to pick himself up off the floor and get to a secure phone, they reclassified the information. This is similar in spirit but not in detail.

    I wonder if I will still be able to lawfully read the leaks after I start on Social Security, lol!

  114. Chris Ambrose
    December 6, 2010 at 3:45 am

    What? ‘Look bad for trying’? If the Library of Congress doesn’t at least ‘try’ to block Wikileaks how safe do you really feel? It’s a brave move in the still frothy waters of the web. One that must be made. Do you want me to read YOUR private diary?…No, didn’t think so.

  115. axolotl
    December 6, 2010 at 7:43 am

    so, are you planning to block Internet? since there are copies of that material all around the ‘Net …

  116. FWB
    December 6, 2010 at 9:27 am

    What a crock! Fascists! Long live Wikileaks!

  117. Live K
    December 6, 2010 at 10:28 am

    Just feel the need to quote the ALA codes of ethics:
    “we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information.”
    further:
    “We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor library resources.”

    these statements speaks for them selves, the LOC`s decision is against all library principals!

    Shame on you!

  118. Chris Ronk
    December 6, 2010 at 12:53 pm

    It is inconceivable that the Library has only received three comments on this decision. I know of course that it has received at least 4 comments, because one of them, the fourth, was mine and it was removed for reasons I do not understand. All I can guess is that either a technical glitch intervened or that the Library did not like the criticism the comment expressed. I hope that it is not the latter, because that would at least appear to indicate that the Library approaches censorship of the content of speech with much greater equanimity than initially seemed to be in evidence solely from the decision to block the Wikileaks documents. The tone of my comment was critical, but it was hardly obnoxious and did not come close to violating any conceivably open comment policy. So I will ask again, what would Thomas Jefferson say?

  119. Brenda
    December 6, 2010 at 2:18 pm

    Shame, shame, shame! As librarians, we are supposed to uphold the First Amendment.

  120. Emily
    December 6, 2010 at 5:37 pm

    This is a very unfortunately move for the LOC. As others have mentions, the issue of legality lies in leaking the information, not publishing it. Your rationale makes sense, but it is more important as trained information professionals to adhere to the law, and to the fundamental principles of librarianship: intellectual freedom; and unhindered access to information. This is a shame, and the LOC will regret this decision as it has a negative backlash over the publics perception of libraries as places that foster growth and knowledge.

  121. Valas
    December 6, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    If the goal is to protect classified information, why not then block the New York Times and the Guardian? In fact, the Guardian so far was always a couple of cables ahead of Wikileaks. If you claim you’re just following the rules, then please follow them properly and to the extent.

    This actions is hypocritical and just damages the reputation of the LOC.

  122. moon shine
    December 6, 2010 at 7:17 pm

    cowards

  123. moon shine
    December 6, 2010 at 7:19 pm

    Library of Congress: you are cowards

  124. Sarah Houghton-Jan
    December 6, 2010 at 7:53 pm

    This action is an affront to all librarians everywhere. It is a violation of the First Amendment and a violation of the American Library Association’s Bill of Rights. Moreover, it is a violation of the professional ethics of librarians to always provide access to all information. The Librarian of Congress should be ashamed of these actions, reverse them immediately, and be censured by the American Library Association.

  125. Joseph
    December 6, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Amen to moon shine’s comment. This move was cowardly. And against librarian principles and ethics. It’s immoral.

    But since China’s gonna own us anyway (or at least, that’s the rumor going around), the Library of Congress might as well start modeling its behavior on that government rather than trying to even pretend to any democratic ideals, huh?

    I was glad to see the Progressive Librarians Guild come out against LoC’s decision (http://libr.org/plg/lcwikileaks.php). Not all librarians are willing to bow down to totalitarianism!

  126. John
    December 7, 2010 at 2:31 am

    Doesn’t wikileaks reveal crimes committed by the very people that want it blocked?????????
    And isn’t this info protected by something called the constitution? sounds like 1984 to me…

  127. colin
    December 7, 2010 at 4:50 am

    a library trying to keep the masses ignorant ?

  128. Marcelo Votto
    December 7, 2010 at 10:20 am

    Portuguese:

    Pessíma atitude. Uma biblioteca nunca pode restringir um acesso a informação.
    Parece até a Igreja católica na idade média, escondendo livros “proibidos”.

  129. Luisa
    December 7, 2010 at 11:20 am

    The position of LOC is arbitrary. Wikileaks is a journalistic organization. You especially DO NOT CENSOR journalists.

    Journalists have the duty to report anything newsworthy, they are at the front of surveying that the governments are working for the people and they obtain their information from whatever reliable sources they can, however ugly it is.

    The U.S. government is turning into a serious tyrant. Did the learn that from Saddam?

  130. S. Brasseux
    December 7, 2010 at 11:25 am

    When I was getting my Masters degree in Library Science, we were taught to evaluate web sites according to certain criteria.

    1. Is the information accurate?
    2. Is it authoritative?
    3. Is it timely, up to date?

    The only reasons we were taught to consider internet censorship was in the case of protecting children from pornography and extreme violence.

    I believe the Library of Congress just got an F.

  131. Kevin
    December 7, 2010 at 11:45 am

    The press use to play a critical public service role as watchdog for the public. Now its a opinion generating machine used by big money. WikiLeaks is only providing what real jounalism use to provide back in the day. The people need organizations like WikiLeaks.

    Denied bail on trumped up charges??? Unbelievable.

  132. Daniel
    December 7, 2010 at 12:13 pm

    I assume the Library of Congress will also be blocking access to CNN, The Guardian, Der Spiegel, and The New York Times, who have reproduced many of the classified cables in their full text?

    As an international relations major, and now a current student in a library and information science program, whose ultimate goal was to work at an institution like the Library of Congress, I could not be more disappointed.

  133. Daithi
    December 7, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    So everyone in the world can read the documents except federal officials and Library users. Shame on you! A librarian should know that ignorance is never preferable.

    It doesn’t work for ostriches and it really won’t work for the Library Of Congress.

  134. YoungLibrarian
    December 7, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    Wow, this is really terrible. Please grow a spine, Library of Congress.

  135. Andrew Thornton
    December 7, 2010 at 7:12 pm

    I’m alarmed and ashamed that you have decided to do this. Will you also refuse patrons access to the Pentagon Papers? (Senator Gravel edition: http://lccn.loc.gov/75178049) Presumably not, but why not?

  136. Andrew Thornton
    December 7, 2010 at 7:35 pm

    Edit: the Senator Gravel edition owned by the LoC is at http://lccn.loc.gov/75178049

  137. Red Christiansen
    December 7, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    yes sir, blow the whistle on America, then everyone is upset that the USA is hiding stuff from its people.

    maybe the USA should start to send a magazine, with every little non-sense operation that was done in the past year, to every citizen in the USA. then you would know everything.

    THINK: you live in America, so do i. i am free enough to say i am a Christian without fear of retribution, free to protest, and free to speak freely.

    This is not a matter of free speech, the dude isn’t even in the USA, its a matter of National Security. SOMEONE was able to get access to potentially dangerous classified information… can someone say scary?

  138. Audun S
    December 8, 2010 at 4:16 am

    As a librarian by education (but not by employ) myself, I am deeply upset by this move by loc.

    The government has every right to act to prevent classified information from ending up at the wrong hands, but once it is out there it is not up to the libraries to restrict patrons’ access to the source.

    As the cables are quoted in public media, not censcored by the loc, the information must be considered public interest and as such should be available at any library. This attempt to block wl is not only a horrid attack on the freedom of speach and information, it goes against evereything libraries are built on.

    Access to public interest material should be assured by the libarary, not prevented!

  139. John Morris
    December 8, 2010 at 10:44 am

    the publics lack of trust in their government has caused groups like wikileaks to create transparency in governments. “SECRET” is just another safe waiting to be cracked. this would never have happened, if our trusted leaders were actually doing thier job.

  140. AK
    December 8, 2010 at 11:44 am

    You’ve made me ashamed to be a librarian. My dream used to be to work at the Library of Congress, at the nerve center of the History of the United States. Now I can’t dream for disgust and disappointment.

  141. Raxas Mortimer
    December 8, 2010 at 12:02 pm

    The truth will arise. Why we Americans fear the disclosure of this info? Lots of people argue that it is against the law. What a stupid argument is that. Simply rhetoric to hide our real dark side. Can we recognize now that we are the champions of hypocrisy? Our real nature as criminals or a entity that is trying to suck the blood of the world, closing our eyes to the victims of our consumerism while we live our lives as first world citizens.

  142. Enrique Páez
    December 8, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    Shame on the Library of Congress. You can´t kill freedom. Una vergüenza.

  143. laabuelita
    December 8, 2010 at 12:26 pm

    SHAME!!!

  144. NoUtopyReality
    December 8, 2010 at 1:12 pm

    How people can found an personal opinion just repiting what others said and the most important and most depitable the JUST BECAUSE. At the books and at the internet is the knowldge, the bases and the truth. The censorship never is the way to keep the society free of bad influences and guide them by the “good” path. I, as a active member of this society, would decide and choose what is good to me and the society based on the logical way of thinking, free of others influences, wrong values and pre judgement. Freedom of culture and information is the guide for the society to “grow up ” and to evolution in the best way not in the way we can or be letted to. The way to freedom.

  145. Satago
    December 8, 2010 at 2:39 pm

    I don’t know how anything on the internet could any longer be called “Classified” or “secret”, but hey….
    I think it’s funny that one day LOC may have books on it’s shelves (or file folders) that account for this interesting national discussion. I think it’s NOT funny that LOC may one day have nothing about this at all on its shelves. Which?

  146. Michele
    December 8, 2010 at 2:46 pm

    LoC, I am disheartened that you’re behaving like government toadys. This is not about whether you adhere to federal policy regarding classified information, but about what lengths our government will go to in order to silence a journalist. What crime is our government charging Assange with? oh yeah, NONE!

    –a librarian

  147. kbc
    December 8, 2010 at 4:16 pm

    Right. Stay on the 20th Century, that’s where this behaviour belongs.

  148. Sarah
    December 8, 2010 at 4:20 pm

    I was under the impression that all Government institutions derived their just powers from the people & that the right to freedom of press (even if publishing “classified” documents) should not be infringed. I’m pretty sure I read that somewhere.

    Where was it?

    Oh yeah. The Bill of Rights and the Constitution.

    When are we going to stand up and hold our government accountable, people?

  149. Reiji Mitsurugi
    December 8, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    The blocking of Wikileaks is an attack against the human rights and freedom of expression!
    Would anybody commented here thinks the prosecutor of the case in Sweden would be brobe to make false accusations against Assange? I think yes.
    Are LoC trying to bring back the terrible middle age?
    And also, anyone who accuses Assange is a B-I-G big coward and ignorant!

    P.S.: “I am Wikileaks!”

  150. joni spigler
    December 8, 2010 at 11:45 pm

    This is disturbing. First the National Portrait Gallery censors free speech in the form of a video by David Wojnarowicz, and now the esteemed Library of Congress has decided to further curtail our access to information, this time by subverting the freedom of the press by denying U.S. citizens access to published information.

    I am interested in your choice to interpret the word “obligated” as “mandated” or “ordered”. Doesn’t the library have a higher “obligation”, based on the very definition of its purpose: to serve the public that comes to the library in pursuit of information and knowledge? The library is not a policing agency, it is not an enforcer of laws, it is a reservoir of information and the legacy of our public commons and its duty is, above all, to uphold that role regardless of political pressure.

    I truly hope that the National Portrait Gallery and the Library of Congress get their acts together and remember what their purposes are. They are our cultural institutions — those bastions of free speech about which members of the US military never EVER tire of telling us they fight and die to protect.

  151. maxiur
    December 9, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Its funny how these state institutions forget that they’re supposed to represent THE PEOPLE’s will. They shouldn’t force US to their will, it only makes curiosity and support stronger. Haven’t they learned anything from history?

  152. Bea Benitez
    December 9, 2010 at 1:02 pm

    I don’t agree with your decision, even if you try to protect classified information, as if it public, it will come to light so it’s information freedom what you are blocking. I am a Librarian too and I think that’s not Library Business.

  153. Bob Jones
    December 9, 2010 at 8:39 pm

    A *library*, of all institutions, is *censoring* information from the public. Where are we headed next?
    Will it be as easy as in China for our government to control censorship of information and knowledge?

  154. Vinonobilr
    December 10, 2010 at 5:56 am

    Legally absolutely correct. Just like the Chinese government is protecting its citizens from illegal internet content according to its law. Right?

  155. Lars
    December 10, 2010 at 9:14 am

    All this talk about freedom of speach, freedom of information polticians and authorities serve us. How empty it all is.

  156. Joe Cruz
    December 10, 2010 at 10:51 pm

    As a retired US Army lieutenant colonel, I view this act very skeptically. I remember the days when we use to rail at the former USSR for their zeal in censoring any information which might threaten the government’s hold on its people. Those were the days when each Soviet military unit had its assigned “Propaganda Officer.” This is a very slippery slope and I, for one, fail to see the difference. Today Wikileaks, tomorrow who could be next? The intensity of this coordinated assault on this organization is something one would have expected, and indeed hoped, to see applied against al Qaeda, but not against an organization which (arguably) is making the back room decisions of our government and our largest industrial complexes more transparent. Is this not alledgedly what this administration wants and is that not the purpose of a democracy? We are cursed to live in interesting times indeed!

  157. Carol
    December 10, 2010 at 11:59 pm

    It’s a slippery slope when a library blocks access to information. As a librarian, I am saddened that LOC has taken the first step down that slope.

  158. Mike
    December 11, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Land of the free? Freedom of speech?

    USA has become a country of hypocrits. Shame on you.

    Mike – Denmark

  159. Charisma
    December 11, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Wow… I really feel pity for those of you living in the grand old US of A at the moment, seems like your country has gone back to the 1950’s where you have no voice or ability to change the corruption that your government in power is now so BLATANTLY displaying..

    For those of you who hate Wikileaks and all that they stand for, it seems quite obvious that you are precisely the ones who have been targeted when the Library of Congress was given their directive regarding the Wikileaks cables release – by not providing you the TRUE story behind their involvement in diplomatic lies and travesties, it further assists your govt’s agenda to close your mind and shut your eyes.

    Thank god some of the nation is starting to wake up and smell the hypocrisy in the air!!! A govt going to THIS extent to shut out their own people from information that the rest of the world is seeing and discussing is beyond reproachable..

    Might I add, not one person has lost their life since Wikileaks released these cables (other than Julian Assange it seems) yet the American people have definitely been losing their fundamental human rights, freedom to information and free speech!!!!!

    Who would have thought that your govt could get it so wrong… Hopefully people will start coming together to change the dire situation your nation finds itself in, otherwise the shame would fall on YOU too, not just the Library of Congress.

  160. Allen Wong
    December 12, 2010 at 12:02 am

    Thank you for letting the world know that you are defending the old against the right.

  161. Robin Rupe
    December 12, 2010 at 1:34 pm

    “The government should not keep information confidential merely because public officials might be embarrassed by disclosure, because errors and failures might be revealed, or because of speculative or abstract fears.” Barak Obama

  162. Rev. Deborah Russell
    December 12, 2010 at 8:06 pm

    I can see that the Library of Congress is facing an ethical dilemma, given that its identity as a federal agency and its identity as a library currently appear to be in conflict, just as predicted in the Code of Ethics of the American Library Association:

    As members of the American Library Association, we [ . . . ] significantly influence or control the selection, organization, preservation, and dissemination of information.

    In a political system grounded in an informed citizenry, we are members of a profession explicitly committed to intellectual freedom and the freedom of access to information. [ . . . ]

    We uphold the principles of intellectual freedom and resist all efforts to censor … library resources. [ . . . ]

  163. a citizen
    December 13, 2010 at 4:49 pm

    I understand the reaction of the executive branch — it is a bit of an embarrassment to have your dirty laundry shown to everyone.
    However, I thought that LC is governed by
    Congress and not the executive branch (?). Why is White House’s Office of Management and Budget telling LC what to do, and why is LC doing what it’s told without questioning the motives of the White House?

  164. S.T. Moe
    December 15, 2010 at 2:46 am

    As a library student, I must join in the chorus of shaming. We are librarians, or librarians-to-be, and it’s bad that I seem to have read the ALA Code of Ethics much more closely and often, even before I went into school, than you have.

    Make a visit to the ALA website – it’s apparent that you’ve forgotten the prime job of being librarians.

  165. Edie
    December 15, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    I am deeply saddened that you have been forced into submission.
    History will tell the truth of this era, I hope, and Julian Assange will be ranked among those of us w/enough heart to stand for the truth.

  166. Info Power
    December 15, 2010 at 8:54 pm

    What’s the difference between China, Russia and the USA? It used to be that the US believed in People power, which meant people get the right information to make a good judgment. By restricting access to the information, LOC has either limited American people’s right to judge or it has shamelessly accused American people to be so dumb that they can not digest the information.
    America’s strength lies in its democratic principles, and if that is lost the world will never see the US the same – its not because of the wikileaks.

  167. Will
    December 15, 2010 at 10:44 pm

    I bet some of the Pentagon Papers are still technically classified. And I bet you can check them out at the Library of Congress.

  168. Ryan
    December 16, 2010 at 8:45 pm

    You bring shame on our profession with this erroneous decision.

    The world looks to you for its example of a responsible library in a free nation. I believe you have done terrific harm already in this decision. I pray, for the good of libraries and of democracy, that you reverse course.

    The idea that you are fulfilling your duty to protect classified information by blocking wikileaks is delusional… like the repeated claims to Freedom in the Soviet National Anthem.

    If you are unwilling to perform you duties to oppose irrational censorship of vital public information (and now that this has been released, accessible to any other citizen in the world, this IS vital public information), then PLEASE, at least press within your power as a federal agency to revoke the classified status of these now-public documents.

    The dissonance caused by pretending a public document can remain classified is absurd and harmful to the legitimacy of our democracy.

    I shudder at the precedent you have set.

  169. Matt Bieker
    December 17, 2010 at 5:27 pm

    The Library of Congress COULD have waited for a court injunction. Your attempt to send a chilling effect and then claim the law forced your hand is blatantly transparent. Some of these cables you blocked also show laws being broken by the state department. I suppose that also makes the Library a willing accomplice in law breaking by assisting with a cover up? Can’t very well have it both ways.

    I suspect the true explanation has far more to do with job security than national security.

    Suppose a future President declares that the Constitution itself is “Top Secret”. Will you remove the Constitution?

    The final conclusion: What you did was unnecessary and wrong, and you should be ashamed of yourself.

  170. Matt Bieker
    December 18, 2010 at 10:09 am

    If a future president declared the constitution “Top Secret” Would you also remove it from public viewing?

    Shame on you.

  171. Marcel de Grijs
    December 18, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    Might makes right, and since the US government is the mightiest institution in the world everyone who disagrees is wrong. everyone that voices their disagreement, whatever their nationality and wherever this is said is a traitor under the 1917 espionage act. Especially if you are a socialist or even worse, a pacifist. It is wrong to hinder American war efforts.

    Am I punishable by death now for saying this?

  172. Dennis
    December 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

    While I’m certainly unhappy with the LoC decision to block access to WikiLeaks. But I can understand their position as well. You can’t really ignore the source of your funding and expect to keep your job/livelihood.

    Those of us who work as librarians can be pretty vehement in our defense of abstract principles but that usually doesn’t cost us anything. How many of us would quit our jobs rather than tolerate censorship of one item in our respective libraries? We’d probably be angry and bitter and speak out, and then go back to work.

    Daniel Ellsberg (information professional!) made the supreme effort with the release of the Pentagon Papers some forty years ago. While many of us are justly proud and applaud his efforts in the defense of freedom of information, few of us would probably make such a heroic effort on our own. Not when we have bills to pay and families to feed.

    You know it’s true. At least here in the United States.

    I’m a cataloger, and in the course of my work I’ve had contact (via the internet– how’s that for irony!) with catalogers at the Library of Congress. They’ve been very helpful and very professional and they’ve made my job so much easier with the catalog records they provide. I’m going to go out on a limb and imagine that quite a few of them aren’t happy with the decision to block access either. But they have families to feed and bills to pay. I can also imagine that the implied threat to them and their co-workers was what made the decision makers at the top decide to go ahead with the choice to block access. The powers that be never threaten just one person who might stand up for a principle, they’ll threaten that person’s subordinates (and family) as well. Maybe not directly, of course. But the argument is also being made that keeping this information hidden will protect American lives and American interests, so we have to do it. So perhaps these are the new “weapons of mass destruction” that will lead us into our next war?

    The WikiLeaks information is still out there, and the Library of Congress is only blocking access on their computers. As a government attempt to control access to information, this is more of an inconvenience than anything. It’s shameful and ironic, but we should be used to that by now.

    The bigger threat is the proposed “internet kill-switch” that the office of the President will control and the refusal of payment processors like Visa and PayPal to provide funding for WikiLeaks. Or anyone else. “Control” of the internet is where the real threat lies.

    And, as a cataloger, I’d love to see the LIbrary of Congress create bib records for the WikiLeaks releases!

  173. Ws. Willim
    December 20, 2010 at 5:05 am

    Where I understand that you serve two masters in this case, one the federal government, and the other the people of the United States. I just want to remind you of a few things:
    “(….)
    I. Books and other library resources should be provided for the interest, information, and enlightenment of all people of the community the library serves. Materials should not be excluded because of the origin, background, or views of those contributing to their creation.

    II. Libraries should provide materials and information presenting all points of view on current and historical issues. Materials should not be proscribed or removed because of partisan or doctrinal disapproval.” (http://www.ala.org/ala/issuesadvocacy/intfreedom/librarybill/index.cfm)

    and also “The freedom to read is guaranteed by the Constitution. Those with faith in free people will stand firm on these constitutional guarantees of essential rights and will exercise the responsibilities that accompany these rights.

    We therefore affirm these propositions:

    It is in the public interest for publishers and librarians to make available the widest diversity of views and expressions, including those that are unorthodox, unpopular, or considered dangerous by the majority.
    Creative thought is by definition new, and what is new is different. The bearer of every new thought is a rebel until that idea is refined and tested. Totalitarian systems attempt to maintain themselves in power by the ruthless suppression of any concept that challenges the established orthodoxy. The power of a democratic system to adapt to change is vastly strengthened by the freedom of its citizens to choose widely from among conflicting opinions offered freely to them. To stifle every nonconformist idea at birth would mark the end of the democratic process. Furthermore, only through the constant activity of weighing and selecting can the democratic mind attain the strength demanded by times like these. We need to know not only what we believe but why we believe it.” (http://www.ala.org/ala/aboutala/offices/oif/statementspols/ftrstatement/freedomreadstatement.cfm http://www.car-tinted.com http://www.private-medical-insurances.co.uk/ )

    How can you be a bastion of information for the people without censorship when you allow censorship?

  174. Ron Sizely
    December 21, 2010 at 3:06 pm

    Welcome to China!

  175. anthony c
    December 21, 2010 at 3:19 pm

    For goodness sake.
    Governments lie and cheat to their own electorates.
    Why shouldn’t we know whats really going on? For the LOC to block access to this information is a sign of pure desperation.

  176. Neil
    December 22, 2010 at 11:09 am

    Ron, In China, they wouldn’t publish your comment. In fact, they’d probably hunt you down and “disappear” you for writing it. ;-)

  177. June Edvenson
    December 23, 2010 at 2:40 pm

    Are you sure it is not simply a matter of: they were told to block access? I, an American in Norway, just watched a very revealing – both intelligent and empathetic – documentary on Wikileaks’ development. Just arriving back in Norway from the U.S., I can’t help but ask (rhetorically): is there anything as cogent on television in the U.S., and (on topic): is there anyone who can argue this is, not necessarily a cause celebre, but a tension worth working on?

  178. Maurice J. Freedman
    December 28, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    The Library of Congress has a great history and tradition of equivocating when it comes to the policy — implied or actual — of the U.S. Government. Those who remember the Vietnam War and the 58,000 Americans killed there might recall also that it was never a war, according to the U.S. Government and the Library of Congress–the subject heading for the “war” began, VIETNAM CONFLICT.

    LC’s current WikiLeaks activities are just more of the same.

    It is tiresome to hear of LC’s being the library of Congress when it suits its purposes, and being the library of the American people when it tries to gain support for its funding and programs.

    It is a great institution–I had the pleasure and honor to work there from 1965-1968, imperfect as it was then and now–but it would be even better if it acted more on the principles of librarianship, one of which is intellectual freedom, than kowtowing government agency.

  179. Amadeus
    December 30, 2010 at 7:25 am

    i am happy that so many comments about wikileaks are similar to my view and it is a very good starting point that truth and freedom will survive… when honest and knowledgeable people will learno to self-organize much better than corrupted bankers and politicians FREEDOM WILL WIN.

  180. Dennis in the UK
    December 30, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    So the Library of Congress is blocking Wikileaks. Tut
    Maybe it doesn’t want people to know that who ever the electorate votes for the bankers and corporations win.
    Never mind… we can always read Wikileaks’ revelations in the New York Times and The Guardian. and most other papers after they have raided the websites of the newspapers involved with Wikileaks.
    Totally pathetic.

  181. lisa x
    January 2, 2011 at 12:17 am

    The Library has provided a good reason: Even when someone does something against the law, and even when others follow (like say pirating intellectual property. or lynching people of color. or not using their turn-signals.), organizations funded by tax dollars have an obligation to still follow the law.
    The Library has not acted at all in fact. It’s continuing to not allow access to confidential government information. You say “blocking” is an action. No– it’s preventative. Against new technology that allows illegal activity. The actions are illegal because there’s lots of information the government can access that should not be public. Like what the your IRS records say. Or the names of whistleblowers. Or what your medicare pays for. It’s good that they are continuing to follow the law.
    If you don’t think that the law they’re following is just, vote. Or be the people that make the changes you are talking about (try teaching teenagers how to read. or working nights in a public hospital. or working in an embassy. in Yemen.) The library doesn’t make the laws. It houses them.

  182. lisa x
    January 2, 2011 at 12:30 am

    Also.
    Someone accused the Library of Congress of participating in a “witch-hunt”. I just read over a hundred comments, with no proof, reason, or explanation, condemning a bunch of (predominately female) librarians because some man who professes expertise in the “devil government” condones it. THAT’S a witch-hunt.

  183. lisa x
    January 3, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    *addendum to my previous post. Many of the top positions in the Library of Congress are held by men, not women. The highest ranking position and main legal counsel (relevant here) are men. In fact, the Librarian of Congress has never been a woman.
    I didn’t need to go to Wikileaks to find that out, by the way.

  184. Henry Smallwood
    January 4, 2011 at 9:15 am

    Only libertines need liberty. Thank you for protecting me from freedom.

  185. Carol (from Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil)
    January 4, 2011 at 10:33 am

    censorship

  186. Matt Raymond
    January 4, 2011 at 11:52 am

    @lisa x: While this is not entirely on topic, I wanted to clarify a point you made.

    The Library’s general counsel is indeed a woman. Four of the seven members of the Library’s executive committee (its top policy-making body) are women. Nearly half of the Library’s senior leadership positions are held by women, compared with 29 percent across the rest of the federal government.

    In addition, commitment to diversity and equal opportunity is one of the key measures by which Library management are rated on their annual performance reviews.

  187. lisa x
    January 4, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    @MattRaymond. Thank you. I did have some trouble finding all of the names to attach to the positions, so I appreciate the information. I did suspect the LoC would reflect the large number of women in the field, and I am glad to know that the LoC is, of course, striving to meet its mandate.
    I suppose my point was that we don’t need to go to WikiLeaks to learn about the many ways the government could improve. I don’t believe the public suffers from lack of information. Many people don’t practice the critical thinking necessary to make reasoned conclusions based on that information, as evidenced widely in this discussion.
    While I’m commenting, @HenrySmallwood, What is the actual meaning of your statement?
    @JuneEdvenson, Thank you for what you said. We should be asking more of the “free” press rather than pointing fingers at the Library.

  188. Jim Kuhn
    January 5, 2011 at 4:12 pm

    I’m interested to see that this is still an active thread, and am wondering why this blog entry hasn’t yet been updated with the information made available to members of the American Library Association on Dec. 21 and posted to ALA’s Emerging Issues blog here: http://bit.ly/dRGzj8 to the effect that “…the Library unblocked the WikiLeaks website, beginning on December 7, and is not currently monitoring access to that site…” Can we get some clarification for the public, as well as for the library community? Thank you.

  189. Matt Raymond
    January 6, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    Jim,

    The information to which you refer is correct.

    –Matt

  190. Charley Groth
    January 18, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    Shame, shame, shame.

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