A State Department official apparently warned students at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs not to talk about WikiLeaks. Really.

On November 30 the school’s office of career services sent the following email to students:

Hi students,

We received a call today from a SIPA alumnus who is working at the State Department. 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 documents released during the past few months through Wikileaks are still considered classified documents. He recommends that you DO NOT post links to these documents nor make comments on social media sites such as Facebook or through Twitter. Engaging in these activities would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information, which is part of most positions with the federal government.


Office of Career Services

Dude, the cat’s already out of the bag. It’s really too late to try and prevent people from talking about the season’s biggest story in journalism and international relations. Or, as SIPA Professor Gary Sick put it:

If anyone is a master’s student in international relations and they haven’t heard of WikiLeaks and gone looking for the documents that relate to their area of study, then they don’t deserve to be a graduate student in international relations.

This sparked an intense debate on campus about speech and security.

Then, eventually, Columbia got it.

Um, never mind, the school explained. Don’t listen to career services. Today the school’s dean, John Coatsworth, explained that students should, in fact, follow their instincts and ignore the career services email. As he explained,

Freedom of information and expression is a core value of our institution. Thus, SIPA’s position is that students have a right to discuss and debate any information in the public arena that they deem relevant to their studies or to their roles as global citizens, and to do so without fear of adverse consequences. The WikiLeaks documents are accessible to SIPA students (and everyone else) from a wide variety of respected sources, as are multiple means of discussion and debate both in and outside of the classroom.

The State Department actually has no policy against “reading, linking or discussing the WikiLeaks cable online,” according to a piece by Sam Gustin in Wired. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer