Officials tell Senate staffers they can’t do their job at work

Will all Senate staffers please report to the Senate Security Office?

That’s what one email from the office effectively said on Friday.

According to Forbes, the letter “asks security managers to remind Senate employees and contractors that the [NSA] documents are still technically classified and should be treated as if millions of people haven’t already read them.”

“Senate employees and contractors who believe they may have inadvertently accessed or downloaded classified information via non-classified Senate systems, should contact the Office of Senate Security for assistance.”

Yet details about the Verizon FISA request, PRISM, and other aspects of Greenwald’s story – including details about Edward Snowden – have repeatedly come up in hearings, whether brought forth by Senators who can be “classified” (nyuk nyuk) as supporters or opponents of the NSA surveillance program.

Are we to assume that their staffers have been instructed to cooperate with these absurd paternalistic rules? Are they taking personal laptops to work to read the Guardian at cafes on Capitol Hill in order to report back to colleagues officially forbidden from reading the stories on government property? Are staffers similarly forbidden from reading the New York Times and the Washington Post when stories based on classified information leaked by “senior administration officials” are plastered all over their headlines?

The answer to all of the above, we can rather safely assume, is no.

This sort of message about respecting state secrets typically only comes out when security hawks want to chill the debate that they supposedly welcome.

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Samuel Knight

Samuel Knight is a freelance journalist living in DC and a former intern at the Washington Monthly.