Federal Government, Job Searches

Could Just Reading WikiLeaks Get You Nixed From Working as a Federal Attorney?

As if law students did have enough to worry about when trying to get jobs, career services at Boston University School of Law has pointed out another potential pitfall that may terrify its students. According to BU, merely reading the WikiLeaks documents could prevent you from getting the security clearances necessary to get certain government jobs.

It sounds crazy. I’m talking “BU career services has been watching too many Oliver Stone movies” crazy. Basically, I don’t think the federal government is even competent enough to find all the Wikileaks readers and blacklist them from the federal payroll. I mean, if the FBI or CIA or whatever really was the kind of omnipresent force idealized in movies, tell me how Julian Assange is still alive, much less in a position to publish thousands of confidential documents.

But if you listen to BU, it sounds like reading Wikileaks is a risk that already desperate 2Ls shouldn’t take….

Here’s the message from BU’s career services office:

Dear Students and Alumni,

Today I received information about Wikileaks that I want to pass on to you. This is most relevant if you are going to apply for or have already applied for federal government positions. Two big factors in hiring for many federal government positions are determining if the applicants have good judgment and if they know how to deal with confidential/classified information. The documents released by Wikileaks remain classified; thus, reading them, passing them on, commenting on them may be seen as a violation of Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information. See Section 5.5 (Sanctions).

For many federal government jobs, applicants must obtain security clearances. There are various levels of security checks, but all federal positions require background checks. As part of such checks, social media may be researched to see what you are up to, so DO NOT post links to the documents or make comments on any social media sites. Moreover, polygraphs are conducted for the highest levels of security clearance.

I have not yet heard any fallout about specific individuals, but we wanted to give you this take on the situation.


Maura Kelly
Assistant Dean for Career Development and Public Service

Too bad 24 went off the air. I can already see the scene where the BU grad is strapped to a chair in some OCI hotel interview room while Jack Bauer holds a syringe of sodium pentothal to his testicles and screams, “Did you read the Wikileaks? DID YOU READ THE WIKILEAKS?” Then the BU 2L soils himself and says, through sobs, “They told me if I was in the top 20% I could work at Ropes & Gray.” Satisfied, Jack says, “I’ll see you at the DOT: Slip and Fall Division at 0800 hours on Thursday. DO NOT be late or I WILL SHOOT YOU.”

Joking aside, is BU freaking serious? What if you read the WikiLeaks documents on the New York Times website? What if you share a post that contains somebody else’s analysis of WikiLeaks, and that analysis contained a link to WikiLeaks? Are these also violations of Executive Order 13526?

Look, we all know our government is terribly put out by this data dump. (And personally I agree with our State Department people on this. People will die. The dude who escaped from Iran on horseback? His family is probably already toast.) But I don’t see how you can punish people for reading now-public information. What are we all supposed to do, turn off the power and put lambs’ blood on our doors so the government knows that we aren’t reading Wikileaks?

Of course, I say that as a person who has a job. If I was an unemployed BU 2L or 3L, that message would have put the fear of God into me. Is BU career services overreacting, or are they just being prudent given the political and economic climate? Take our poll below.

BU's Wikileak warnings are:

  • Needlessly scaring the law students. (55%, 986 Votes)
  • A little over the top but a prudent thing to consider in a difficult job market. (38%, 675 Votes)
  • Spot-on. Even reading that stuff can get you into trouble. (7%, 133 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,794

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