Would the Air Force block the government if it posted WikiLeaks cables?


According to the New York Times, the United States Air Force is blocking access to any web sites that have posted secret diplomatic cables obtained by WikiLeaks. This includes The Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde, The Guardian, El Pais and many other sites that have posted the cables in full or in part.

I’m curious as to how far government agencies and military departments are willing to go to block access to the public cables. In a most extreme case, would the government block itself from accessing its own web sites?

If a member of Congress sympathetic to WikiLeaks (Ron Paul? Jim McDermott?) wanted to they could find a way to insert the cables into the Congressional Record or into the public domain by making it available through a committee hearing.

There are two options for getting the cables into the Congressional Record, the official record of the floors of both the House and the Senate.

Submitting the cables into the Congressional Record as an Extension of Remarks would be extremely difficult – likely impossible.

The relevant rules state that lawmakers, in submissions to extend their remarks, must get “some type of permission” before submitting the remarks. Those submissions are made through the leadership desk.

I highly doubt that any member of leadership or even the floor staff would allow the cables to be submitted into the Record for obvious reasons.

The other option would be reading the cables into the Record out loud. This would undoubtedly be blocked by an objecting lawmaker. There are enough lawmakers who object to WikiLeaks and would certainly object to Congress being used as a forum to distribute cables made available through WikiLeaks.

The most direct and unobstructed way to get the cables into the official realm of Congress would be to follow the example of former Sen. Mike Gravel.

In 1971 Sen. Mike Gravel convened a hearing in the subcommittee that he chaired. While the Buildings and Grounds subcommittee did not appear to have jurisdiction over the issues of war and peace, Gravel held a hearing on how the Vietnam War was draining funding for public buildings. After hearing testimony from one witness, Gravel began to read into the committee record the Pentagon Papers, classified documents leaked by Daniel Ellsburg to the New York Times.

he New York Times and other papers had been posting pieces of the Papers, a collection of secret government studies related to the Vietnam War, which prompted the Justice Department to seek an injunction to shut down the newspapers. Ellsburg surreptitiously sent the Papers to Gravel for him to read into the official record as a safety net for publication.

Gravel read the Papers for hours before stopping and, with no other senators present, submitted the entirety of the Papers into the official record of his subcommittee.

Today, that would mean that Gravel’s subcommittee record would be printed and posted to a variety of government web sites include the legislative search engine THOMAS, which is hosted on the Library of Congress’ servers, and the Government Printing Office, located at GPO.gov.

Would the Air Force shut down access to the Library of Congress or the Government Printing Office or to Congress’ web pages?