The Elliott School of International Affairs warned graduate students this week that accessing and citing the diplomatic cables released by whistle-blower website WikiLeaks could hurt future job prospects.
“While most of us who follow international affairs closely have been extremely interested in the unfolding Wikileaks saga, we’d like to warn against accessing these files directly. Students who hold or are seeking security clearances potentially risk losing that those privileges (or jobs),” the e-mail read.
University spokeswoman Jill Sankey said the message was sent over the Elliott School’s graduate student career development e-mail list.
“The director of the program deemed it important to warn students of potential problems obtaining a security clearance if they directly accessed Wikileaks documents online or used them in citations for their research,” Sankey said.
If students must use information from the leaked cables, the e-mail suggested using only what has been reported about in the media.
GW Law School Professor Thomas Dienes said there are no legal effects or consequences to students reading or citing the documents.
“Whether it is desirable or wise for them to do it, in light of their job prospects, that is very much an individual judgment,” Dienes said.
Last week, Columbia University sent a similar e-mail out to students in its School of International and Public Affairs, warning them not to post anything about WikiLeaks online. A Columbia alumnus working for the U.S. State Department had contacted the school to say the released cables were “still considered classified,” and discussing them online “would call into question your ability to deal with confidential information,” according to reports.
The e-mail sent by GW also poses concerns about the classification of the documents.
But after Columbia’s warning caused an uproar with students, Dean John H. Coatsworth clarified the policy and “issued a ringing endorsement of free speech and academic freedom,” Wired reported.
Eleanor Klibanoff, a freshman in the Elliott School, said she thinks the school’s advice to students makes sense, and that she probably would not cite or use WikiLeaks after hearing that doing so could potentially hurt her chances of getting a job.