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US State Department tells employees not to read WikiLeaks

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In East Africa, the State Department supported a competition called "Apps 4 Africa" that challenged software developers to come up with a socially beneficial phone application. The winner was "iCow," an application that helps farmers track animal breeding cycles.

“That’s at the heart of what this digital diplomacy is,” says Sam duPont, a policy analyst with NDN, a think-tank in Washington. “Using this incredibly powerful global network to bypass traditional government-to-government, diplomat-to-diplomat relationships and use the technology to reach people you couldn’t reach before.”

The transparency conundrum

But the embrace of modern communications has not necessarily included the underlying philosophy of information openness. Much diplomatic work still depends upon confidential conversations, and the WikiLeaks crisis has, so far, moved the agency toward more information restrictions.

The State Department is undertaking an effort to gain more control over the information flowing in and out of its network. Spokesman Philip Crowley told reporters Tuesday that the State Department has “temporarily severed” the connection between an internal database and another classified network.

“We want to make sure that our documents are adequately protected and that we have the ability to detect if anything like this occurs in the future,” said Mr. Crowley. The agency “has narrowed, for the time being, those who have access to State Department cables across the government.”

Asked about the ban on surfing the WikiLeaks site, another State Department spokesperson said it could not be confirmed at this time.

A matter of principle?

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