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I was recently interviewed by CNN regarding WikiLeaks and what prospective applicants for government jobs should know before publicly reposting the documents. Overall, I think the story fairly captured my thoughts, which can be boiled down to this: Rightly or wrongly, government employers may consider all manner of prior experience, conduct and statements when considering applicants for jobs that require a security clearance. Prudence dictates not providing a potential employer with a reason to reject your application or deny you a security clearance. Reading the documents won’t hurt you, but endorsing them or reposting them may hurt your chances for a job.
Is that fair? No. Is it smart to be cautious? Absolutely. There are hundreds of applicants for every job, and applicants should seek to minimize the ways their application may be rejected. That’s a smart job seeking strategy. Professors who lecture about free speech (from the secure position of a tenure protected job) and fail to tell their students about the potential risks of commenting on and disseminating WikiLeaks material aren’t serving their students.
Click “Read the Full Entry” below to read some excerpts from the CNN Story:
….what about students considering jobs with the federal government? Do they jeopardize their chances by reading WikiLeaks?
It’s a gray area, said law professors and national security experts who spoke with CNN. The topic has been debated intensely in the past week in
They say students ought to be mindful of their future careers when commenting on or distributing the documents online — especially those planning to seek jobs in national security or the intelligence community, which require a security clearance.
“The security clearance asks whether or not you’re a risk when it comes to sensitive material. This could be one indicator that, when taken together with others, creates a broader pattern that might suggest you’re not a person to be hired,” said Pepperdine University law professor Gregory McNeal, who specializes in national security law.
“They may very well take into account your opinion, as a job candidate, whether or not you think WikiLeaks is a good thing or bad thing for the country,” he said. “It’s a small issue, but one to approach with caution if I were a student seeking a job in the national security field.”
E-mails went out last week to students at several schools, including Boston University’s School of Law, Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, cautioning students against commenting on or posting links to the documents on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter.
Each message came from the schools’ offices of career services, claiming to be sent at the recommendation of an alumnus.
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So, can just reading about the leaked documents in the media jeopardize your chances of getting a job with the federal government?
Probably not, said McNeal. But commenting on them online or distributing them might create a pattern of behavior that raises red flags during screening for the highest levels of security clearance, which often require polygraph tests.
“I don’t think looking at them alone could hurt anyone. The problem is when you’re looking and then supporting and endorsing, then you start running into trouble. That’s where you run the risk of jeopardizing the security clearance on character grounds,” he said.
It also serves as a reminder to be mindful of your “online and personal profile,” your virtual footprint of statements, comments and shared materials stored in the web’s collective consciousness, the professor said.
“When you’re up against so many others for the same competitive job, you don’t want to stand out for this. Prudence would dictate, don’t add another possible reason for them to ding you.”