On Tuesday, it was reported that the Air Force has blocked its personnel from reading Web sites that have posted WikiLeaks cables. This includes the sites of The New York Times, The Guardian, and "more than 25 other news organizations," according to the Times. Any Air Force member trying to access these sites from a work computer will get a message reading "Access Denied: Internet usage is logged and monitored." The ban only applies to sites that have posted "full classified documents, not just excerpts," says the Times, and it has not been adopted by the Army, Navy, or Marines. Since Air Force personnel can still access the blocked sites from home, bloggers are puzzling over why the Air Force bothered to take this step at all.
Not Everyone at the DoD Agrees The Wall Street Journal reports that "one senior defense official questioned the wisdom of blocking the newspaper sites or even prohibiting service members from visiting them on military computers, arguing that the information has spread on the Internet and that sites like the New York Times contain other, useful information. The defense official said blocking the New York Times was a misinterpretation of military guidance to avoid visiting websites that post classified material."
Oh, Nice Move Chris Ryan at AMERICAblog rolls his eyes. "That will solve the problem because nobody in the USAF has a computer at home. Nor would anyone have a mobile phone with a browser," Ryan writes. "How much is this going to cost the taxpayers to restrict data that is easily reached? It's obvious that some in the upper echelons of the military don't appreciate the severity of the economic crisis ... If they have enough time and money to waste on this, they clearly have much too much budget available."
How Do You Draw the Line? wonders Spencer Ackerman at Wired. "There's no way to stop with just the Times. Anyone who's set up a GoogleAlert for 'WikiLeaks' will soon see that tons of news organizations, blogs, Facebookers, tweeters, etc., have all repurposed the content of those leaks." This makes him wonder: "Where does the site-blocking end? Why is it less harmful for an airman to read a blog that pivots off a Guardian story on the cables than it is for him to go to Guardian.co.uk?"
Puts America at a Disadvantage, figures Randall Parker at ParaPundit. "Of course this web site blocking will just cut off useful sources of news of what is going on in the world," writes Parker. "The Chinese and Russians and other world powers will read thru every detail of the leaked cables."
Kind of the Reason Why WikiLeaks Exists At Mediaite, Glenn Davis wonders whether the Air Force policy isn't "just going to motivate Julian Assange & Co. further."
This Is Not How Information Security Works The Huffington Post quotes Steven Aftergood, the director of the Project on Government Secrecy at the Federation of American Scientists, who says that "in the past, government agencies have selectively blocked access to private websites that post controversial, disputed or classified information. But a block on the New York Times web site is really unheard of. It represents an extreme misunderstanding of information security policy."