The Air Force is tightening restrictions on which blogs its troops can read, cutting off access to just about any independent site with the word "blog" in its web address. Its the latest move in a larger struggle within the military over the value and hazards of the sites. At least one senior Air Force official calls the squeeze so "utterly stupid, it makes me want to scream."
Until recently, each major command of the Air Force had some control over what sites their troops could visit, the Air Force Times reports. Then the Air Force Network Operations Center, under the services new "Cyber Command," took over.
has imposed bans on all sites with "blog" in their URLs, thus cutting off any
sites hosted by
Blogspot. Other blogs, and sites in general, are blocked based on content reviews performed at the base, command and AFNOC level
idea isnt to keep airmen in the dark they can still access news sources that
are "primary, official-use sources," said Maj. Henry
Schott, A5 for Air Force Network Operations. "Basically if its a place like The New York Times, an established, reputable media outlet, then its fairly cut and dry that thats a good source, an authorized source," he said
AFNOC blocks sites by using Blue Coat software, which categorizes sites based on their content and allows users to block sub-categories as they choose.
we block first and then review exceptions," said Tech. Sgt. Christopher
DeWitt, a Cyber Command spokesman.
As a result, airmen posting online have cited instances of seemingly innocuous sites such as educational databases and some work-related sites getting wrapped up in broad proxy filters.
couple of years back, I fought this issue concerning the Counterterrorism
Blog," one Air Force officer tells Danger Room.
"An AF [Air Force] professional education course website recommended it as a great source for daily worldwide CT [counterterrorism] news. However it had been banned, because it called itself a blog. And as we all know, all blogs are bad!"
Hes joking, of course. But blogs and social networking sites have faced all sorts of restrictions on military networks, for all sorts of reasons. MySpace and YouTube are officially banned, for eating up too much bandwidth. Stringent regulations, read literally, require Army officers to review each and every item one of his soldiers puts online, in case they leak secrets. And in televised commercials, screensavers and fliers, troops are told that blogging is a major security risk even though official sites have proven to leak many, many more secrets. Now theres the Air Forces argument, that blogs arent legitimate media outlets and therefore, shouldnt be read at work.
this view isnt universally held in the military. Many believe blogs to be a valuable
source of information and a way for ordinary troops to shape opinions, at home and
abroad. Gen. David Petraeus, who heads the
Leavenworth, recently wrote (in a blog post, no less) that soldiers should be encouraged to "get onto blogs and [s]end their YouTube videos to their friends and family."
the Air Force, theres also a strong contingent that wants to see open access to the
sites and is mortified by the AFNOCs restrictions. "When I
hear stuff this utterly stupid, it makes me want to scream
. Piles of torn out hair
are accumulating around my desk as we speak," one senior
Air Force official writes in an e-mail. "Im certain that by blocking blogs for official use, our airmen will never, ever be able to read them on their own home computers, so we have indeed saved them from a contaminating influence. Sorry, didnt mean to drip sarcasm on your rug."
One of the blogs banned is In From the Cold, which examines military, intelligence and political affairs from a largely right-of-center perspective. Its written by "Nathan Hale," the pseudonym for a former journalist and Air Force intelligence officer, who spent more than two decades in the service. He tells Danger Room, "If knowledge and information are power and no one disputes that then why not trust your people and empower them to explore all sides of issues affecting the service, air power and national security?"
DoD [Department of Defense] can decide what internet content should be filtered
they spent billions on the IT architecture and billions more to maintain it. But if
its a matter of "ensuring worker productivity"
and deterring "wasteful surfing of the internet," does it really make sense to block relatively small blogs (that just happen to focus on military and security issues), while allowing everyone to access ESPN
or FoxSports? Wonder how much work time will be lost on filling out
"March Madness" brackets, versus reading a military or intelligence blog?
In short, there doesnt seem to be any consistency in the current DoD
policy. And thats no surprise. A few months ago, a senior Pentagon
P.A. [public affairs] official told me that his service had no plans to engage the blogosphere, because their studies showed that "people dont rely on blogs for news and information." And he said it with a straight face.
The Air Force recently launched an $81 million marketing campaign to convince lawmakers and average citizens of its relevance in todays fights. By making it harder for troops to blog, an Air Force officer says, the service had undermined "some of their most credible advocates."
"The Air Force isnt getting the planes that they want because they are incapable of communicating their usefulness and applicability in this new war. Because Air Force officers talk more like corporate bureaucrats than cocky war fighters, no one is inspired or convinced of their pressing (and quite legitimate) need to modernize the force," he adds. "Air Force bloggers spoke the lingo of someone heavily invested in the fight, because they operate outside the survival-minded careerist world of public affairs, with many of them penning blog posts from theater."
Perhaps, says retired Air Force Col. Tom Ehrhard, whos now a Senior Fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. But there are legitimate security reasons why blogs need to be restricted. Adversaries may be using blogs to take advantage of airmen, he notes.
is increasingly clear that active exploitation could take advantage of airmen and
civilians who want to inform and correct the often outrageous, false assertions on these
blogs. In doing so, it is easy for well-meaning insiders to violate operational security
tenets, either directly or tangentially. We are in a different world today when it comes to sensitive military information, and foreign intelligence operatives surely understand this and will exploit it. As a former member of Strategic Air Command, where OPSEC was (rightly) an obsession, this has been obvious to me for some time in reading aerospace-oriented blogs. This policy strikes me as a timely reminder to Air Force professionals that they should be on guard when blogging, because someone is watching.
UPDATE: Im getting a lot of conflicting data about exactly which blogs are blocked, and which ones arent. Shoot me a note if youre currently in the Air Force, and would like to help set me straight. All off-the-record, naturally.
* Facebook Threatens Soldiers, Canada Says
* Army: Wikis Too Risky
* U.S. Starting to Wake Up to Media War?
* AQI Leaders: Breaking Smokers Fingers Backfiring
* Pentagon Plots Sim Iraq for Propaganda Tests
* Pentagon Panel: U.S. Must Sell Good News
* Top General: Let Soldiers Blog
* Rummy Resurfaces, Calls for U.S. Propaganda Agency
* In Iraq, Psyops Team Plays on Iran Fears, Soccer Love
* How Technology Almost Lost the War
* Targeting the Jihadist Noise Machine
* 18 Months Later, Charges for Jailed Journo in Iraq
* U.S. Enlists Arab Bloggers for Info War
* Some of Her Best Friends Are Terrorists
* Inside Al-Qaedas "Intranet"
* Intel Director Launches Qaeda Leak Probe
* Ex-Spies Blast Qaeda Breach
* Al-Qaeda "Intranet" Goes Dark After Leak
* Bloggers vs. Terrorists?
* Army Gearing Up for Info War (Finally)
* Osama: Back in Black
* Al-Qaeda Channels Pixar
* Inside the Insurgent Noise Machine
* Terrorists Keep Blogs, Too
* Al-Qaeda Ramps up Propaganda Push
* Army Bullies Blogger, Invades YouTube
* Al-Qaeda Propaganda at New High
* British Military Gags Blogs
* Army Audit: Official Sites, Not Blogs, are Security Threat
* Military Security Threat: Bogus Bomb-Zappers Bogus Countermeasure
* Military Hypes, Bans YouTube
* Petraeus Hearts Milblogs
* No More YouTube, MySpace for U.S. Troops
* Milblogs Boost War Effort
* Pentagon Whispers; Milbloggers Zip Their Lips
* Clarifying the Blog Rule Clarification
* Army to Bloggers: We Wont Bust You. Promise.
* Armys Blog Rebuttal
* Stop Those Leaks!
* Strategic Minds Debate Milblog Crackdown
* Milblog Bust: AP Gets Snowed
* Army: Milblogging is "Therapy," Media is "Threat"
* Urban Legend Led to Army Blog-Bust?
* New Army Rules Could Kill G.I. Blogs (Maybe E-mail, Too)
* Reporters = Foreign Spies?
* Armys Info-Cop Speaks
(2.27.2008, Noah Shachtman)
Read More http://www.wired.com/dangerroom/2008/02/air-force-banni/#ixzz0ccZyDIvL