Air Force Blocks WikiLeaks-Publishing Times Website
Credit where due: the New York Times is publishing some great stuff right now. Here’s an interesting piece comparing the Iranian and North Korean nuclear programs. Here’s Harvey Araton poring over Cliff Lee’s decision to return to the Phillies instead of taking his talents to the South Bronx. And here’s something about Taiwanese researchers seeing what they can learn about the human brain from fruit-fly neurons. I can easily read all of them online — because I’m not an airman.
In a brain-melting move, the cyber-guardians of the 24th Air Force have blocked user access to nytimes.com, the Wall Street Journal reports, to prevent airmen from reading the WikiLeaks cable descriptions that the Times is publishing. It’s not just the Times, either: other news organizations with early access to the purloined WikiLeaks diplomatic trove are banned. That’ll teach you to read the Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais or Der Spiegel at work.
This is an extreme step after an earlier extreme step. In August, after a previous WikiLeaks disclosure, the Defense Department instructed its personnel not to visit the now-defunct WikiLeaks.org on their work computers. That was bad enough, but this is way more headache-inducing. There’s vastly more information on any of those news organizations’ websites than has to do with WikiLeaks. Blocking news sites will not get the WikiLeaks toothpaste back into the classified-network tube. This is cybersecurity?
And 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. 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? Apparently the slope is already slipping further: Foreign Policy says it’s hearing that the Air Force is also blocking its blog devoted to WikiLeaks reporting. But it’s not slipping evenly: the Journal reports that if airmen need to read content from the blocked news organizations for professional purposes, they can get a pass.
I’m awaiting comment from the Air Force about its decision and will update this post when I do. But it’s hard not to mention that my inbox just received the evening edition of a clipping service maintained by an aide to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Its first recommended noteworthy article: “Mullen Expresses Impatience With Pakistan On Visit,” by the Times‘ Thom Shanker.
Photo: U.S. Air Force
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Sunday, December 19, 2010
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