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The newly created "Cyber Command" Now controls the Air Force Network Operations Center and bans blog content.  (Source: Air Force)
China, Turkey, Pakistan ... the U.S. Air Force? The Air Force adopts strict new anti-blog computer policy

The U.S. Air Force has adopted an alarming new censorship policy that effectively bans blogs and blogging by troops using Air Force computers and networks.   The U.S. Army has required that bloggers register with their chain of command, but has encouraged them to write appropriate postings.  The Air Force, which did not adopt such a policy, now has turned to a much more restrictive policy that bans any site using the word "blog" in its URL.

The Army reviews its soldiers blogs to be redacted for sensitive information before soldiers can publish them.  This is meant to protect U.S. secrets from accidentally being exposed.  However, soldiers are welcome to speak freely in their blogs and visit blog sites. 

The Air Force feels differently, and states that blogs and various other news entities are "not legitimate new sources."

The new policy is partly due to new leadership.  Before the Air Force's internet issues were handled individually by each major command.  These separate units had the right to control their users' access as they saw fit, according The Air Force Times.  Now the internet policy has been placed under Cyber Command, which now regulates the Air Force Network Operations Center (AFNOC) in its entirety.

The new ban by the AFNOC's new leadership eliminates access to all sites hosted by popular provider Blogspot.  Other blogs and news sites, not containing "blog" in their URL are additionally blocked based on "content reviews performed on the base, command, and AFNOC level" according to The Air Force Times.  AFNOC utilizes the Blue Coat Software to categorize sites by content and speed the blocking process.  Says Tech. Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, a Cyber Command spokesman, "Often, we block first, and then review exceptions."

Maj. Henry Schott, A5 for Air Force Network Operations, tried to clarify the stance, stating, "The idea isn't to keep airmen in the dark -- they can still access news sources that are primary, official-use sources.  Basically ... if it's a place like The New York Times, an established, reputable media outlet, then it's fairly cut and dry that that's a good source, an authorized source."

Many, though feel that such decisions are highly subjective and that some blogs can provide as good or better news coverage, in some cases, than that of major news outlets.  These people will likely point to the recent court rulings that have granted bloggers journalistic protection, legitimizing their profession, at least from a legal standpoint.  Others take offense with the new policy as it blocks materials that could be valuable for training and preparedness. 

One Air Force officer, who wished to remain unnamed, tells Wired the following story: "A couple of years back, I fought this issue concerning the Counterterrorism Blog. An [Air Force] professional education course website recommended it as a great source for daily worldwide [counterterrorism] news.  However it had been banned, because it called itself a blog. And as we all know, all blogs are bad!"

Content filtering is relatively widespread in the military, though not on this scale.  Previously YouTube and MySpace were banned by the armed forces for taking up too much bandwidth.  The Army has also been concerned with the large amount of leaked pictures, video, and information appearing online.  Still many including Gen. David Petraeus, who commands U.S. forces in Iraq, have commended military bloggers and state that they're performing a vital function.

Many in the Air Force are furious at the new policy.  Writes one senior officer, "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. I'm 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, didn't mean to drip sarcasm on your rug."

While the Air Force spends $81M USD to publicize its new advances, an Air Force officer states that the regulation of blogs has undermined "some of their most credible advocates."  He points to such sites as In From the Cold, a right-leaning military, intelligence and political affairs blog written by "Nathan Hale," the pseudonym for a former journalist and Air Force intelligence officer, who served for over two decades in the armed forces. 

He states, "The Air Force isn't 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.  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."

The U.S. has been highly critical of other nations, such as China's internet censorship efforts, particularly attempts to silence bloggers.  The new policies by the United States Air Force are certain to strike many as a bit hypocritical in this regard.


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RE: Constitutional violations
By cputeq on 2/29/2008 6:44:24 AM , Rating: 4
This has nothing to do with "erosions" of rights and freedoms, and everything to do with computer and operational security.

I'm also in the Air Force (E-6), and I totally agree with this policy. We have been briefed multiple times to be extremely careful as to what you place on blogs, because people were getting extremely careless and posting sensitive information.

The Air Force has gotten tired of that and finally implemented a "STFU" rule by just filtering out blogs from government computers -- You know, the things you're on while you're at work.

There are certainly other means to blog if airmen really want to do so; as a matter of fact, I believe the base library computers aren't even on the same restrictions as working computers. I *think* they're using different, much less restrictive filters than work computers.

The point is this -- too many airmen were using goverment-owned, workplace computers to visit sites that were totally unauthorized in the first freakin' place and posting sensitive data, so the Air Force has squashed that activity.
Kudos to them.


RE: Constitutional violations
By kyp275 on 2/29/2008 10:13:50 AM , Rating: 2
No kidding. Frankly I find it rather amusing how people who aren't in the military, who have no idea what it's actually like, yet talk out of their behind like they actually know what's going on :rolleyes:


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