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The military has banned USB drives, CDs, and DVDs from SIPRNET-computers, under threat of court-martial. The military had long allowed such items under a policy of trust, until a shocking betrayal by one of its own made it rethink that policy.  (Source: U.S. Army photo by Spc. Michelle Waters, 133rd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment)
Crackdown comes in the wake of Wikileaks debacle

On Friday, December 3, 2010 the U.S. military rolled out a strict set of changes to try to prevent leaks of classified missions information to foreign sources. 

Excerpts of a memo published in Wired magazine's Danger Room blog are attributed to Maj. Gen. Richard Webber, commander of Air Force Network Operations.  The memo states that airmen will "immediately cease use of removable media on all systems, servers, and stand alone machines residing on SIPRNET."

Similar memos went out to members of the other U.S. military branches.  Failure to comply could lead to a court-martial.  States the memo, "Users will experience difficulty with transferring data for operational needs which could impede timeliness on mission execution...[but] military personnel who do not comply … may be punished under Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice."

Article 92 covers disciplinary action for refusing to obey orders which it describes "shall be punished as a court-martial may direct." 

SIPRNET is the name for a U.S. government digital documents warehouse, which some government and military computers can access.  An estimated two million U.S. citizens have at least partial access to its contents, but they are legally bound to keep the information secret.  Up until recently, the government's policy of trust worked pretty effectively.

The recent provisions may seem severe, but they're understandable in the wake of the worst breach of secrecy in the U.S. military history.  U.S. Army Spc. Bradley Manning, a disgruntled private who had been demoted, used his access to SIPRNET to steal hundreds of thousands of U.S. military and State Department documents, which he passed to Wikileaks.  Mr. Manning burned the secrets to discs, which were labeled "Lady Gaga" -- and appropriately contained tracks by the artist as a cover.

That led to many of those documents being published by international news outlets, or by Wikileaks itself.  Some leaks have raised questions of wrongdoing (for example memos detailing civilian casualties), but some experts say that such attitudes are only the result of hyperscrutiny.  They argue that the published documents reveal that the Iraq and Afghanistan efforts were surprisingly clean as far as wars come.

More recent leaks of State Department secrets like undisclosed illnesses of world leaders or a list of top targets for terrorists to attack the U.S. have been embarrassing for the U.S.

The military has been struggling with how it should react.

Aside from the recent ban on media connected to SIPRNET computers, 60 percent of the computers are now monitored by a remote surveillance system.  Dubbed Host Based Security System, this system keeps a watchful eye for suspicious activity. 

Editorials at some news outlets (CNN) have dubbed the scuffle between Wikileaks and the U.S. government, "the first cyberwar".  Regardless of whether this label is hyperbole, or close to reality, the U.S. military is certainly trying to steel itself against future unintended releases.

 



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RE: All it takes...
By MrBlastman on 12/13/2010 3:47:46 PM , Rating: 2
I'm still a little in disbilief that they allowed thumb drives and cd/dvd burners on equipment that could access the database. Whoever came up with that policy, I hope, is at least losing a little sleep every night over this... but, I bet they aren't, as they trusted that human nature wouldn't get the best of people.

This is another reason why I have thought for some time that the secret/top-secret etc. classification system for military/government information needs to be re-thought. Far too many people have access to this stuff.


RE: All it takes...
By MozeeToby on 12/13/2010 5:12:10 PM , Rating: 2
If the proper procedures were being followed everyone shouldn't have had access, which is the part that so many people in the general public, the media, and even the organizations in charge of controlling access seem to forget.

Let's say for example, that you have a Top Secret clearance, along with all the ratings that can be attached to it as well. That doesn't mean that you can waltz into the data warehouse and take a look at anything you want. What it means is that if you need to know a piece of information to do your job, you are allowed to know it. If you don't have a need to know something, you are not legally allowed to view it and you should not have access to it.

That's why putting every diplomatic cable into the same database is so incredibly stupid, and, I suspect, against procedures. Throwing intelligence reports into the same DB and allowing removable media just compounds the problem. There's no reason why every single diplomat, intelligence analyst, and CIA agent needs to have access to every single diplomatic cable and intelligence report, allowing everyone access was the first, and most serious criminal act in the whole Wikileaks mess.


RE: All it takes...
By Master Kenobi (blog) on 12/13/2010 7:32:59 PM , Rating: 2
Having everything in the same database isn't an issue, not putting things into compartments with differing access criteria is.


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