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
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.
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.