Pentagon Takes Head In Sand Approach To Wikileaks: Blocks All Access To Troops... Though Everyone Else Can Get In

from the that's-not-going-to-work dept

The Pentagon's laughably inept response to Wikileaks just keeps getting more and more ridiculous. The latest is that all military personnel are barred from going to Wikileaks and downloading material. Apparently, the military has actually put in place ridiculously crude filters that will block access to any URL that says Wikileaks. Of course, everyone else can still get to Wikileaks. How does this help at all?

Obviously, the government doesn't want military staff to leak stuff to Wikileaks, but this ban won't do that. If anything, it'll just call a lot more attention to the site. And the whole reasoning behind the ban is so nonsensical that it'll probably just make members of the military scratch their heads:
[W]illingly accessing the WIKILEAKS website for the purpose of viewing the posted classified material [constitutes] the unauthorized processing, disclosure, viewing, and downloading of classified information onto an UNAUTHORIZED computer system not approved to store classified information. Meaning they have WILLINGLY committed a SECURITY VIOLATION.
The thing is, the US military isn't who's interested in viewing that material, or the one who matters if they access that material. All this does is take a head-in-the-sand approach to Wikileaks, that maybe if military staff can't reach it directly, everyone will forget about it. We noted that the Pentagon's response to Wikileaks is like the RIAA's response to Napster, but this might be even more brain-dead. It would be like the RIAA setting up a filter for record labels so they can't even look at file sharing sites. It makes no sense.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    Nastybutler77 (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 5:50pm

    " It would be like the RIAA setting up a filter for record labels so they can't even look at file sharing sites. It makes no sense."

    I think it would be more like banning musicians from looking at file sharing sites.

     

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    Bob V (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 5:59pm

    Completely stupid but I can see the mindset that came up with this. There are all kinds of inspections all the time. inspector happens to look at the computer sees classified material being stored inappropriately and then there is all kinds of silliness to follow. This is just to protect the troops.

     

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      Pitabred, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 9:08am

      Re:

      This isn't to protect the troops. It's to prosecute the troops. It sets up even more of an "us vs. them" mentality, where the military is the great protector and the rest of us are all just idiots trying to get ourselves killed.

       

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    Ian (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 6:17pm

    It sounds like the concern is that a soldier might go and download classified (yet publicly available) information onto a computer, and then that computer will contain that information in the cache. This means that classified information is now on an additional unsecured computer.

    Basically, just because something is freely available doesn't mean it's not classified, so they have to treat it as such. The military is a huge bureaucracy. They're not going to relax on enforcing a rule just because it's pointless in the particular situation. Moreover, the military mindset tends to focus on obeying all rules/laws/orders, even where they are pointless. It's not exactly a "think critically for yourself" sort of setup.

     

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      mkam (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 6:26pm

      Re:

      Ian is exactly right and Mike you are off on your analysis of this. If you pull classified material onto an unclass computer you have a spillage. This requires the computer to be wiped and causes everyone a lot of headaches (paperwork, lost data, etc). The policy states no government computer on the Wikileaks site to avoid spillage and the associated issues that come along with it. Military and civilians are actually encouraged to check Wikileaks from home to check for leaks.

      The checking from home ignores the rules for official government computers and all the issues that come with the potential for classified spillage.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 6:38pm

        Re: Re:

        So, let me get this straight:

        - Watching classified documents at work: Bad!
        - Watching classified documents at home: Ok!


        I see, it's kinda like porn then.

        ---

        All kidding aside, the documents are already public. Why not declassify them and just avoid all of the bureaucracy altogether? Or is the pentagon just trying to hide something from the troops?

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 6:50pm

        Re: Re:

        Thanks for providing a reasonable counterargument! This is why I refuse to read articles without comments!

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 6:56pm

        Re: Re:

        Yeah, we wouldn't want that information that has already been leaked to the public, reported on by various news organizations, downloaded by numerous individuals, backed up in multiple locations, and...already leaked...be leaked from a spillage.

        That would be terrible!

         

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        PaulT (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 5:42am

        Re: Re:

        "The policy states no government computer on the Wikileaks site to avoid spillage and the associated issues that come along with it"

        Erm, exactly. But the point is that in this case the "spillage" has already occurred and the information is available to everybody on the planet. What is the point of enforcing those rules now, when the only effect is to give military personnel *less* information than that available to their enemies?

         

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          pjhenry1216 (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 8:38am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I'm not commenting on whether its a good or bad policy, but just because it's been leaked virtually everywhere does not mean its unclassified. Military is just following protocol. Until its been declassified by an authorized entity, it stays classified. If spillage occurs (even if its already occurred elsewhere), it still has to go through normal protocols. All they're doing is avoiding the problem of deciding how large a spill needs to be for them to ignore it and assume its classified.

          It's also serving as a reminder that any classified information that is similar or even identical in nature to the leaked info is *still* classified.

          I'm guessing they just feel its best to treat spills in a black & white nature as opposed to grey areas. The spill itself is being treated as any other spill.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2010 @ 12:42am

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Sounds like the same guy who came up with the security policy at my work.

            They are trusted to have the keys to the building, the codes to deactivate the alarm and control over the CCTV system, but they aren't trusted enough to be permitted entry to the building...

             

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      PaulT (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 5:38am

      Re:

      "download classified (yet publicly available) information onto a computer, and then that computer will contain that information in the cache"

      Erm, if it's on Wikileaks, it is already publicly available to anybody who might want it, so who cares if it's in a cache?

      "just because something is freely available doesn't mean it's not classified"

      But what point is the classification at that time?

      "It's not exactly a "think critically for yourself" sort of setup."

      Not exactly an excuse, but true.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 6:31pm

    The Pentagon just doesn't want its troops to take a good look at the fruits of their labor. They might actually start thinking, and a thinking soldier is a dangerous thing. Thinking leads to questioning and doubting. That's Bad juju. Better keep them under a "need to know" basis.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 10:01pm

      Re:

      Not everybody hates the military like you do. Nor do all of us think they are doing bad stuff. I want to just call you a bunch of names because that is all you probably understand.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 7:05pm

    They can't just declassify the information just because it's publicly available. Executive Order 13526 signed by President Obama in December09 prevents just that sort of situation. Executive Order 13526

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:29pm

      Re:

      I'm sure what point you are talking about, can you cite a specific point?

      I did find this bit of it interesting though:
      "Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations.
      (a) In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:
      (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

      (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;"

      This seems to indicate more than anything it ought to be declassified.

       

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:29pm

      Re:

      I'm sure what point you are talking about, can you cite a specific point?

      I did find this bit of it interesting though:
      "Sec. 1.7. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations.
      (a) In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:
      (1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

      (2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;"

      This seems to indicate more than anything it ought to be declassified.

       

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    Overcast (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 8:04pm

    They can't just declassify the information just because it's publicly available. Executive Order 13526 signed by President Obama in December09 prevents just that sort of situation.

    It would be far nicer, if 'laws' like that were actually ran through congress instead of like 'decrees by Caesar'.

     

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      Battlingdragon, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:22pm

      Re:

      These "decrees of Caesar" are completely different from the 288 Executive Orders Dubya signed, right? Including the 54 Presidential Directives he signed, of which only 1/3 have text or descriptions available to the general public, including members of Congress not on the National Security Council?

      No, those are completely different.

       

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        Chargone (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 6:08pm

        Re: Re:

        .. see, I'd say they're exactly the same and Overcast's statement still stands.

        well, until you realise how completely made of fail the idea of congress (or any democratically elected body on a large scale) is.

         

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        Greg G, Aug 8th, 2010 @ 12:59pm

        Re: Re:

        Dubya? Right away, your comment is voided by the fact that you typed out his name that way, since you are obviously a liberal with a chip on your shoulder.

        Of course, if you want to play that game, let's go back to Billy boy, ol' William Jefferson Blithe Clinton...
        Let's count them, shall we?

        2001 - E.O. 13186 - E.O. 13197 (12 Executive orders issued)
        2000 - E.O. 13145 - E.O. 13185 (41 Executive orders issued)
        1999 - E.O. 13110 - E.O. 13144 (35 Executive orders issued)
        1998 - E.O. 13072 - E.O. 13109 (38 Executive orders issued)
        1997 - E.O. 13034 - E.O. 13071 (38 Executive orders issued)
        1996 - E.O. 12985 - E.O. 13033 (49 Executive orders issued)
        1995 - E.O. 12945 - E.O. 12984 (40 Executive orders issued)
        1994 - E.O. 12891 - E.O. 12944 (54 Executive orders issued)
        1993 - E.O. 12834 - E.O. 12890 (57 Executive orders issued)

        http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/executive-orders/clinton.html

        I believe that total comes to 364, thus dwarfing the # that Bush signed. Conveniently left that off your comments, didn't ya. Didn't suit your agenda, did it?

        And to be fair, I'll even post #'s for George 41, Reagan and Carter.

        Total EO's
        GW Bush: 166, 1 term
        Reagan: 547, 2 terms
        Carter: 320, 1 term (thank God)

         

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      Relax, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 11:28am

      It's a presidental power

      The right to classify a document is considered a presidential power. Effectively, the president delegates that power to others through his chain of command. Obama was updating the details for his administration.

       

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    E, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:03pm

    "Obviously, the government doesn't want military staff to leak stuff to Wikileaks, but this ban won't do that"

    Uhm...and why do you this so?

     

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    Hephaestus (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 10:26pm

    Mike you are an idiot ...

    This situation is a catch 22. There are laws that prevent the distribution of classified documents on government systems and to individuals that do not have the clearance for those document. Until these documents are declasified or released under FOIA they can not be on the machines of government, military, or consultant personel. Its a violation of federal law.

    Saying, this information is out there, does not change the law. Until the law changes on this, any government machine that has downloaded classified information that the individual does not have access to or machine is not secured for needs to be scrubbed and re-imaged.

    Yes, it seems simple, the information is out there. But we live in a society of laws and rules. The laws and rules are currently coming into conflict with the reality of the situation.

    Technology is moving faster than the rules and laws can adapt, expect no rational debate just reaction.

     

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      Jay (profile), Aug 6th, 2010 @ 11:14pm

      Uhm...

      I know that we are run by a society of laws and rules, but I think the rules are becoming a burden. There's so much red tape and the ways to get information so inept, that Wikileaks does it far more efficiently than any bureaucrat who is only interested in their job.

      What we may need is a way to ease the rules or clarify what to do in a situation such as this.

      Rest assured, something else will be leaked. It's just a matter of time.

       

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        Hephaestus (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 6:53am

        Re: Uhm...

        "I know that we are run by a society of laws and rules, but I think the rules are becoming a burden."

        Agreed, politicians keep making laws with no chance of working, never check to see if they are working, and never check to see if they have become obsolete. They stay on the books becoming a burden to society.

        My point was that the military has to work with in the rules and you are seeing the result of that. It isn't a matter of them sticking their heads in the sand. Until the documents are declassified they can't be on government systems. The military is doing what it should. Now imagine what would happen if they could ignore the rules when ever they choose to. Its not a pretty thought is it.

        "There's so much red tape and the ways to get information so inept, that Wikileaks does it far more efficiently than any bureaucrat who is only interested in their job."

        You forgot to mention what job they do more efficiently. If you are talking about spreading information any publicly accessable web site can do that.

        The red tape goes back to the burden of the rules that are in place never being re-examined to see if they are working efficiently, doing what they were meant to, or are just plain obsolete.

        "What we may need is a way to ease the rules or clarify what to do in a situation such as this."

        We have the declassification route, and to allow arbitrary loosening of the rules is a disaster waiting to happen.

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 11:36pm

      Re: Mike you are an idiot ...

      Hence why things like wikileaks keeps popping up all over the place.

      The system will find equilibrium in one way or another.

       

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    NAMELESS.ONE, Aug 6th, 2010 @ 11:30pm

    time for a subdomain "wikikeaks.YOURDOMAIN.com"

    then they can't see you
    haha

    EPIC stupidity

     

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    BuzzCoastin (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 3:43am

    How ironic that "government" that violates the 4th amendment by snooping own its own citizens without warrant or due process is trying like the little dutch boy to plug the leak with its little pentagonal finger, while completely ignoring that the whirld is now & forever changed.

    As McLuhan noted wayback in 1969: The day of the individualist, of privacy, of fragmented or “applied” knowledge, of “points of view” and specialist goals is being replaced by the over-all awareness of a mosaic world in which space and time are overcome by television, jets and computers — a simultaneous, “all-at-once” world in which everything resonates with everything else as in a total electrical field...

    Oh & by the way, the US military is a dictatorship & acts accordingly. Interesting that it now has its own Great Fire Wall just like China. But if you get a VPN then wikileaks is ok. Okey Dokey Smokey

     

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    bdhoro, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 7:25am

    Out of site, but very much on the mind.

    The real point here isn't about what the law is. The US military is supposed to be one of the most technologically advanced groups in the world. For them to take a stance that shows an extreme misunderstanding of how information and in the internet works is a show of how political this is and how little military groups even care.

    Could it even be possible that one of the great minds in our military even thought about this leak and guided the response? Our military is the single government organization capable of critical thinking and making use of all their resources.

    They should thus understand the value of this information and the stupidity of keeping their personnel purposely uninformed.

    Realizing that there will be no punishment for the wide availability of this content the military SHOULD NOT BLINDLY FOLLOW THE LAW especially if breaking the law bears NO CONSEQUENCES.

    I'd like to see every computer that's accessed the wikileaks site confiscated please.

     

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    scuttledmonkey (profile), Aug 7th, 2010 @ 8:30am

    The problem is not

    Wikileaks the problem is with the military.

     

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    Bradley Stewart, Aug 7th, 2010 @ 2:50pm

    Has Anyone At The Pentagon

    ever seen a movie. Surely you remember those military movies from decades ago where two guys each have a key and they have to turn them both simultaneously to launch the missile. Hey fellas maybe its time you just beef up just a tad your security on the information that you feel should never see the light of day.

     

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      Gary B (profile), Aug 8th, 2010 @ 6:02pm

      Re: Has Anyone At The Pentagon

      Once they do the background check to grant a clearance, there has to be a certain level of trust given to the clearance holder. Of course, there are those who violate the trust for reasons both good and ill. Risk assessment, I suppose.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 8th, 2010 @ 5:40pm

    They are showing gov they can block wikileaks

     

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    Gary B (profile), Aug 8th, 2010 @ 5:57pm

    Fun with Classified Documents

    Way back when, we were forbidden from bringing Bamford's book "The Puzzle Palace" into secure areas. Although NSA refused to confirm or deny anything in the book, the fear was that people may bring it into the facility and make annotations, and it all goes downhill from there. Young servicemembers busted for possessing classified outside secure areas, blah blah blah.

    It may seem silly from one perspective, but it's logical from another.

     

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    btr1701 (profile), Aug 9th, 2010 @ 7:46am

    Clarification

    Is the Pentagon banning its staff from accessing Wikileaks on government computers, or banning them from accessing it on *any* computer, i.e, from their personal home computers and cell phones?

    And if it's the latter, how would that apply to servicemembers' families? What happens if the wife or kid of an Army officer looks at Wikileaks on her cell phone or laptop? Can they bring charges against the officer for his family's behavior? Can they go after the wife and charge her directly?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 9th, 2010 @ 5:12pm

    "This isn't to protect the troops. It's to prosecute the troops."

    And they should be prosecuted. Will WikiLeaks appologize to the Afgan widow for her husband being murdered? You can talk all you want to about rights and be safe in your mothers basement, but what happened in the WikiLeaks situation will cost people their lives.

    Who pays for that?

     

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    Matt Bennett, Aug 10th, 2010 @ 12:57pm

    Did anyone consider the reason this is banned is at least some of those documents might mention said military member, or their friends? To see what exactly your commander wrote up in a battle report could lead to "failure of morale".

    I admit, I don't see it as a huge problem myself, but it strikes me a semi-reasonable reason. Keep in mind soldiers home's are often on base, as well, which means the military might control the ISP there, as well.

     

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