Defense Department Blocks All Web Access To The Guardian In Response To NSA Leaks

from the head-in-sand dept

Once again, the US government appears to be taking an incredible head-in-sand approach to the various leaks about NSA surveillance. The latest is that the Defense Department is now telling everyone in the DoD to block access to The Guardian's website, which was seen very clearly after it was discovered that the US army is blocking access to the Guardian's website from all Army computers. This is not only petty and stupid, but useless. First of all, while the Guardian has been breaking much of the news about the leaks, it's all picked up quickly elsewhere and discussed widely. Pretending that blocking the Guardian has any impact is just pure cluelessness in action. Second, just because the Guardian has broken some news stories, it doesn't mean it makes sense to block the entire site. That is only going to pique more interest from folks in the Army and the wider Defense Department who are now going to be curious why the government is banning access to one of the biggest newspaper websites in the world. The whole thing smacks of stupid desperation: it doesn't stop the leaks from happening, it doesn't stop anyone in the army from finding out about the leaks, it just seems petty and designed to alert more people that the Guardian is the source to follow on these leaks.


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  1.  
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    Akari Mizunashi (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 3:28am

    Most servicemen I've talked to regarding the internet wouldn't be affected by this anyway.

    They've learned long ago to use proxy servers and VPNs, to bypass the already ludicrous bans the military imposes on its network.

    The funniest thing about all this: most of the systems compromised aren't even on their network.

     

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    Ninja (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 3:51am

    Streisand. Military version.

    It's amusing and amazing how they manage to make the situation worse every time they take any action. A political scientist once told me that there's an older, generally rotten generation holding the power right now that doesn't grasp the Intertubes and the new social organization. And that this would hasten their downfall.

    Here's hoping they fall fast and painfully.

     

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  3.  
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    RyanNerd (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 4:31am

    So is

    Barbra Steisand a General in the US Army now?
    I guess with her vast knowledge of Military Intelligence this only makes sense.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 4:41am

    The government does not want those that it relies on to defend it to know what it is up to. What does it fear,.. an armed revolution led by the army when they find out?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 4:51am

    The US has specific guidelines on how to handle classified data. Having a 'secret' clearance does not qualify someone to see ALL secret documents; it's very much a 'need to know' situation. I would guess that, as a precaution, they blocked the site so classified material that should not belong on Defense Department-owned computers did not end up on Defense Department-owned computers. This is pretty standard, and is certainly not newsworthy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:02am

    Re:

    Except for the fact that classifications on documents mean jack and shit once they're released to the public. Stop being silly and remove the classification already. Only a bureaucrat is capable of that level of self-delusion. To say that they're going ostrich is an insult to ostriches everywhere. The only possible purpose this serves is a dumbass attempt at perpetuating group think.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:02am

    Re:

    But a secret is a secret only until it's not anymore. Once something is published, everyone knows about it. All you are doing is attempting to handicap your own personnel by not allowing them to have the benefit of knowing what everyone else already does.

     

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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:10am

    So they are trying to keep the troops as uninformed as the public...
    How's that working out for ya?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:12am

    Re: Re:

    As I said, they have specific guidelines that they must follow, no matter how ridiculous they may be. Yes the documents are public and yes there are a million news stories about them. That doesn't mean the Defense Department can just ditch those guidelines. It's silly, but it's the rules. Those Defense Department employees can go home and happily check out the Guardian, but they can't at work on government computers.

     

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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:12am

    It's getting old, Mike

    The whole thing smacks of stupid desperation: it doesn't stop the leaks from happening, it doesn't stop anyone in the army from finding out about the leaks, it just seems petty and designed to alert more people that the Guardian is the source to follow on these leaks.


    It might smack of stupid desperation of the PURPOSE of the block was to;
    a) stop leaks
    b) stop anyone in the army from finding out about the leaks

    The reality of the situation is the point of the block is to keep classified documents off unclassified government systems. This is akin to a credit card company accidentally publishing a massive list of CC #'s, discovering the leak and then just leaving the information up because "it's public anyway" or leaving those files on their servers in plain text because "the accounts were cancelled anyway". When the automated systems, internal auditors, or external auditing partners look at those systems and find the dumps of plain text CC #'s it causes compliance issues. It's unrealistic to expect the auditors in these situations to have to then go search to find out if each occurrence of unencrypted CC #'s is "legitimate" because they are invalid or had already been made public.

    I know it's really easy to make an assumption as to why certain directives are made. It's easy to take it down the worst path possible if you so choose. But doing either of the above is only useful if you're trying to push an agenda and not actually a fair assessment of what's going on and why some of these decisions are made.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:13am

    Maybe Anonymous can do them the service of publishing the documents to their own website for them. Then I guess the army will have to block access to itself.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:18am

    Re: Re: Re:

    To clarify, when I say 'guidelines' I mean very clear rules. It's much, much easier to block the site than to deal with the bureaucracy of reporting a security breach. And the block only applies to the government's computers. Any of these people can go home and read the docs (whether they're allowed to according to the security clearance rules or not).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:19am

    Posting AC for a bit of safety [ha]

    All this hiding the internet from the military I find hugely amusing. One of my customers and friend runs the intel dept at our local special ops base. He's also a key player in the local tea party.
    It sure looks like the higher ups did a good job of pulling the wool over his eyes! Not to mention that the majority of people who make a military base operational are now contractors and don't have to play by the same rules as the enlisted folks.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:25am

    for i in (list of all .mil email addresses)
    for j in (list of Guardian articles)
    send $j to $i
    end
    end

     

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    Nicholas Weaver (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:27am

    Its necessary for them to do...

    The US government has no notion of "its already out there": If a document is classified Top Secret, having it discovered on an unclassified computer is bad, VERY BAD. The easiest cleanup procedure usually is "wipe the whole computer".


    It doesn't matter if copies of the document are on the front page of every newspaper in the country, scattered across a hundred flyers, and sent a thousand times to every general, colonel, and corporal in the army, its still classified.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:27am

    What do they fear if they've got nothing to hide? amirite?

     

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    RyanNerd (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:29am

    Re: It's getting old, Mike

    I guess you have a point. The military I guess had to pretend to do something so it could at least look like it was being proactive.
    But why just block Guardian? If there is such a huge security risk they should unplug all of their servers and throw them into a dark empty warehouse where there is no possibility of any information being accessed by anyone.
    The military could go back to using typewriters. That would make everything secure. With no access to anything on an electronic network there would never be any possibility that leaks could occur (right?!?)
    Sorry. I have to go with Mike on this one.
    The military head is stuck deep in the sand.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:38am

    Re: Re: Re:

    What separates "It's the rules." from "Just following order" other than severity of results from the same refusal to think?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:40am

    Re: Its necessary for them to do...

    Ok so the army is now going to be wholesale wiping all their computers instead of clearing the cache? This is getting more amusing by the minute.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:45am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Just following orders IS one of the rules.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:48am

    Are there seriously people running the military that somehow think this is going to solve, well, anything?

    Jesus Christ...the stupid! It hurts my head!

     

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  22.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:53am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think you're missing my point. It's about keeping classified documents off of unclassified government computers. It has nothing to do about the refusal to think. Those military folk can go home and view the news. They can pull out their cellphone and view the news. Easy as that. This whole story is being reported at a lot of media outlets and it's really a non-issue. It's about making headlines, nothing else.

     

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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:54am

    Re: Re: It's getting old, Mike

    Well, I question some of the facts in the story already. I have received no directives to block the Guardian's web site. Maybe it just hasn't gotten here yet, but to say that all of DoD has been directed to block the Guardian's web site does not appear to be true.

    Visiting these sites that contain classified information from unclassified machines isn't a security risk in the traditional sense. Making the assumption that the point of these blocks is to "stop military personnel from reading the truth" or that it somehow is done in an effort to increase logical security is where the whole thing breaks down.

    If you are WILLFULLY choosing to believe that the purpose of the block is for reasons other than what they really are; there's not much point in discussion. If you take the time to understand WHY blocks like this are put into place it makes a lot more sense.

     

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    Zakida Paul (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:56am

    Yeah, because their employees will never be able to access it on their personal computers and smartphones. So much stupidity on display.

     

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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 5:58am

    Re: Re: Its necessary for them to do...

    What's more amusing is that you believe wiping a computer and reinstalling is a difficult task.

    If I need to wipe a machine to remove classified data, it takes a whopping 13 minutes to go from a machine containing spillage to a completely reimaged workstation ready for the user to log back in. And it's not a one at a time deal either; we can do dozens upon dozens simultaneously with no issues.

    That aside; Nicholas didn't say that the Army was going to be "wholesale wiping all their computers", you did. Just more manufactured outrage.

     

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  26.  
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    That Anonymous Coward (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:02am

    Re:

    They make decisions how to "protect" us as well...
    scared yet?

     

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  27.  
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    Guardian, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:02am

    2006 DRM leak to pirates

    was done because the person wiped out a hard drive and thought all the data was gone then tossed the hard drive which was recovered and 7GB of DRM development was given to pirates...

    the fact that oracle and sun were using a shoe company as a front for all this work for 30 companies never dawned on anyone....they are all evil people every fucking last american company....

     

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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:05am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Some people are just choosing to miss the point here, AC... Can't do much about that until they decide to give the ego a rest and actually absorb some new information about why these blocks occur on unclassified systems (and similar reactions all across corporate and bank networks, albeit for different types of data) you're not going to get much traction in a rational discussion.

    It's kind of like trying to talk about copyright infringement at a reasonable and rational level with the MPAA.

     

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    Nathan F (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:06am

    Are they also stopping the delivery of dead tree news papers to these service men and women?

     

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    BentFranklin (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Its necessary for them to do...

    If there's nothing useful on your computers but OS and software, why have computers at all? Just go back to dumb terminals already. If people would object to wiping, there must be important data on them that would be lost. If you let them back up their data first, the objectionable material might spread. If people have to save all their data on servers, would you wipe the server?

    BTW, I'm not outraged, just depressed. Much like most of your workers I would assume.

     

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  31.  
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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:20am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Its necessary for them to do...

    There actually are efforts underway to move towards virtualized desktops, so moving back towards "dumb terminals" is already happening in a 2013 kind of way.

    The reality is that users are still using Windows 7 desktops and applications. It's just that the imaging process, and software install processes can be largely automated and made very efficient. All the base applications used by pretty much everyone are part of the image, other specific applications might be delivered as ThinApp packages and/or directly installed for that unique user as part of the imaging process.

    In terms of wiping classified data off unclassified machines; the process can vary depending on what it is, where it is, and how sensitive it is. But yes; it can be a pain and rather depressing at times. That's why there's such a focus on keeping classified data off unclassified machines, PERIOD.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:23am

    Re: Re:

    TAC, I've been scared for years.

    It's only recently that people around me realized that my hat WASN'T made of tinfoil (it was actually a leftover copper pot).

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:24am

    Re: Its necessary for them to do...

    The US government has no notion of "its already out there": If a document is classified Top Secret, having it discovered on an unclassified computer is bad, VERY BAD. The easiest cleanup procedure usually is "wipe the whole computer".

    Which is a knee jerk reaction that misses the real problem, how did it get off of a classified computer. It presence on an unclassified computer would indicate at least on more copy on removable media, and that is the one to worry about.

     

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    woodman, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:33am

    Worse than China

    This is the sort of censorship one would expect to see in China blocking Google searches - not in the UK.

    Not the Defense department's finest hour.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:42am

    so no one can look at the Guardian once they've left work, then? how bloody thick can some people get? this is supposed to stop the leaks, stem the flow of information, is it? give me strength!!

     

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    sniperdoc, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:50am

    Incompetence and ignorance

    Actually, what this actually shows is the level of understanding of the top brass that decided to do a move like this to begin with.

    Probably some top ranking General, with a very limited understanding of (social)media and the internet as a whole had a wild hair up his butt.

    There is no such thing as a media blackout anymore, not unless they take the entire internet offline and ISP's start blocking sites.

    It's not really anything new that the top brass is doing. Incompetence or self-perpetuated ignorance like this is usually only an act of "show of force or power" that serves absolutely no one, except the brass' (false) sense of security.

     

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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 6:53am

    Re: Re: Its necessary for them to do...

    Have you read anything in the news that says it's NOT something they are worried about? There are certainly more than 1 or 2 people working for DoD that deal with these types of concerns and issues; and it's not necessary to have 100% of your staff focused on a SINGLE problem when you can have teams of people each working on different issues and tasks.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 7:25am

    So, all someone would have to do is use a VPN to circumvent such a block. Obviously neither the DoD or the Army has heard of VPNs

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 7:33am

    Self censorship?

     

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  40. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
     
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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 7:53am

    from the head-in-sand dept

    It's amusing to watch you say this stuff, Mike, since you hide your head in the sand and ignore the things you don't like more so than most.

     

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    Dave Xanatos, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 8:03am

    Re: Re: Re: Re:

    I think the specific criticism here is that their "clear rules" are idiotic. In order to not act like they've had a botched lobotomy or like the mythical ostrich with it's head in the ground they need a clear rule that says "public information is no longer classified."

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 8:09am

     

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    Niall (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 8:17am

    Re:

    Funny how some commenters can come up with useful additions or even counterpoints to the article and so advance the conversation, but you just go straight for the pathetic ad-hom.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 8:25am

    Re: Re: Re: It's getting old, Mike

    Why shouldn't be as much of a question, but the how, sounds extremely arbitrary.

    Just blocking complete websites, when 99% of the content is all fine and dandy seems like a bad idea.

     

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    wec, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 8:38am

    The stupidity is not that they blocked the Guardian for procedure reasons but that if they don't block just about all sites the classified material could end up on the non-classified machines anyway. The material isn't only on the Guardian website.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 8:57am

    Re:

    Ignore what? Milk?

     

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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 9:06am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: It's getting old, Mike

    I'd certainly say that it's a lazy approach. Not necessarily a bad one, but certainly lazy.

     

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    Mike Masnick (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 9:22am

    Re: It's getting old, Mike

    It might smack of stupid desperation of the PURPOSE of the block was to;
    a) stop leaks
    b) stop anyone in the army from finding out about the leaks


    And yet it fails at both of those. And fails badly, making the DoD look pretty stupid in the process. I prefer to think that the military that defends me has a reality-based approach to things, not one that requires them to stick their head in the sand and make pretend whenever something like this happens.

    The reality of the situation is the point of the block is to keep classified documents off unclassified government systems

    I understand that. I'm saying that *makes no sense* because it makes no sense to claim that those documents are still classified once *EVERYONE* in the public has them.

    This is akin to a credit card company accidentally publishing a massive list of CC #'s, discovering the leak and then just leaving the information up because "it's public anyway" or leaving those files on their servers in plain text because "the accounts were cancelled anyway".

    No, it's not like that at all. Because that's a situation where we're talking about information directly on servers they control. But blocking access to entire websites? That's like saying that if you work for Visa, you can't visit the NY Times if they reported on the leak of those credit cards.

    It's unrealistic to expect the auditors in these situations to have to then go search to find out if each occurrence of unencrypted CC #'s is "legitimate" because they are invalid or had already been made public.

    No, but it IS realistic to say that (a) this particular information is no longer secret and (b) blocking access to an entire news website is moronic and makes us look petty.

    I know it's really easy to make an assumption as to why certain directives are made. It's easy to take it down the worst path possible if you so choose. But doing either of the above is only useful if you're trying to push an agenda and not actually a fair assessment of what's going on and why some of these decisions are made.

    I've heard this excuse before, as you know, and it still makes no sense to me. Sorry, no one has given a good reason for why blocking access to a news website here makes any sense at all.

     

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    John Fenderson (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 9:32am

    Re:

    Am I missing something? That article said nothing that wasn't already clear.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 10:07am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's about keeping classified documents off of unclassified government computers.

    This accomplishes... what?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 10:12am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    Just so we're clear, this information is already public and the "classified" status is pretty much in-name-only.

    So whats the use?

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 10:17am

    Some General: "Guys Guy" If we cover our eyes it won't exist! Block the guardian website
    Everyone else: uhhhhhhh

    Seriously the US is just proving with every action that they are in tremendous trouble. But screw it right, if your going to go down do it in style! 'Murica!

     

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    Someone, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 11:07am

    It's not just DoD

    Here at a DoE research lab the Guardian website has been blocked ever since the leaks started, when we were sent a memo which said:
    SUBJECT: Protecting classified information

    Protect yourself, your work and the laboratory: do not access potentially sensitive information

    While the recent disclosure by news sources of alleged, purported classified documents may pique your interest, employees should not use laboratory computers to access those documents at any of the locations where they may be stored online. This also applies to laboratory computers being used at home or off-site.

    A number of statutes, regulations and executive orders govern our responsibilities for the protection and control of classified information. The laboratory’s prime contract requires that we protect classified information whether or not it is part of official activities. The release of classified information from — or downloaded to — a laboratory-owned unclassified system would be a serious security incident and could result in prosecution and confiscation of your computer in its entirety without the possibility of return or future access.

    The subject of recent and varied news reports will spark many arguments in the coming weeks over the public’s right to know verses national security interests. However, one thing is not open to debate: Employees should not put themselves or the laboratory in danger of legal action by using laboratory computers for unauthorized access to potentially classified information online.

    I agree that this seems stupid, but it sort-of explains the legal-think behind the policy.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 11:22am

    This.

    So this was implemented by resources that the US taxpayers are funding. Isn't it about time that we started slashing their budgets so that USELESS directives like this just aren't possible?

    This is just retarded on so many levels, I can't even understand how they can do this with a straight face.

     

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    Paul L (profile), Jun 28th, 2013 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: It's getting old, Mike

    If you think through this to it's logical conclusion; some questions beg to be answered.

    Who's responsibility is it to scour the Internet, world newspapers, TV broadcasts, etc. to try and identify what "Classified" information has been leaked?

    What would the process be for taking marked classified documents on an unclassified system and identifying them as the specific documents that were leaked and suddenly should now lose their classification status?

    How do you teach automated systems that look for classified data on unclassified systems how to determine if a particular document is still classified or not?

    For me; it seems like the same argument that you make about Youtube trying to decide if a piece of content is infringing or not. You're asking me to spend all my time trying to research any classified documents I find to determine if they've been leaked and are now unclassified? That's an INSANE undertaking that would cost considerable amounts of taxpayer dollars to achieve.

    I don't agree that an entire SITE should be blocked. I think that move is a bit lazy, but I don't agree that blocking access to classified content from unclassified government systems is a bad thing. The last thing I need to be doing on a daily basis is chasing my tail trying to figure out what's been leaked and what isn't. I have more productive ways of spending my time.

    There's no "make pretend" going on here. It's simply maintaining compliance until such time that classified documents are unclassified by their originators.

    The credit card analogy got twisted a bit. My point is that said unencrypted card data SHOULD NOT BE ON CC PROCESSING SYSTEMS because that creates an enormous amount of work for those who have the job of keeping said data secure. The said goes for classified data on UNCLASSIFIED systems. Blocking the URL that contains the content (in this case, the entire site) PREVENTS that content from being copied to a government system; wherein the issues of data classification arise. In both cases; the issue is with the protected data being on unprotected systems.

    You can hear the excuse as much as you want; and it won't make sense to you until you CHOOSE to understand why the directives exist in the first place.

    I saw a video a couple weeks ago about a study in pedestrian traffic management. The study (with testing) showed that putting something like a bollard in FRONT of a doorway actually makes the traffic flow in/out of said doorway far more efficient because it reduces the bunching that occurs when multiple people try to squeeze through simultaneously. Now, if someone who didn't see this video saw a bollard in front of a doorway; they would likely jump to the conclusion that it's completely idiotic to do as it will impede foot traffic. The key they are missing is the understanding of why it was put there in the first place.

    Look, I love this site and really agree and enjoy about 99% of what you write here. It's good stuff and in many all cases it's well researched and understood. But I'm not a sheep; I go do my own research and try and understand BOTH perspectives of any given issue. I think it would be beneficial if you did the same with this instance. Reach out and try and understand the details behind the WHY. Don't just fabricate your own intent (to stop the Army from reading the TRUTH) and run with it to make everyone else look like idiots.

    Information is powerful.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  56.  
    identicon
    la la la, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 12:29pm

    la la la

    la la la, I can't hear you, la la la

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  57.  
    identicon
    Dave Xanatos, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Re: Re: It's getting old, Mike

    Your questions only "beg to be answered" in the context of a flawed viewpoint. You talk of a system that would have to be created to decide if content is "still" classified if it is found publicly. Instead of trying to determine if public information should be declassified, acknowledge that public information is already declassified. Don't try to conform reality to the system, conform the system to reality. Much easier, that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  58.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 2:32pm

    But can the DOD employees still download child porn?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  59.  
    identicon
    Matthew A. Sawtell, Jun 28th, 2013 @ 3:27pm

    Devil's Advocate Question...

    So... if any other site is linking or talking about the issue, are they getting 'firewalled' too?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  60.  
    icon
    nasch (profile), Jun 30th, 2013 @ 3:18pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

    It's about keeping classified documents off of unclassified government computers.

    But blocking the Guardian doesn't accomplish that.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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