Military Prefers To Keep Its Head In The Sand: Bans All Employees From Visiting The Intercept

from the because-that'll-work dept

Not this again. A few years ago, the US military blocked access to a bunch of news sites, including the NY Times and The Guardian, in an attempt to block military members from reading the news because some of the news included the leaked State Department cables that Wikileaks had released in conjunction with those news sites. Last year, the Defense Department blocked all access to the Guardian after it started reporting on the Ed Snowden leaks. And now, The Intercept reports, the military has also banned access to The Intercept. Of course, no one in the military will know that the public knows about this, because they're apparently not allowed to read about it.
Oddly, this time around, rather than just putting in a filter to block such browsing (though that's there too), the military has distributed the ridiculous memo above, telling people to avoid visiting the website. I guess that's so they know "not" to visit the site from a personal computer or device as well. A (not surprisingly) confidential source told The Intercept just how nutty this directive is:
“Even though I have a top secret security clearance, I am still forbidden to read anything on the website,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. “I find this very disturbing that they are threatening us and telling us what websites and news publishers we are allowed to read or not.”
As we've said in the past, this is just silly. And, yes, I know the rationale that defenders of this kind of ridiculous argument will make. There are rules about how classified material is handled, and if a classified document gets on a computer when it's not supposed to be there, it's a massive horrible emergency and creates a huge mess for the IT folks. But let's take a step back from that and deal with reality. As we've noted, when it comes to things like non-disclosure agreements in corporate settings, there's always a clause that says if the same information becomes public through other means (i.e., not the signing party releasing it), the information is no longer considered confidential and subject to the agreement. That is a sensible, reality-based policy.

If classified documents are being reported on in the press, they're publicly available. Continuing to pretend that they're still classified is just ridiculous. It means that those in the military are suddenly less informed about issues that they often need to know about. I can't see how that makes any sense at all.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 10:32pm

    A classic example of how intelligence is not always intelligent in the military.

     

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  2.  
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    relghuar, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 10:49pm

    try it yourself ;-)

    "I can't see how that makes any sense at all."

    Perhaps because your brain didn't turn green yet.
    Spending a few years in the military might help you to understand their totally reasonable view on these things :-D

     

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  3.  
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    Twinsdad9901, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 11:06pm

    Remind me of an old joke:
    Q: What is the difference between the Boy Scouts and the military?
    A: The Boy Scouts have adult leadership.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 21st, 2014 @ 11:33pm

    You may not want to confirm that a particular leaked document is authentic. That's fine - just because a document is leaked doesn't mean you have to declassify the document.

    But if The Intercept just published a document, then the version that The Intercept just published is, for any realistic purpose, not classified. If you got it from an unclassified public source, then that particular copy should not be considered classified.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:00am

    SNAFU

    "It means that those in the military are suddenly less informed about issues that they often need to know about."

    Dude, that's just about the very definition of "military intelligence."

     

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  6.  
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    Jay Fude (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 3:43am

    Thanks

    Thank you DOD, I never knew about the website called "the intercept" I was getting all my news from a website called "the Streisand effect"

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 4:16am

    Ryan Gallagher's article at The Intercept includes text from one of the directives issued to military staff. Part of it reads:
    Viewing potentially classified material (even material already wrongfully released in the public domain) from unclassified equipment will cause you long term security issues. This is considered a security violation.
    I don't think this ban (or any of the others mentioned) has anything to do with actually preventing military personnel from reading the news or seeing the contents of "outed" classified material. It's a reminder.

    More accurately, it's a threat. This is the Intelligence Community and the people at the top of the DoD reminding the little guys that dissent won't be tolerated. Questioning the validity of anything, having doubts about the legality or ethics of your duties, or considering making a complaint (including using the "proper internal whistleblower channels") will result in a lifetime of problems. They are telling the troops that they are always being watched, and that even innocuous activities can turn out to be violations of regulations. Step out of line, and suddenly charges for a whole host of innocuous and trivial misdeeds may be brought to bear.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 4:39am

    Actually a smart move

    If they limit the number of employees and contractors who access the site, then it makes it much easier to isolate the leaker through analysis and investigation of the metadata available to them. They are just trying to reduce the size of the haystack to make it easier to find the needle. They don't collect that stuff for nothing.

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 4:59am

    Re:

    The government does not function in a world of realities. It functions in a world of laws and policies.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 5:08am

    "[T]here's always a clause that says if the same information becomes public through other means (i.e., not the signing party releasing it), the information is no longer considered confidential and subject to the agreement. That is a sensible, reality-based policy."

    Have seen such a clause many times, but it by no means universally used because numerous situations arise where its inclusion in a document will quickly be revealed as the personification of "What could I have been thinking to put that in the terms? I hope I can weather the storm and keep my job."

     

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  11.  
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    zip, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 5:10am

    "there's always a clause that says ..."

    "when it comes to things like non-disclosure agreements in corporate settings, there's always a clause that says ... "

    Not in NDAs that I've been forced to sign. Anyway, it seems to be a blanket rule that contracts in general can be expected to have stuff in them that's not enforcible -- and that's the whole point; this "kitchen sink" approach is a legal bluff designed to overwhelm and intimidate people. Everything written into a contract (whether legal or not) is there to benefit the party that wrote the contract -- and the more draconian clauses thrown in, the merrier.

     

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  12.  
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    Ninja (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 5:30am

    Military Prefers To Keep Its Head In The Sand

    Do you know how much goddamn sand there is in the middle-east? Try to take the sand out of YOUR head there.

    - The Military

     

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  13.  
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    Spaceman Spiff (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 5:31am

    Oxymoron

    This is why the term "military intelligence" is an oxymoron, and only morons would put out a document such as this...

     

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  14.  
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    Lurker Keith, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 5:37am

    How can the Military...

    How can we expect the Military to safeguard our Constitution (their JOB) if they consistently refuse to follow it with regards to their Soldiers? Joining the Military should not require surrendering your Constitutional Rights.

    A ban on what News sources personnel are permitted to get their News from is an affront to Freedom of the Press.

     

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  15.  
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    Adam, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 6:19am

    One would think that once a document is made public, by any means, would automatically remove any clearance label placed on such a document...

     

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  16.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 6:48am

    Granted that it's stupid, but it's not about the leaked document, it's about the individual with the security clearance.

    It makes perfect sense from a military point of view. The fact that a classified document has been leaked to the public does not change its classification (obviously the "secret" is out, but the classification is still the same). The standard answer for any question concerning a sensitive or classified situation is that "I can neither confirm nor deny that." So telling military members not to visit a site that may have leaked classified documents means that the person can truthfully say they cannot confirm nor deny.

    Plus, remember that part of having a security clearance means managing what one knows of a classified nature. In other words, the individual is required to know they have clearance to see a particular piece of classified material. Hard to ensure that if you visit a web site known to include random leaked classified documents.

     

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  17.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 6:55am

    “Even though I have a top secret security clearance, I am still forbidden to read anything on the website,”

    This statement is a common misconception. The fact that you have a given security clearance level has nothing to do with what you are allowed to see.

    The security clearance is only step one. You also have to have a need to know, and Top secret and above clearances have hundreds (if not thousands) of sub categories.

     

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  18.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:10am

    Drats. Leaks spoiled. If only there was a tool to help them go to the site and upload the leaks anonymously.

     

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  19.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:26am

    All Hands
    we have received information from our higher headquarters regarding a potential new leaker of classified information, Although no formal validation has occurred , we thought it prudent to warn all employees and subordinate commands.Please do not go to any website entitled "the Intercept" for it very well contain classified material, If you have accidentally or purposely gone to the above mentioned site please report to the infirmary for immediate thought and eyeball extraction.

     

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  20.  
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    Ben (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:37am

    Any website?

    Please do not go to any website entitled “The Intercept” for it may very well contain classified material.
    So, if I set the title of my web page(s) to be "The Intercept", the military would not be allowed to visit it? Does this apply to the military in cyber command? If so, cool! Now I know how to avoid inspection by the military :-)

     

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  21.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:46am

    Re:

    Every single NDA I've ever signed has included language like that, without exception. I don't understand your argument for why the clause would be a bad thing. It helps to prevent you from being unjustly fired, not to make such a firing more likely. What am I missing?

     

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  22.  
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    pouar (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:48am

    So their plan to keep their employees from reading it is to tell them about it?

     

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  23.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:48am

    Re: "there's always a clause that says ..."

    I've never seen an NDA without that clause. If I ever did, I certainly wouldn't sign it. How can you be "forced" to sign a document you don't actually agree with?

     

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  24.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:58am

    Is this censorship at will policy defined in a conditions of employment document somewhere?

     

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  25.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 8:59am

    How Things Work

    1. You're working in your compartmentalized government division. You're churning out secrets at the daily recommended rate. Life is good.

    2. You inadvertently read classified information that some other division is churning out. Combining what you already know with this leaked information, you suddenly realize that government employment is stupendously boring. You conclude your life would be much better spent drinking beer on a Mexican beach.

    3. The government has to find some new shmuck and stupid him down enough to tolerate your old job. It's work. Bosses get involved; irritation ripples down through the ranks, resulting in increased pie consumption in the cafeteria. Waistlines expand. The government has to buy everybody new pants.

    4. Your reading of leaked classified information has caused a nationwide shortage of pants. So don't do it.

     

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  26.  
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    Kal Zekdor (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 9:03am

    Re: "there's always a clause that says ..."

    A contract is an agreement between two (or more) parties. As such, each party must receive consideration for the contract to be considered valid. By its very nature, it is impossible for a contract to benefit only one party. The question of which party wrote the actual wording of the contract is irrelevant (unless they try trickery, but that is fraud), what matters is the agreement reached by the parties. The written contract merely codifies that agreement. Saying that contracts only serve one party is short-sighted, dangerously self-fulfilling, and just flat out wrong.

    Further, there is no point to including anything in a contract that is unenforceable. If it can't be enforced, not only does it have no value or meaning, it also lessens the standing of the entire agreement.

    Lastly, under no circumstances is anyone ever forced to sign a contract. It is always a choice, an agreement. If you disagree with the terms, change them. Strike out clauses you don't agree to, provide a counter offer. If there is a large disparity in negotiating power (e.g. consumer contracts), then you need to make the value judgement of whether the benefits outweigh the costs, and if not, go to a competitor. In most other scenarios (employment agreements, business agreements, etc.) you have some negotiating power, as you have something the other party wants. If you didn't, there wouldn't be a contract. Determine how much negotiating power you have, and apply it as best you can to change the agreement to your benefit. The only time you will ever have zero negotiating power is when you believe you have zero negotiating power.

     

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  27.  
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    John Fenderson (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 9:17am

    Re: Re: "there's always a clause that says ..."

    "In most other scenarios (employment agreements, business agreements, etc.) you have some negotiating power, as you have something the other party wants. If you didn't, there wouldn't be a contract."

    This was one of a handful of lessons being in business taught me. If you've reached the point where you're signing things, the other party has already made the decision that they want the deal to work, and they become flexible to reasonable changes in the contracts.

    Before I learned that, I emotionally reacted to contracts as "if I make a stink now, it could ruin the whole deal". That is rarely true, and when it is, the deal was too shaky to sign off on to begin with.

     

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  28.  
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    Theodora Michaels, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 11:38am

    Re: Any website?

    My thought exactly. How funny it would be if huge swaths of the internet renamed themselves "The Intercept"! On a popular website, they might be able to tell from traffic statistics whether military personnel are actually obeying this memo.

    But that raises the question: what's meant by "entitled"? Do they mean specifically the "title" attribute, or can it be in a description, url, or heading? Depending on what they mean, people might not know that the site is entitled "The Intercept" until they go there. This memo is stupid on so many levels.

     

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  29.  
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    Raging Alcoholic, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 11:56am

    If people with top security clearance cannot read it how can they know what it is about, who handles that kind of information, and narrow down the suspect list.
    maybe they don't want to use people who have knowledge of top secret information, like the cyber-security kingpin for this administration. Why use someone who knows what they are doing when you can find someone who speaks well and looks good.

     

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  30.  
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    Marvin, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:03pm

    All this idiots making stupid comments need to include their rank from their military service or keep their comments to their selves. I don't always agree with what the military does or says, but as a senior enlisted, I had a good perspective from which to base my opinion. Non military types just like to rehash old jokes because they don't know any different. MGySgt.

     

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  31.  
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    Tony, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 12:37pm

    Re:

    SSgt (E5), USAF, TS/SCI, son of SSgt(ret) USAF who served in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam

    (a) I agree with the jokes. They exist for a reason.
    (b) The policy is stupid.
    (c) My daughter's Marine (lance corporal) boyfriend agrees with (a) and (b).
    (d) My father would have agreed were he still alive.
    (e) I did not enlist in order to tell civilians they couldn't have an opinion or say it. They do not have to keep their comments to themselves. If you disagree with their opinions, try educating them instead of attacking them.

     

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  32.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:00pm

    Looks to me to be a clear case of Military Intelligence, otherwise known as "where is my foot".

     

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  33.  
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    TestPilotDummy, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 1:52pm

    Mirror Mirror of the web, who's got the fastest servers instead?

    frame iframe xframe Surprise!

     

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  34.  
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    toyotabedzrock (profile), Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 6:18pm

    Maybe anonymous should start emailing and faxing the docs to all government numbers.

     

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  35.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:09pm

    Re: Re:

    I think he means it makes the person who drafted it more likely to be fired.

    The clause is probably put there to avid making the NDA unconscionable, or taking it too close to unreasonable requirements, but many US states have such lousy employee protections that that isn't an issue.

     

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  36.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:17pm

    Re:

    But if the information is openly published, it is either no longer a secret, in which case there is little or no risk in someone with a clearance reading it[1], or it is a forgery, in which case the classification label is meaningless.

    The real issue is that if you have obtained a copy of the data, it makes it harder to determine if you got it from (say) The Intercept, or if you gave it to them.

    [1] On the one hand, they're more likely to be loyal to the government, so less likely to use that information in a harmful way, OTOH, they might know some related information which then combined allows them to make deductions they shouldn't. That's not in general a big issue, unless the information they already have is something they'd not leak (or have tortured out of them) because it appears too trivial, or because it looks innocent unless you know the other information

     

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  37.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 22nd, 2014 @ 7:26pm

    Re:

    NSA: There are six hundred million feet in America, just start shooting at random and hope for the best.

    FBI: We'll con some poor deluded fool into letting us steal his foot, sew it onto you, then shoot it off.

    CIA: We'll take your leg, replace it with a prosthetic filled with cocaine, then pay ISIS to shoot the amounted foot. We will then be surprised when they shoot your remaining foot too, but that's OK because we can stuff your other prosthetic with guns and demand a doubled budget.

    SIS: Anywhere you like, but did you know it only fits clown shoes!!!! And it can kick you in just 47 minutes!

     

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

  38.  
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    GEMont (profile), Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 2:19am

    Re:

    You mean like the President....

    He speaks real good, is sort of suave looking I guess, and he apparently doesn't know shit about anything his administration is doing at any time, until after he reads it here on TechDirt.

    Obviously the perfect man for the job.

     

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  39.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 2:20am

    Re:

    head wound eh

     

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

  40.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 8:41am

    It's sad to have to say this but can we get a law already that automatically declassifies any information once it is released to the public by whatever means?

     

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  41.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 23rd, 2014 @ 5:19pm

    Wait just a fucking minute

    The is a memo sent from the US military to the US military and they're using an AM/PM format? You'd think they'd use...what's it called again...oh yeah, military time?

     

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  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 24th, 2014 @ 6:58pm

    Re: Wait just a fucking minute

    If it was an email message (or lotus notes or whatever it is they use), then the time as displayed will be up to the user.

     

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

  43.  
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    Bergman (profile), Aug 26th, 2014 @ 10:06pm

    Re: Re:

    This. If the military classified the fact that the sky is blue, military personnel would be prohibited from looking out the window, discussing the color of the sky with those not cleared for it, seeking out information on what color the sky is, and while not prohibited, they would be strongly discouraged from discussing the color blue at all.

    Even though everyone affected by it already knows the sky is blue, them's the rules.

     

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


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