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WSJ Report: Air Force Blocks Sites Publishing WikiLeaks Documents

In what’s already shaping up as a hugely controversial move, the Wall Street Journal is reporting that the United States Air Force is blocking websites that post the content of documents obtained by the whistle-blowing site WikiLeaks, citing “people familiar with the matter.”

The report, by Spencer E. Ante and Julian E. Barnes, describes the ban as such:

Air Force users who try to view the websites of the New York Times, Britain’s Guardian, Spain’s El Pais, France’s Le Monde or German magazine Der Spiegel instead get a page that says, “ACCESS DENIED. Internet Usage is Logged & Monitored,” according to a screen shot reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The notice warns that anyone who accesses unauthorized sites from military computers could be punished.

Of course, the biggest eye-catcher on that list is the New York Times, and it certainly caught the eye of Wired’s Spencer Ackerman, who called the move a “brain-melting…extreme step” and in demonstrating why such a ban is fundamentally flawed, asks:

Why is it less harmful for an airman to read a blog that pivots off a Guardian story on the cables than it is for him to go to Guardian.co.uk?

Ackerman isn’t alone in his disapproval. The Huffington Post quoted Steven Aftergood, who runs this blog on government secrecy, as saying:

“[A] block on the New York Times web site is really unheard of. It represents an extreme misunderstanding of information security policy.”

Of course, if the military believes a leak would compromise national security, they should take pains to prevent it. But blocking one of the biggest news organizations in the world entirely – especially when, as Ackerman points out, it’s impossible to completely police the dissemination of the leaks’ content – well, isn’t that just going to motivate Julian Assange & Co. further?

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