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?
“[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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