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Are Marines Censoring Web Access for Troops in Iraq? 925

Gavin86 and others have submitted links to This Wonkette article (profanity warning) about the Marines Corps blocking access to some Web sites for their people in Iraq. This article was a follow-up to an earlier Wonkette post. Before I posted these links, I looked for verification of this problem but found nothing but links to Wonkette, so I cannot say for sure whether this is true. Hopefully, alert Slashdot readers (like you) will post confirmations if, indeed, there are any to be found. Meanwhile, if this is true, it's eerily reminiscent of an experience I had when I visited Saudi Arabia in January, 2004.
The Wonkette post contains this list of sites blocked and not blocked, allegedly sent by a Marine serving in Iraq:
  • Wonkette - "Forbidden, this page (http://www.wonkette.com/) is categorized as: Forum/Bulletin Boards, Politics/Opinion."
  • Bill O'Reilly (www.billoreilly.com) - OK
  • Air America (www.airamericaradio.com) - "Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion."
  • Rush Limbaugh (www.rushlimbaugh.com) - OK
  • ABC News "The Note" - OK
  • Website of the Al Franken Show (www.alfrankenshow.com) - "Forbidden, this page (http://www.airamericaradio.com/) is categorized as: Internet Radio/TV, Politics/Opinion."
  • G. Gordon Liddy Show (www.liddyshow.us) - OK
  • Don & Mike Show (www.donandmikewebsite.com) - "Forbidden, this page (http://www.donandmikewebsite.com/) is categorized as: Profanity, Entertainment/Recreation/Hobbies."
The political bias is obvious. And this is what reminded me of Saudi Arabia's Internet blockage, because there, too, it wasn't just obvious porn or "anti-Islamic" material that was being blocked, but plenty of political information.

I spent several hours in my Riyadh hotel room one evening checking sites suggested to me by Slashdot coworker Jamie McCarthy via IRC (which was not blocked by the Saudi filters). Among them were sites decrying Holocaust denial, which were blocked, although many sites espousing the old Protocols of the Elders of Zion antisemitic lies were not.

A number of sites that talked about human rights -- especially women's rights -- were also blocked. Sites that glorified Islam were, of course, fine. Interestingly, Jamie and I found that some (but not all) sites that were blocked when the 2002 Harvard Law School article, Documentation of Internet Filtering in Saudi Arabia, was released had been unblocked by the time of my visit.

And when I met with Eyas S. Al-Hejery, the man in charge of Saudi Arabia's Internet Serice Unit and told him about some of the blocked sites Jamie and I had found, including several innocuous Israeli government ones, he agreeably unblocked them.

I have no way of knowing whether Eyas reblocked those sites as soon as I left his country, but he told me more than once that he did not, himself, decide which sites should be blocked but only reacted to complaints from Saudi Arabia's infamous religious police and submissions from concerned citizens, which he said numbered up to 200 per day, total, while he only received a "trickle" of requests to unblock sites.

Now comes a big question: If the charges of Marine Internet blockage are true, will the Marines unblock incorrectly-blocked Web sites as quickly as Eyas did in Saudi Arabia?

But first, another big questions must be answered: Is the Wonkette story true? It's been up and spreading around the Internet since March 1st, and no official Marine spokesperson has bothered to either debunk it or admit that yes, the Marine Corps is blocking Web sites for political reasons.

It's going to be interesting to see if, here in a country where we supposedly hold freedom of speech dear, we expect our overseas troops to submit to the same sort of censorship that is an everyday thing in Saudi Arabia, a famous breeding ground for the Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism our Marines are supposed to be fighting against.
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Are Marines Censoring Web Access for Troops in Iraq?

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  • by suso ( 153703 ) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @12:56PM (#14867180) Homepage Journal
    Fighting for freedom are we?
    • by grasshoppa ( 657393 ) <skennedy@@@tpno-co...org> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:00PM (#14867221) Homepage
      We're fighting for freedom and democracy. You'll notice that you have none of those things in the military.
      • by cow ninja ( 306125 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:39PM (#14867663)
        dude.. really.

        I am a also a sysadmin in the Guard and we do filter content, just like any other company would. That network is there for working not for casual browsing. It just takes one guy to pull up porn and offend a female before he loses a stipe and net access is taken away.

        If the troops/Marines want internet access for personal reasons they can go to MWR and get it, not durring working hours.

        • So its for work only but you can view right wing websites and radio shows online.

          Left wing radio shows and sites are banned.

          I dont buy your argument and its pure illegal censorship by the government in order to brainwash our soldiers. If Clinton did this with right wing sites the republicans would be screaming a riot and demanding hearings immediately. If a republican does this then its not the job of the military to use the net for civilian purposes.

          I find this very hypocritical
      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:17PM (#14868093)
        We're fighting for freedom and democracy. You'll notice that you have none of those things in the military.

        When did that change, then? When I was in the USAF I could go wherever I wanted, provided I was at my job the next day. Not much unlike my present civilian job. That's freedom.

        There wasn't any internet, but no newspapers, TV or radio stations were forbidden to me.

        Democracy? I voted. That IS what a democratic republic is about, isn't it?

        Indeed, I wrote a not very kind letter to then President Nixon, and was rewarded for my efforts by a pleasant note from a General thanking me for my participation in our government. That sure felt like freedom to me.

        Guess what? The bill of rights applied to us, too, even in Thailand, which was technically a war zone (200 miles from Viet Nam).

        In short - I felt like I had more rights as an enlisted Airman in the USAF under Nixon than I do as a Civilian under Bush.

        Boiled frog, anyone?

        -mcgrew (sm62704)
        • by bhayek ( 583177 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:55PM (#14869126)
          As a prior Marine working out in Iraq and RESPONSIBLE FOR THE BLOCKING of webpages there is a simple reason why these have been blocked....Lack of bandwidth. On a base you have about 5,000 users all wanting to check email, look at pictures, and God knows what else with only 512k of bandwidth But these things can interfere with the mission and the mission is most important. When we were first out there everything was open to all but then we installed a websense server and used the catagories it provided to block content. There was no political bias, what was taking up the most bandwidth got killed, espically with it didn't pertain to mission accomplishment. So there is no need for political discussion, nothing about rights, it comes down to the Marine Corps is focused on mission accomplishment. These sites have NOTHING to do with mission accomplishment and were therefore blocked. In all honosty if you do believe there is a political bias flame the people at websense, they are the ones who decide which websites are blocked
    • No, no; heh, you crazy liberals.

      You see, what you fail to understand is that some sacrifices must be made in defense of our freedom. Sacrifices of our freedom. So, for freedom to endure, you must give it up to the only entity that can protect it: your friendly neighborhood federal government. That way, freedom will still exist... in the hands of George Bush and his Cabinet.

      Well, now that you're enlightened, I'll be on my way. God Bless King Georg- ...err, I mean, America!

    • by Bazzalisk ( 869812 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:06PM (#14867312) Homepage
      Seems to me that a lot of the time what you're fighting for is market-capitalism -- freedom and democracy often seem to be regarded as more of a happy bonus.

      (Exactly why the market-socialist UK is supporting this I'm not sure).

      • (Exactly why the market-socialist UK is supporting this I'm not sure).

        Maybe it's because your theory about the "real" motivations for the war are not quite as on-target as you think. Just a thought.
    • Not Ironic at all (Score:3, Insightful)

      by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      Safeguards like this are put into place to prevent leaks that could compromise the troops.

      The military has NEVER been 'open' during action for this reason, so why should it start now just because its 'the Internet'?

      Get real.
    • I can't speak for this list at all as I'm not a Marine and I'm not currently in Iraq. However, I was in Iraq a little more than a year ago in the Army. We had, as far as I could tell, completely unrestricted Internet access (we were limited to 30 minutes at a time, but I never found a site I couldn't visit). Also, one of the alleged blocked pages doesn't make any sense to me:

      Website of the Al Franken Show (www.alfrankenshow.com)

      I actually met Al Franken once. Any guesses where it was? It was at the Abu Gh

    • Fighting for freedom are we?

      Yes, we are. I can speak as someone who's been there on a tour. And despite your fondest wishes, I didn't murder any babies, rape any women, or generally terrorize the countryside in a manner reminiscent of Genghis Khan. Neither did any of my brother or sister Marines. If there's one constant thread you can get from just about any soldier, sailor, or Marine who's served in the current conflict, it's that the news we're getting over here in the States is unbelievably slanted.
  • Army didn't (Score:5, Informative)

    by ArcherB ( 796902 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:01PM (#14867240) Journal
    While I can't speak for The Core, when I was in Kuwait for the Army, we had full access to everything. For that matter, the Internation version of CNN or the International MTV were always on the TV in the mess hall.

    • More... (Score:3, Informative)

      Since my previous post was modded into oblivion and I have karma to burn, I'll link to another discussion. I'd suggest that those who are angered by this other discussion go there and participate in the discussion, rather than simply making it disappear here, in order to avoid the irony of "trollmodding" a link to a political site into oblivion on a censorship story.

      See Daily Kos [dailykos.com] discussion about this topic here [dailykos.com].
    • Re:Army didn't (Score:5, Informative)

      by Chemosky ( 894578 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:22PM (#14867474)
      I concur, while on deployment in Kuwait before OIF, I had unlimited, high speed internet access. However, during OIF (in Baghdad anyway) military provided bandwidth was monitored by Websense. Anonymous proxies were an easy solution to circumvent Websense. Eventually, local provided satellite internet cafes sprung up on nearly every camp which offered unhindered access for a small price.
  • by redelm ( 54142 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:01PM (#14867243) Homepage
    Please understand: People who go into the armed services of any nation are giving up rights that civilians enjoy. This is one of the things that makes conscription so reprehensible.

    Military commanders are worried about troop morale, and will intervene to keep whatever they consider disruptive away. They can and will punish spreading of dissent or other insubordination. Sometimes very severely.

    The military also censors what it's members can say. This is necessary to avoid inadvertantly informing an enemy, but like everything else, it can be abused. Also part of service life. It ain't pretty.

    • by Baseball_Fan ( 959550 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:13PM (#14867376)
      Please understand: People who go into the armed services of any nation are giving up rights that civilians enjoy

      While I can agree that members of the military give up some rights because of their job, they still should enjoy the basic constitutional rights that all Americans have. For example, Troops in the Army who live on base are not allowed to have any political posters of any kind. There are no signs of "I support X for congress". Military troops also have less rights in criminal cases. They don't always get a jury, sometimes it is a tribunal. There have been cases when their contract for service has expired but they are forced to continue service.

      On the other hand, when we enter another nation, we must respect their laws. There is no freedom of speech in Saudi Arabia. If they want to censor the internet, it is their right. The USA can not dictate to Saudi Arabia how to live, what values to have. Muslim nations have a right to form religious states where their doctrine determines laws. Just like the USA can form a state based on our values.

      • Your claims are a mix of fact, fantasy and fiction. While out of uniform, or in one's residence signs of support for a party or a candidate are perfectly acceptable. There is always a right to jury at a courts martial, and unlike in the civilian sector you can be certain that those judging you are your peers. The cases where the contract "expired" but they were forced to continue serving are mostly a misunderstanding from the civilian sector of how the contract works.
      • "they still should enjoy the basic constitutional rights that all Americans have."

        That is so naive I hardly know where to start.

        If the Marine Corps determines that a particular site will lower troop morale, then I would hope that they'd block it. Failing that, they should cut off web access, cable news, or whatever it takes to keep the blinders on. A Marine who doubts is one who dies.

        And I want the ones on the other side to die.

        Someone in the military, especially in time of war, lives a different life, un
  • More... (Score:4, Informative)

    by aussersterne ( 212916 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:02PM (#14867251) Homepage
    See Daily Kos [dailykos.com] discussion here [dailykos.com].
  • Vileness (Score:3, Funny)

    by CarnivoreMan ( 827905 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:03PM (#14867259)
    Lets hope Hampster Dance is among the blocked. No need to expose new cultures to that kinda stuff.
  • by Tackhead ( 54550 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:03PM (#14867263)
    > This Wonkette article (profanity warning)

    Is it just me, or is a profanity warning kinda redundant when we're talking about Marines?

    Obligatory Marine joke:

    News reporter: "Now that you're back from Iraq, what's the first thing you're going to do?"
    Marine: "Fuck my wife!"
    News reporter: "Well, we can't go to air with that. How 'bout the second thing you're going to do?" Marine: "Then I'm gonna take off these fucking combat boots!"

  • not censored (Score:5, Informative)

    by strikethree ( 811449 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:05PM (#14867293) Journal
    I am in Baghdad right now and I am a network admin here. I am aware of no blatant censorship (but we do have filtering software). I was able to read the linked article. Here is one of the comments posted on that page:

    Curious if www.pattillmanfoundation.org is blocked.

    The article, nor the page referenced are blocked. This article is bullshit.

    strike
    • What's your connection running through, and who is it serving?
    • Re:not censored (Score:5, Informative)

      by Firethorn ( 177587 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:45PM (#14867738) Homepage Journal
      I too, have worked as a network admin in the AOR. In my case, Air Force

      For the most part, we use a standard commercial filtering package on a proxy server. This can vary by command.

      In this case, I could easily see why air america was filtered. To conserve bandwidth, especially in the environment of limited bandwidth that is the AOR, streaming media sites are blocked. This explains the Air America blockings. Internet Radio/TV is the blocked category, not Politics/Opinion. The Forbidden page lists all categories the site belongs to.

      Commonly blocked categories are forums/bulletin boards, porn, illegal activities, profanity, extreme, criminal skills, drugs, trading (like stocks and/or EBay). Web-ads by some of the smarter bases.

      The forum/bulletin board filter tends to be very hit or miss.

      Any sites blocked specifically by the administers of the site would present a webpage that says 'forbidden by local policy'.

      Sites that would be in here are generally those that target military members for scams or other illegal activities that aren't otherwise caught by the filters.

      Though there was those hours that I was told to block the major news sites as they had classified up there... Then the senior leadership realized that yes, the cat is out of the bag.

      As for unblocking sites, that's generally difficult for official networks because the submitter has to show official need(not misc. browsing).
  • by MarkusQ ( 450076 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:05PM (#14867299) Journal

    Interesting. I have no idea if her claim is true or not, but it is at least consistent with another oddity that I noticed a few weeks ago, when the poll results showed that a majority (IIRC) of the US service personnel over there thought that we were in Iraq "because of what they did to us on 9/11," despite the fact that pretty much everyone over here (apart from a few trolls) now knows there was no connection at all between Iraq and 9/11.

    When I heard that my first thought was: how could they not know this?!?

    But perhaps there is a simple explanation after all.

    --MarkusQ

  • Gimme a break! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by gasmonso ( 929871 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:07PM (#14867317) Homepage

    Before people start all the suppressing soldiers rights chatter... this is nothing new and I'm sure its being done to all the forces, not just the Marines. The military has always kept a tight grip on incoming and outgoing information. In WWI and WWII, mail was looked at for sensitive information and photographers had their pictures looked at. The was especially true in Vietnam. I'm not justifying it, but I don't think most people are in a position to judge if you yourself haven't led troops in combat or fought in a war yourself. Having served in the Marines myself, I can say that good morale is vital to a mission's success. It's so important that it may even be worth losing some freedoms to maintain it. Anyone who has served in the armed forces will tell you that you give up your rights when you enlist. The military is a serious game and normal rules don't apply often. May seem strange to many, but its reality.

    gasmonso
  • by BiloxiGeek ( 872377 ) * on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:07PM (#14867318)
    Are you free to surf any website you want on your company network? Do any of us really think that the military lets troops surf anywhere they please on a government owned and operated network that is there for "Official Use Only"? The same network that carries Command & Control data that is vital for operational information.

    I think if I were a Marine/Soldier/Sailor/Airman in the zone, I'd rather be limited in what websites I can surf from the combat zone in exchange for having the available bandwidth that lets an alert message come in about an impending attack.
  • by uab21 ( 951482 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:08PM (#14867330)
    Actually, every one of those blocked sites is blocked for me right now working in the good old USA. My company is using the Bluecoat proxy server hardware which has filtering on it that gives exactly the same messages.

    The best part is that one of those proxy machines is on slashdot's banned list, so I have to try and find one of the others to read/post from time to time.

    While I love a good conspiracy as much as the next guy, I'm sure the Marines are just trying to keep crap out of their boxen.

  • No Conspiricy (Score:5, Interesting)

    by XMilkProject ( 935232 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:09PM (#14867340) Homepage
    I know everyone is looking for some vast right-wing conspiricy, but to me it looks like the blocked pages had free streaming radio, or public forums. I can see cases where administrators may block streaming media for the purposes of saving bandwidth, and potentially public forums for a huge number of security and public relations reasons.

    It just so happens the Air America lets you listen online for free (becuase they are not trying to turn a profit), and Rush Limbaugh does not. I'm not so certain theres any bias going on here.

    At the worst, it seems like a case of stupid network rules, which happen to be the same as at my company. (No streaming media, no forums).
  • by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:14PM (#14867393) Journal
    Preposterous.

    One of my closest childhood friends commented to me in 1999 that on a carrier (the ship, not the service provider) their web access was censored.

    Furthermore, they were forbidden by their CO from watching any news other than Fox News in the mess. Apparently, due to personal preference of the CO, not because of military policy... but after checking with and other parts of his ship, they all had the same mess/recreation policy.

    See, dissenting points of view could harm troop morale, and diminish their effectiveness. The military is allowed to get away with a lot of things in the name of protecting morale. You wouldn't want any doubters to risk the lives of brother soldiers/shipmen/airmen because of their conscience, would you?

    The armed forces, including all the men and women in them, are responsible for the execution of war -- not the morality of war. The Congress is responsible for those decisions, so the armed forces have no reason to hear dissenting points of view. Right?

    Since the Revolutionary War in the US, that has been how it has worked. Separation of Powers, Checks and Balances, and all that. As long as Congress is respnsible for the ethical decisions of war, then censoring information accessible to the troops is fine. Oh wait...

    Apologies in advance for the tongue-in-cheekiness.
    • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:36PM (#14868315) Journal
      The armed forces, including all the men and women in them, are responsible for the execution of war -- not the morality of war. The Congress is responsible for those decisions, so the armed forces have no reason to hear dissenting points of view. Right?

      I realize that you were being somewhat facetious, but it bears explicitly pointing out that this is dead wrong. Every man is born with a conscience and it is his responsibility to use it. If you choose to participate in an unjust war, you are a murderer plain and simple and not any different than any other armed thug.
      The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well. Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs.

      -Henry David Thoreau, "Civil Disobedience" 1849
  • by thundergeek ( 808819 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:20PM (#14867449) Journal
    I work for the USAF as a contractor. All the sites listed above are not blocked solely to those serving in Iraq, or just the Marines.

    They are blocked by the Air Force with the same reasons listed. I just tested them all.

    It's not just the fact that some two star wants/doesn't want his/her troops going to political sites that are against his/her party, it's the simple fact that the sites that ARE allowed simply haven't been blocked because people haven't been swarming to those sites.

    From what I have noticed, being a Work Group Manager (PC Admin for the AF), the more a site get's visited, the higher it stands a chance to be blocked, unless the site is required in order to complete the mission.

    In other words. The sites that are blocked are so because the higher ups don't want people chatting up forums when they should be supporting the mission. (hmm, speaking of chatting, I think I hear the blocking police calling me!)

    Remember, not everything has a political agenda. On the other hand, not everything isn't. But we tend to fall towards blaming politics. And as much as I hate politics, it's not always to blame.

    L8r
  • by Saeed al-Sahaf ( 665390 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:20PM (#14867450) Homepage
    From what I can tell here (a Military facility in the US), Internet filtering is hit and miss and often changes back and forth without notice depending on filtering software upgrades and back-ups. I don't think our IT people spacifically filter out any political sites, I've been able to access stuff all over the spectrum. I think because the military used a commercial product that comes with pre-configured profiles, what is filtered and what is not is very hit and miss. Several of my associates who are "down range" tell me that no real organized filtering takes place except for porn and certain ecommerce such as eBay and stock market. On recreational systems, generally, only porn is filtered out.
  • by hcob$ ( 766699 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:20PM (#14867451)
    Of Course! Not to sound like a red-dog republican, but of course they censor the internet for the troops. Their job(and thier life) depends on being focused on their job, not what's going on at the Underground Asian Showgirls(TM)website. Censorship is something that has always and will always occur in the Military. When you join the military you give up several freedoms due to how a military works. There is no free press, free speech, and free will(within limits), etc. in the military.

    All you "everyone has a right to do whatever the hell they want" people need to get your collective head out of your collective rears so you can see what actually happens in the world.
  • by Faldgan ( 13738 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:31PM (#14867566) Homepage Journal
    I was in Iraq for a year as part of the United States Army.
    Internet access was always a little iffy, since it's expensive and the troops have a very high demand for it. There were several ways to get internet access while I was there, some of which are still around and some of which are not.

    #1: US Government provided independent internet cafes.
    Status: Removed.
    Reason: Not cost effective. They decided to go with a consolidated large provider instead.
          I ran one of these while I was deployed. The closest I got to 'filtering' was running a caching ad-blocking squid proxy. I did this for speed reasons, because *I* wanted to provide my Soldiers with fast internet access. (PS: f*ck doubleclick.net)

    #2: US Government provided Internet Cafes.
    Status: Still around.
    This is one of the biggest and most commonly accessable internet accesses in Iraq. The US Government contracted for some massive amount of bandwidth through some satellite provider. You can't bring in your own laptop, you have to use their locked-down desktops. But I didn't see any politically motivated filtering going on, and I checked.

    #3: Privately funded Internet Access.
    Status: Still around, but usually kept on the quiet.
            Unit commanders occasionally try to stop them out of generalized fear, but I never saw one go away. It's not against any regulations. It's just expensive. ($1400/month for 128u/512d)

    #4: Contractor run public Internet Cafes.
    Status: Still around.
                      If you can make money at it, someone will try to do it. Zaid (http://www.russianwolf.com/ [russianwolf.com]) was one that I dealt with on a regular basis. He not only provided the hardware for our cafe, but he ran several others on a for-pay basis. ($20 would let you browse for an hour) Filtering was not in place in any of his cafes. Not cost effective. Consider this my plug for him. He's a good guy.

    #5: US Government 'NIPR-net' (Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network) access.
    Status: Still around.
    This is what people use for official communications and internet access. This is for non-secret data only. The closest they got to filtering was publishing what unit and individual computer was browsing the internet more than anybody else on a weekly basis. This network was VERY overloaded and SLOW SLOW SLOW. But it was filtered for sexual content I think, not that I ever tried. But it was not filtered for political content.

    In summary, the common methods that people use to access the internet in Iraq are not filtered for content of a political nature. What the Marines may be doing is not something I know, but I saw plenty of Marines using these other access methods that I know were not filtered. Any filtering is either a new thing or isolated to a small unit. It was not the policy of the Department of Defense to filter internet access for political content as of Feb2005 (when I was there last)
  • by br00tus ( 528477 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:46PM (#14867749)
    There has been talk about how Congressional staffers edit Wikipedia. In April of last year I created an article on Wikipedia about No Gun Ri, which was a My Lai type massacre during the Korean War by US troops. In July, I noticed someone [wikipedia.org] making edits to the article, trying to whitewash it.

    So anyhow, I do a dig/nslookup on the IP and discover it is "n-mnstci-142.mnstci.iraq.centcom.mil" - the edit is coming from United States Central Command's Multi-National Security Transition Command - Iraq. Thus, my tax dollars are going to some guy so he can rewrite history that I had written. And I had been so excited about Wikipedia because I thought, here is finally a medium of information that is not controlled by multi-national corporations, like say the channels on my television. Instead I have to contend with some modern-day version of a bureaucrat in the bowels of some Orwellian Ministry of Truth.

  • by JoeShmoe ( 90109 ) <askjoeshmoe@hotmail.com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:52PM (#14867819)
    File a FOIA request for a copy of the block list for the Armed Forces Internet. Simple. Then you can read the whole list and parse out any meaningful information. Honestly, I'm not even a journalist and it seems completely obvious to me. This is the whole reason the FOIA process exists: to give transparency to the operation of the federal government.

    Now, perhaps there's a chance that the federal government will come back with some kind of excuse like "releasing the block list gives aid and comfort to the enemy" but that alone would be a story worth the price of admission. Wonkette is an idiot, so of course this simple idea wouldn't occur to her or her readership. I'm I hope that a real investigative journalist picks up the story so he or she can actually do some investigating and find out the truth. I think that it would be hilarious to compare the Chinese block list with the American block list. Wouldn't it be a hoot to find out that the Americans are blocking more?

    -JoeShmoe
    .
    • by Politburo ( 640618 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:35PM (#14868306)
      Honestly, I'm not even a journalist and it seems completely obvious to me.

      The fact that you're not a journalist is probably why you jump to FOIA first.

      FOIA is SLOW, SLOW, SLOW. Agencies use every excuse to delay your requests, force you to file lawsuits, etc. etc. Just now the AP got a list of Gitmo detainees released. They started that process 4 years ago! FOUR YEARS. In short: FOIA costs time and money, both of which Wonkette does not have.

      Second, there isn't some universal 'block list' for military internet. There are a variety of access methods, networks, branches, etc., all of which could have different access lists. Just by reading the posts on this thread it's shown that this blocking is not uniform. It's not like Rummy is sitting there reading the Internet saying 'block, keep.. keep, keep, block' and tabulating them in a nice little list.

      This is the whole reason the FOIA process exists: to give transparency to the operation of the federal government.

      That's why FOIA existed under Clinton, maybe (and I mean maybe. It's not like Clinton was a saint). Under Bush, FOIA has become a joke. Transparency? HA! Cheney energy meetings ring a bell? White House Iraq Group mean anything? The only thing that's been transparent was Alito's letter to James Dobson. [pfaw.org]
  • The Gist of It (Score:3, Insightful)

    by stinerman ( 812158 ) <nathan DOT stine AT gmail DOT com> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @01:59PM (#14867896) Homepage
    Various posters are commenting about similar situations in their workplaces where they can't visit any website they choose for one reason or another.

    Most are missing the point. Why are they only censoring sites that tend to be anti-war or liberal in nature? I can accept arguments for general Internet censorship while in the armed forces, but I've yet to see a good argument for why only sites that espouse a particular viewpoint should be censored while others should not.
  • Too bad .... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by amcdiarmid ( 856796 ) <amcdiarm@gmailPASCAL.com minus language> on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:00PM (#14867907) Journal
    Too bad that very few of the posters here seem to be in a place to confirm or deny the report. (Which, I beleive was part of the posters request: Is the story true or not?)

    There are a few who have responded with constructive comments to this:
    - High Bandwith sites (Radio) are blocked.
    - Porn is blocked
    - This is how Internet access exists: YXZ

    Too bad that many of the people here are knee jerking their wan(ers and saying *Conspiracy* or *Conspiracy of the Left-Wing Unpatriotic Types*

    The fact is: If the personell there have time to check the Internet (aka: Down Time), they should not have biased access: The (unverified) story is that they do. Hopefully someone can actually provide a meaningful list of what's blocked - or not. And Hopefully, the list will not be biased by politics.

    $.02 - now pay up
  • Sorry about the AC. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:01PM (#14867912)
    Yes, they absolutely are. They also monitor outgoing phone calls and instant message conversations. One of the major goals, it seems, is to cover up the large number of 'enemy' casualties (e.g., several days ago there were over 500 deaths in one area when the sectarian violence spilled out onto the street. They shut down the computer center for 2 or 3 days following that.)

    Sorry about the AC: this is all straight from my brother, serving in Fallujah. It seems that we went in with a fundamental misunderstanding of regional politics, and are now paying the price.

    ~AC
  • by Lossy ( 726813 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:45PM (#14868428)
    I work for the federal goverment as a reservist and a civilian. A requirement of my civilian job is that I maintain service as a reservist, but that is a whole other story. I have confirmed that each of these sites are blocked or permited on the USARC (United States Army Reserve Command) exactly as described above. I am located in Utah on federal property so it should not be a "war zone" issue. This is a government computer, so they have the right to limit viewing as per user agreements, but this seems to be a freedom of speech issue. Good Night and Good Luck.
  • by Badmovies ( 182275 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @02:58PM (#14868550) Homepage
    I am a bit mystified why this would surprise anyone. Maybe those who spent zero time actually considering it are typing out a knee jerk reaction. Anyone who considers the whole picture will say, "Yeah, I suppose so."

    The networks that the Marine Corps is running in Iraq have a primary focus: The Mission. That is supporting the forces there, allowing information to organized and passed quickly between those who need to coordinate their work. Marines are permitted to use the network for personal reasons when it does not affect the mission in any way and that use is subject to a number of restrictions. No viewing, transmitting, or storing obscene material, hate speech, chain letters, etc. The normal list of rules for the network is about two pages, courier new type, 10 pitch - including spaces for the user to fill in their name, rank, billet, sign (etc.) and for the approving officer to validate that the Marine needs a network account.

    There can also be several layers of filtering for access. There could easily be several firewalls between a user and the Internet. We had one at our division level, then another at MEF. There is usually a something of a standard list of which sites are blocked, but each little network could be unique. We had a problem with idiots downloading large files from one or two Internet sites. It was affecting the performance of the whole network. Not only did I go find those users (and their Staff Noncommissioned Officers), but we cut access to the problem sites.

    Oh, and when the unit suffers casualties, the Data Chief cuts access to email and the Internet for everyone except a list of critical users. That stays on until the families are notified by the Marines (in the US) who perform the casualty call. The last thing a parent, wife, or fiancee needs to get is an email with a subject line of "John is dead." That would also leave open the door for cruel hoaxes.

    The point is that the Marine Corps allows Marines to use the network, in a limited fashion, for reading their personal email and accessing websites because it is good for morale and we usually have the bandwidth to support it. However, it is a military asset, just like a 7-ton truck. If the truck is being used by someone to clean out their garage, when it is needed to move supplies, there is obviously a problem.

  • by 1337p1rt3 ( 959580 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:11PM (#14868708)
    I spent two years in Iraq, half of which was spent as a network engineer and I tell you from my extensive knowledge of DOD networks that the Marine Corps in particular does "content filtering" based on catergories. For example if a site is known to be political, humours and have explicit matieral the filter will take the highest of them (explicit in this case) and then block that site. This is for moral reasons as well as international reasons. Countries like Iraq have laws against pornographic material. There was even a point where we were almost not allowed to have Stuff magazine and the likes. Another comes down to security. If a Marine is on duty and is surfing the internet or chatting then they are not alert to what they are doing and their surroundings. This can cause issues if something happened while that Marine was on post. Another reason is because YOU the tax payer, pay for that Sat bandwidth we have over there. How we can we justify to the DOD for our next Fiscal year that we need more money for bandwidth if half the traffic is non work related? YES they look at those stats!!! Not EVERYTHING is cut off, we do have moral computers in the internet cafes that allow anyone to surf anything as long as it is not X-rated pornographic material, once again this is due to international laws. The other DOD bodies have different regulations. The Army is less restrictive because they have more money in thier budget to buy more Sat bandwidth. They can afford to surf "junk" to put it plainly. The Marine Corps is not like and will NEVER be like any of the other armed services. We stand a notch above the rest and as such have a responsibility to set the example and pave the way for the other armed services. From internet to operations we are the best as what we do and that can not be argued. We are the elite fighting force of America. We take an honorable and moral high ground to be stay that way; since 1775. Semper Fi 1337P1rt3
  • by Some_Llama ( 763766 ) on Tuesday March 07, 2006 @03:48PM (#14869066) Homepage Journal
    Which is weird because Al does USO shows ALL THE TIME... but i guess the subject matter of his shows aren't political..

"But what we need to know is, do people want nasally-insertable computers?"

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