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Defense Department Blocks Access to Guardian to Prevent Viewing of NSA Leaks (firedoglake.com)
181 points by llamataboot 1486 days ago | hide | past | web | 43 comments | favorite



This isn't about censorship or trying to shut the barn door after the horse or anything about trying to prevent the spread of documents to the public (or even realistically the people who work at the DoD). The key words are right in the article itself: "integrity of unclassified government information systems.”

Note that it's not the classified systems they are worried about, but the boring unclassified ones. There are separate systems for classified and unclassified information, and there are rules to make sure that stuff doesn't move from the classified systems to the unclassified ones by accident. One of those rules, very sensibly, is that classified information shouldn't be on the unclassified systems.

Again, this has nothing to do with stopping public spread of the documents, and everything to do with trying to keep "clean" systems clean, as they explain in the article.


You are absolutely correct about the compartmentalization and physical separation of classified and unclassified systems.

I disagree that this is about keeping "clean" systems clean. That is the justification for the block. The implied task, which typically carries tremendous latitude, is in this clause:

> Leadership must establish a vigilant command climate that underscores the critical importance of safeguarding classified material against compromise.

Officers will discuss this in an email, maybe during a routine brief, and issue intent (maybe guidance) to the NCOs. That clause about the vigilant command climate being underscored is where the NCOs will be interpreting the implied task(s). Somewhere, for some units, this will be similar to the way alcohol and pornography is handled. There will be an amnesty and then there will be barracks inspections. Platoon and team leaders will treat any device used to access an unclassified system as though it were a thumb drive. Most of the lower enlisted depend heavily upon their Defense Knowledge Online (DKO) portal and webmail. Many use personal computers to access from their barracks. Medical records, address books, professional development, college coursework, all are accessed through the portal. If you have been keeping up on the Snowden leaks on your personal laptop and you are caught with that material on your personal laptop, which you use to access DKO, you will be charged with a security violation. Your clearance will be revoked. You will lose your job and there will be a criminal investigation. If you sync your phone with your laptop, that will be inspected, as well. Your phone might as well be a thumb drive. If you have an email with Snowden material attached to it in your GMail Inbox, and that is pushed to your phone but you fail to report and scrub it, you will be charged.

These are marching orders. Soldiers will feel the squeeze from this.


> if ... you are caught with that material on your personal laptop, which you use to access DKO, you will be charged with a security violation

Yes, as is the same with all other classified information. How else should the government deal with it? De-classify the information? If you have a security clearance you should know that you should never have classified information on a un-classified computer system. There's nothing new about this.


Prior to Wikileaks and an Executive Order addressing the matter of classified information in public domain, the presence of classified information on an unclassified system almost certainly required a deliberate effort to remove the classified information. A soldier would have had to gain access to the classified system and deliberately violate regulation to extract the information. Finding the classified information on an unclassified system would otherwise have exposed gross negligence or criminal intent. This is shifting the focus from the violation that took place to transfer classified information to an unclassified system; it shifts the focus to exposure to classified information on an unclassified system.

Not every soldier is familiar with handling classified information. Their ignorance is bliss. They do not have access to classified systems. Now, though they have no access, they are to be treated as though they mishandled classified information because they visited a public domain website on their personal computer. They had to be told the information was classified because they otherwise could not be certain.

This is new enough. I do understand your position about data at rest. But I believe there is a difference based upon where the classified information was encountered and how it got there. If it is on an unclassified system, and it got there via communication with an unclassified system, I fail to see the soldier's violation. When the soldier's mother expressed outrage over the leak or details of the leak is the soldier supposed to report her and cease contact?

The block is one thing. The bit about leadership and climate is another.


And that´s why the system fails to protect the informations routinely. It makes sense from the rules point of view, but lacks perspective and is not practical.

It´s just trying to grab a pint of water with your hand, no matter how hard you try and how many rules you set, it´s not going to work.


What would happen if, say, a common Linux distribution integrated classified material into its base documentation (not unreasonable; encryption algorithms can be classified, for example) and then pushed that change out as a bugfix-level auto-update? Would tens of thousands of people suddenly be breaking the law?


Surely once information's been published in a national newspaper it should no longer be treated as classified.


Certainly, there must be a state for "leaked" classified documents, for which this rule simply wouldn't apply (these leaked documents could literally appear anywhere on the web in theory).


"Classified" remains classified even if leaked to remove ambiguity and possible sloppiness.

It is to avoid situations like: "this document says it needs to be handled as if it is classified but I am pretty sure it leaked last week so I will treat it as unclassified which is easier..."


The only other state is formally unclassifying them.


To me this is just as bad of an example (if not worse) of the leaks. How soon till we expand this firewall from "classified docs in the public domain" to "anything that we don't like" affecting "active duty soliders" to "anyone we don't want to have this information."


And the US Government criticizes China (and Snowden's possible presence there) under exactly these terms.


While staying as far as humanly possible from defending the USG on any of this, there's a vast, vast difference between people who've volunteered for military service, or to work for the DoD, and people who had the (debatable) misfortune of being born Chinese.


The difference is that the volunteers get more money and is composed of a war hungry brainwashed culture that cant point the countries its at war with on the map. Unless there is an actual invasion there is little moral justification for murder, violence, threats. The road to wealth is peace, the road to peace is compassion and the strength of every individual in our society.


Yikes, the last part of what you said is certainly true, but the beginning is a grossly naive view of military service members.


When you join the Army etc you largely leave your free speech (and many other) rights at the door, so I fail to see the equivalence.

My guess is that that info is still classified, even though it's public, and accessing it might be a technical violation for those without clearances.


For the first part, I didn't say they were equivalent. I said it was the same criteria by which China and Snowden were criticized, not that the US was doing to all of its citizens all of the things that the US criticizes China for.

For the second, honest question: does published information actually retain its classification?


> My guess is that that info is still classified, even though it's public, and accessing it might be a technical violation for those without clearances.

What prevents people to use their 3G network to fetch up the article ? Public is public, it's too late for clearance.


DoD largely uses commercial firewalls and filters (Websense was the big one) to block a bunch of stuff, ranging from porn to malware to racist/violent things. It was super-lulz when they tried to apply the same filters to people responsible for monitoring local news and responding to it in places like Iraq.

This isn't that big a change.


Or how long until they expand to other departments?


The people of Troy are still worrying about the efficacy of their city walls when the Greek soldiers have already gotten out of the horse and opened the gates.


I was wondering when they'll actually start attacking the 1st amendment (well I guess they started when they went after the press, and chilling speech), and when they will be actually censoring stuff. It happened a bit earlier than even I expected.


It started in 1919. It was ruled in the Schenk case that the Espionage Act (1917) (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Espionage_Act_of_1917) did not violate the freedom of speech of those convicted under it. Schenk mailed out anti-draft leaflets during WW1, and jailed for it. Per wikipedia:

'The Court, in a unanimous opinion written by Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., held that Schenck's criminal conviction was constitutional. The First Amendment did not protect speech encouraging insubordination, because, "when a nation is at war, many things that might be said in time of peace are such a hindrance to its effort that their utterance will not be endured so long as men fight, and that no Court could regard them as protected by any constitutional right."'

So, precedent: freedom of speech doesn't apply if it impairs the ability of the state to wage war.

The next step was the gradual institutionalization of a permanent on-going state of war. This has been sliding into place since WW2, from the early days of the Cold War onwards, by way of the gradual militarization of the federal system; from the outside, the USA of today looks like an Imperial colossus, out-spending the rest of the planet on weapons (and out-deploying it, too).

Where you have a permanent state of war you have a permanent justification for emergency authority (as Orwell observed in 1984 -- what did "We have always been at war with EastAsia really signify?"). So wartime regulations overriding normal constitutional protections become embedded.

Finally, we have the virtualization of the permanent state of war: from a war stance pointed at a concrete enemy with tanks and nuclear missiles, to a war on an abstraction, "terror", which is drawn so widely that it leads to officials making statements like this: "We take water quality very seriously. Very, very seriously ... But you need to make sure that when you make water quality complaints you have a basis, because federally, if there’s no water quality issues, that can be considered under Homeland Security an act of terrorism."

Source: http://www.alternet.org/environment/tennessee-official-says-...

It's a slippery slope, but the USA is already surprisingly far down it -- the bottom is within reach already!


Wasn't that ruling overturned in Brandenburg v. Ohio in order to protect members of the KKK from arrest? (US history is really pretty awful sometimes.)


...the DoD regularly filters web access of machines on their networks. They did the same for wikileaks. Is this a surprise?


Nothing like closing the barn door after all the horses have bolted.


This is more like closing the neighbor's barn door. Like the Guardian's main website has a "upload leaked document form"?! This is them either too scared to think straight, or they are being told to do it by someone who is.


New Yorker runs Strongbox, so Guardian can run one too.


Documents are classified as "secret" to maintain control of who sees those documents. However, once they are available for view on the Guardian or other public sites, they are no longer secret, by definition, and thus should no longer classified as secret (because they are not).

Following that logic, why aren't leaked docs simply declassified? The cat is out of the bag...


"secret" and "top secret" are specific classification labels that don't necessarily correspond 1 to 1 with colloquial definition of the word secret. (Kind of like maybe the word memory in a computer doesn't quite correspond to human memory even though it is the same word).

Just because a set of documents are leaked, exposed, stolen, published by someone or handed over to people who are not authorized to view it, it does not automatically reset their classification label.

Now you might say "so what this is dumb". And it is and it has nothing to do with you unless you have a clearance. People with a clearance have signed contracts and other documents that say "there are penalties involved if you commit a security violation". One such security violation is "copying or accessing classified information on unclassified systems". That's it. You see where I am going hopefully.

You are a grunt on some army based working with crypto radios. You have a clearance. You hope to work for the CIA or NSA maybe when you go back to civilian life. News about leaks comes out. You browse HN or Reddit at work during lunch. See news about leaks. Click and oops! you have just committed a serious security violation. You are accessing classified information on an unclassified system. This _could_ get you into trouble. If anything at least when you are polygraphed if you apply to work at the 3 letter agencies later.

So think of this filtering as a "courtesy" to help them inadvertently break some serious rules.

Now, does it sound silly and pedantic? Yes. Do I personally agree with this interpretation? No. But that is how it is. And I think this is the reason for filtering not that it tries to prevent oh I don't know an armed rebellion.


Because then people could just create documents and put the government in a position of having to confirm or deny them.


This is exactly analogous to covering your eyes to make yourself invisible. Covering DoD's eyes will not make these revelations go away.


Northrop Grumman did a similar, but wider-ranging, thing a few weeks ago; blocking all sites classified as 'news.' This lasted a day or so.


Probably for the best, Guardian loads like shit on old versions of IE compared to WaPo and even NYT.


I think the State Department was moving to Chrome.


Ironic - Chrome only recently started supporting do not track didn't it?


Which is only a guideline that can safely be ignored by whoever wants to track user behavior.


[deleted]


It may be standard procedure, but that doesn't mean there's "nothing to see here."

Comments like this are not useful to constructive discussion of the topic at hand.


Streisand effect


That doesn't make any sense. Don't their employees already have access to that information?


They did the same thing after the collateral damage video was posted on wikileaks.


How about bundle these up, sign them, and place them on a peer to peer network?


Maybe donate and buy cryptome's DVD this year




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