Access Denied: US Air Force Blocks the New York Times

Illustration for article titled Access Denied: US Air Force Blocks the New York Times

Air Force personnel on military computers are no longer able to access the websites of The New York Times, the Guardian, and 22 other news publications—greeted with an "ACCESS DENIED" message instead. The reason? WikiLeaks panic, of course.


Blocking direct access to WikiLeaks is one thing—but blocking the ability to read over twenty newspaper and media sites from around the world is quite another. And the prohibition goes far behind suppression, warning airmen who try to access, for example, that their online activity is being monitored and threatening them with punishment, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The rationale is the same that's been used against government employees across the country—that browsing WikiLeaks risks the spread of classified documents (despite the fact, of course, that these documents are available to anyone, anywhere in the world). But this time is different. Rather than just blocking the leaked cables, or even articles that link to the leaked cables, entire newspapers are now censored.

Access to the news—all of the news—is now impossible, from a variety of authoritative, mainstream, legitimate sources. So far the Air Force is alone among the branches of the military with a suppressive approach this austere, and even within the service, there's some dissent regarding the draconian directive: The WSJ quotes one anonymous official who "said blocking the New York Times was a misinterpretation of military guidance to avoid visiting websites that post classified material." This seems less like a misinterpretation and more like a heavy-handed, rather startling attempt to keep Americans in the dark. [WSJ]



Two things:

1- Accessing classified documents on a NIPR computer has always been against Air Force regulations, nothing new here. It's just on now, so they blocked that site.

2- The warning of monitoring if you go to the site is just the splash screen that pops up anytime you try to visit a blocked site on a base computer. Again, nothing new. Same thing that happens if you go to Youtube or facebook. I've seen that screen many a time, and no one cares about it. If you're not looking at porn, no one really cares.

As an Air Force guy, this is a non-issue.

For anyone who thinks this is infringement of our rights, you need to know that military personnel give up some rights that normal citizens have. We subject ourselves willingly as part of our service to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). We can't speak out publicly against our commander in chief, and our political activities are limited, as well as travel and other general freedoms. This is all voluntary and part of the package. If any Air Force guy or gal wants to read those classified documents at home and risk court martial (though it's extremely unlikely that would happen), they can do that. Young Airmen can do it from the dorms if they want.

This whole thing is reasonable, expected, and completely un-amazing.