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Monday, April 9, 2007

Philocrites, now non-mission essential!

Updated! A longtime reader who works for the U.S. Air Force sent me email early last week saying that his work computer can no longer access this site. Instead, typing "www.philocrites.com" into his browser brings up the following amazing legalese:

The Site You Are Trying To Access Is Prohibited

Category of Blocked URL: "Forum/Bulletin Boards"

Monitoring of Your Web Activity is Being Performed

Reference AFI 33-129, Web Management and Internet Use, paragraph 2: "The activities listed in paragraphs 2.2.1 through 2.2.14 involving the use of government-provided computer hardware or software are specifically prohibited: 2.2.1 Use of Federal government communications systems for unathorized personal use."

IAW AFI 33-219, Telecommunications Monitoring and Assessment Program (TMAP), Paragraph 13

If the site you are trying to access is mission essential please contact your local NCC Help Desk to request access.

This is a Department of Defense computer system. This computer system, including all related equipment, networks, and network devices (specifically including Internet access) are provided only for authorized U.S. Government use. DoD computer systems may be monitored for all lawful purposes, including to ensure that their use is authorized, for management of the system, to facilitate protection against unauthorized access, and to verify security procedures, survivability, and operational security. Monitoring includes active attacks by authorized DoD entities to test or verify the security of this system. During monitoring, information may be examined, recorded, copied, and used for authorized purposes. All information, including personal information, placed or sent over this system may be monitored. Use of this DoD computer system, authorized or unauthorized, constitutes consent to monitoring of this system. Unauthorized use may subject you to criminal prosecution. Evidence of unauthorized use collected during monitoring may be used for administrative, criminal, or other adverse action. Use of this system constitutes consent to monitoring for these purposes.

Hmm. Although I've often felt that this blog takes up a lot of my time, my traffic counter says the average reader spends less than 2 minutes on the site, so government worries about time-wasting employees seem unwarranted.

But wait! My traffic logs show that a reader from the U.S. Department of Justice visited my site on Thursday morning, March 29, at 9:24, after clicking a link from the Mormon blog Times and Seasons where people were discussing Dick Cheney's commencement speech controversy at BYU. (At the time, my front page had two stories that might make a pro-Bush DOJ employee unhappy: I cheered a National Association of Evangelicals public statement condemning U.S. torture, and complained about BYU's selection of Dick Cheney as commencement speaker. Other than that, it was pretty slim pickings here.) I'd hate to cast aspersions, but it does make you wonder.

Instead of drawing conclusions, I'd prefer to gather more evidence. If you can read this site from your government computer, drop me a line and let me know. If you can't read the site from work, I can suggest some alternate ways to get your daily fix, including signing up for email delivery. And if you're a legalistic scold who would like to say that Air Force employees should avoid extracurricular reading during the workday, don't you dare leave a comment between 9 and 5. Get back to work!

Update: Apparently the Air Force blocked lots of blogs last April, too — here are progressive blogs crying foul — but Federal Computer Week magazine reported in October that system-wide screens for "productivity categories" (i.e., time-wasters) can be enhanced by local system operators to screen out individual sites. Perhaps my DOJ visitor is vindicated? ("Air Force censors liberal websites, but leaves conservative ones alone" [blog entry], AmberJane, DailyKos 4.24.06; "Boutelle: Army not blocking political sites," Josh Rogin, FCW.com 10.26.06)

Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 9 April 2007 at 8:02 AM

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8 comments:

Philocrites:

April 9, 2007 08:19 AM | Permalink for this comment

To be clear: I am pointing to a coincidence that a visitor from a Department of Justice server came to this site from a Cheney-related post at Times and Seasons and spent several minutes only a few days before the site became unavailable on at least one Air Force office computer network. It seems unlikely, but possible, that my site ended up on a restricted list as a result.

Philocrites:

April 9, 2007 10:27 AM | Permalink for this comment

Apparently a bunch of liberal blogs were blocked from other Air Force computer last April, which means I'm a year late to the party. This article from Federal Computer Week magazine includes the following interesting material:

Air Force Capt. Gary Arasin, a Central Command spokesman, said systems administrators can request the blocking of specific sites, but officials at the command headquarters level make the final decisions.

“Military computer firewalls and protections in general don’t focus on specific sites but rather filter information by type content,” Arasin said. For example, they might ban pornographic sites or sites that use a lot of bandwidth with streaming audio or video.

But a systems administrator could set up Web site filtering outside the knowledge of senior officials, said a public relations officer at WebSense, which supplies Web-filtering software to the Army.

“We don’t know exactly how they use it,” the public relations officer said. “They can choose the policies however they want to.”

WebSense divides sites into defined categories and allows administrators to block entire categories or individual sites.

Blogs fall under the WebSense category of “productivity categories,” which also includes instant messaging, discussion groups, online brokerage sites and freeware download sites.

Sites representing political groups, such as political parties or advocacy organizations, are categorized as government sites, along with Web sites the military runs.

Is my DOJ visitor vindicated? Could be! But why would the Air Force crack down on websites in April last year and again this year?

("Boutelle: Army not blocking political sites," Josh Rogin, FCW.com 10.26.06)

Philocrites:

April 9, 2007 08:50 PM | Permalink for this comment

Government Executive magazine's "TechInsider" blog is seeking input about other sites that may have been barred from Air Force computers.

Philocrites:

April 10, 2007 08:01 AM | Permalink for this comment

A reader from the Army writes:

I don't think it is anything personal. The different military services and even different commands within the services will be more restrictive on internet access then others. Especially if an operation is going on and bandwidth has gotten tight, they will restrict Internet access to all internet sights that don't end in .mil or .gov just to make sure the system works as fast as possible.

Could be! I'll check with my Air Force correspondent to see how long the block remains active.

Joe:

April 10, 2007 08:44 AM | Permalink for this comment

This website is viewable from an AFB in OK.

leveymg:

April 10, 2007 09:09 AM | Permalink for this comment

If the US Air Force needs to restrict on-line materials it deems unsuitable for its personnel, may I suggest it track visits to web sites that carry messages advocating the inevitability of the end of all human life on this planet.

USAF security might want to include that to their list of suspicious activities requiring investigation, and add the following question to the battery of psychological testing:

"Is it your belief that the End of Times is coming with the Christian Messiah, and that with it will come the End of the World and the Rapture?"

When Air Force personnel attempt to access fundamentalist Christian web sites, they might see the following message:

_______________________________________________
THE SITE YOU ARE TRYING TO ACCESS IS PROHIBITED

Those who indicate by their observed web viewing habits any tendency toward belief in doctrines advocating or endorsing the desirability of the End of the World by fire or ice shall be reassigned to posts outside of the chain of command, control or custody of nuclear weapons.

Such persons thus identified as security risks should may have their status reviewed for suitability for continued government service.

All information, including personal information, placed or sent over this system may be monitored. Use of this DoD computer system, authorized or unauthorized, constitutes consent to monitoring of this system. Unauthorized use may subject you to criminal prosecution. Evidence of unauthorized use collected during monitoring may be used for administrative, criminal, or other adverse action. Use of this system constitutes consent to monitoring for these purposes.
__________________________________________________

Let's see how they like that regulation and surveillance of the Internet in Colorado Springs.

Philocrites:

April 17, 2007 02:56 PM | Permalink for this comment

My original Air Force correspondent says one more Unitarian Universalist blog also brings up the "prohibited" image: Debitage.

Meanwhile, readers have written to say that they can read the site from their government-operated ISP, including a State Department reader, an Army reader, and another Air Force reader. Sounds like a local prohibition to me.

Philocrites:

May 15, 2007 01:59 PM | Permalink for this comment

The Department of Defense is now blocking access to thirteen different social-networking sites, including YouTube and MySpace.

Senior officers said they enacted the worldwide ban out of concern that the rapidly increasing use of these sites threatened to overwhelm the military's private Internet network and risk the disclosure of combat-sensitive material.

"The idea behind it is to have the bandwidth available to mission-critical areas," said Navy Lt. Denver Applehans, a spokesman for U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the task force that designed the restrictions.

In a memorandum to troops dated Friday, Gen. B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. forces in South Korea, said the task force had noted "a significant increase in the use of DoD network resources tied up by individuals visiting certain recreational Internet sites," he said. Bell added that the traffic poses "a significant operational security challenge."

"A casualty of war: MySpace: U.S. military blocks popular web sites, cutting ties to home," Alan Sipress and Sam Diaz, Washington Post 5.15.07, reg req'd)



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