The U.S. Air Force has restricted access to websites like that of the New York Times and other major publications for employees after the online sites published secret materials obtained by WikiLeaks, the Wall Street Journal reports.
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.
The Air Force says it has blocked more than 25 websites that contain WikiLeaks documents, in order to keep classified material off unclassified computer systems. Major Toni Tones, a spokeswoman for Air Force Space Command, wouldn't name the websites but said they may include media sites. Removing such material after it ends up on a computer could require "unnecessary time and resources," Major Tones said.
The move was ordered by the 24th Air Force, commanded by Major Gen. Richard E. Webber, following the late November publication of U.S. diplomatic cables. The Army, Navy and Marines aren't blocking the sites, and the Defense Department hasn't told the services to do so, according to spokespeople for the services and the Pentagon.
The Office of Defense Secretary Robert Gates has issued internet guidelines for DoD personnell regarding visits to WikiLeaks sites or the downloading of documents posted there and the Air Force has reiterated this stance to its own personnel in the past.
An unnamed senior Defense official told the Wall Street Journal that blocking the newspaper sites may not be the smartest move, suggesting blocking sites like the New York Times' is a "misinterpretation" of military guidelines.
But not everyone is condemning the Air Force's move against sites publishing secret government documents. Congressman-elect Allen West, R-Fla., recently suggested the government should censor American news agencies helping to disperse the classified materials:
There are different means by which you can be attacked. I mean it doesnt have to be a bomb or an airplane flying into a building. It doesn't have to be a shooting. It can be through cyber attacks, it could be through leaking of very sensitive classified information. Regardless of whether you think it causes any harm, the fact that here is an individual that is not an American citizen first and foremost, for whatever reason gotten his hands on classified American material and put it out there in the public domain. And I think that we also should be censoring the American news agencies which enabled him to do this and also supported him and applauding him for the efforts. So that's kind of aiding and abetting of a serious crime.
The Air Force's new order doesn't prevent its personnel from viewing the blocked media on non-military computers and the block may be lifted if access to the various sites is essential to a worker's job.