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US Army Restricting Access to Guardian UK’s NSA Coverage

US Army Restricting Access to Guardian UK’s NSA Coverage

The Army is reportedly restricting staff members’ internal access to The Guardian UK’s NSA related news coverage. Officials say automatic content filters are responsible.

From the Monterey Herald:

Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, said in an email the Army is filtering “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks.”

He wrote it is routine for the Department of Defense to take preventative “network hygiene” measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information.

“We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security,” he wrote, “however, there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information.”

In a later phone call, Van Vleet said the filter of classified information on public websites was “Armywide” and did not originate at the Presidio.

Presidio employees described how they could access the U.S. site,, but were blocked from articles, such as those about the NSA, that redirected to the British site.

Spencer Ackerman, U.S. national security editor at the Guardian, tweeted earlier that the Department of Defense indicated it is not selectively blocking Guardian content, rather, automatic content filters are responsible.

Indeed, an email from Van Fleet embedded in the Monterey Herald article goes on to elaborate:

The department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to visit while on a DoD system, but instead relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats. The DoD is also not going to block websites from the American public in general, and to do so would violate our highest-held principle of upholding and defending the Constitution and respecting civil liberties and privacy.

The Monterey Herald said that Jose Campos, the Presidio’s information assurance security officer, sent an email to employees explaining that the automatic content restriction is done so as a protective measure “in order to prevent an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”

Campos wrote if an employee accidentally downloaded classified information, it would result in “labor intensive” work, such as the wipe or destruction of the computer’s hard drive.

The Guardian of course has been leading coverage of the NSA surveillance programs leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden.  The news outlet has included classified documents in some of its coverage.


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As I understand it, the reasoning is that the information, even if compromised, remains classified. As such they don’t want it accessed on their unsecure networks.

If you access documents that have “Top Secret” all over them perhaps you could trip some internal security mechanism? The suggestion is that reading the items on the clear network will create some sort of “incident”.

decades ago when I was in if I saw something above my rated clearance I was supposed to self report seeing it even if I was not sure.
and if I didn’t all hell could rain down upon me.
same type of scenario.

When I was working for a DoD contractor a few years back, we were warned not to access any WikiLeaks articles. This is pretty standard behavior. “Not with out computers, you don’t!” Which is pretty much their right.

I R A Darth Aggie | June 28, 2013 at 4:31 pm

it would result in “labor intensive” work, such as the wipe or destruction of the computer’s hard drive


I would be surprised if they didn’t have an industrial grade metal shredder to eat disk drives on-site. And wiping a disk isn’t particularly labor intensive. You can fire up a copy of Darik’s Boot and Nuke set its parameters to your desired level of crispiness[*], hit start and walk away. In a day or so it’ll be clean, ready to be re-imaged.

And if they have the right tools, re-imaging isn’t particularly hard or labor intensive.

[*] I usually go for the extra-crispy, 8 pass PRNG random number wipe, which for a reasonably recent machine will probably run overnight. For an older machine, give it 24 hours. And that is more stringent than the the available DOD standard wipe.

    That’s silly, all you need to do is “zero” the drive. You only need to do it once. It’s impossible to reconstruct a zero’d drive, the information is irretrievably destroyed at a fundamental basis.

If this doesn’t scare the crap out of you, nothing will.

I think there is a lot of misunderstanding on this particular directive. As a military member, I can go out on my personal computer and peruse the NSA stuff at will. On my government computer it is restricted because of the classified nature of the information. The reason for that is if at my government workstation I access, receive, or send classified information on a computer not cleared for that level, my workstation has to be disconnected from the network until Comm (short for Communications–the folks who handle computer issues) comes and sanitizes my machine. In addition, Comm has to go on the network servers to sanitize it as well since the information isn’t just on my computer. That means the network for everyone goes down until the issue is resolved. SoP when classified info winds up on a system of a lower classification.

That is just silly, if something is publicly disclosed and becomes common knowledge, it is no longer classified. This is just the Army trying to maintain control over the rank and file who may become outraged to learn that the government has become disloyal to the Republic by willfully disregarding its obligation to uphold the Constitution with this massive search and seizure of everyone’s information. Because the Army swears allegiance not to a particular government but to the Constitution and the Republic, A disloyal government fears nothing more than well armed patriots willing to die to uphold their oath.