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U.S. Army Block Access To The Guardian's Website Over NSA Leaks 331

Posted by Soulskill
from the lalalalalala-i-can't-hear-you dept.
New submitter crashcy writes "According to a spokesman for the U.S. Army, the military organization is 'blocking all access to The Guardian newspaper's reports about the National Security Agency's sweeping collection of data about Americans' email and phone communications.' The spokesman goes on to state that it is routine to block access where classified materials may be distributed. The term used was 'network hygiene.' '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. He wrote that an employee who downloads classified information could face disciplinary action if found to have knowingly downloaded the material on an unclassified computer.'"
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U.S. Army Block Access To The Guardian's Website Over NSA Leaks

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  • by alphatel (1450715) * on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:12AM (#44131939)
    Are they going turn off the TV for them, too?
    • Are they going turn off the TV for them, too?

      ... and their family's TV's and internet, and their smartphones, and the free wifi at the coffee shop right off base...

      • Re:network ignorance (Score:5, Informative)

        by Penguinisto (415985) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:03AM (#44132431) Journal

        "...can't stop the signal, Mal."

        It's amazing how science fiction is so indicative of the real world sometimes.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:20AM (#44132027)

      This isn't about preventing employees from knowing. It's about keeping classified information off of unclassified networks.

      • by CanHasDIY (1672858) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:25AM (#44132061) Homepage Journal

        This isn't about preventing employees from knowing. It's about keeping classified information off of unclassified networks.

        By blocking a publicly accessible journalism website?

        Oh, right this is the Army, where Process A Requires Solution B, So Do C Instead is command's modus operandi.

        • by khallow (566160) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:04AM (#44132447)

          This isn't about preventing employees from knowing. It's about keeping classified information off of unclassified networks.

          By blocking a publicly accessible journalism website?

          Yes. What's so hard to understand here? There are a bunch of federal employees and contractors who simply aren't allowed to have access to various sorts of classified information, no matter where that information comes from or how public it is.

          • It is a silly rule in this situation, but a rule just the same. We had this before, when the diplomatic cables were leaked and the army put out a notice that anyone caught reading about the contents would be disciplined.

            • by gl4ss (559668)

              It is a silly rule in this situation, but a rule just the same. We had this before, when the diplomatic cables were leaked and the army put out a notice that anyone caught reading about the contents would be disciplined.

              if you ban guns then only the criminals will have guns!

              • And now if you ban the freedom of the press, only former employees can have freedom of the press.
            • by interkin3tic (1469267) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:32AM (#44132737)
              That doesn't justify anything. That's basically "The army responded idiotically in the past, so they should respond idiotically now." Classification should depend on how you got it for reasons that should be obvious. If it's printed in a newspaper worldwide, how the hell are you supposed to know it's classified information? And then there is the obvious "It's not secret at this point so the damage has been done."
              • by gnick (1211984) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:37AM (#44132805) Homepage

                If it's printed in a newspaper worldwide, how the hell are you supposed to know it's classified information?

                Official stance is that, should you accidentally encounter classified information somewhere (e.g. Wikipedia), you neither confirm nor deny its accuracy. Then report it. Then the "powers that be" essentially nuke the computer from orbit.

                Seems more logical to neither confirm nor deny, then proceed to ignore.

                • Classified leaks... (Score:5, Interesting)

                  by Firethorn (177587) on Friday June 28, 2013 @12:19PM (#44133433) Homepage Journal

                  The problem is that government rules aren't really set up to handle major leaks like this. The whole sanitization process assumes that the information is still on government controlled computers handled by people with some level of clearance, even though they don't have 'need to know'. So you tell them to shut up about it, and it normally works because a random piece of classified material isn't normally worth all that much.

                  There are supposed to be processes in place to, when possible, 'neither confirm nor deny; then ignore', but the problem here is that the source is credible and the NSA failed to discredit him(rightly or wrongly). So now it's confirmed. One of the rules for classifying information is that it can't be public; available on free news sites counts as 'public', but the way the rules are written, only the classification authority(or people over it) can declare the information no longer classified due to compromise. In this case the CA would be the NSA; which is currently running around like a chicken without a head trying to get Snowden without really dealing with the actual leak.

          • by gerardrj (207690) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:36AM (#44132779) Journal

            If it is available from a public web site then the information is no longer "classified", but public knowledge. You can not put the genie back in the bottle.
            The internet has no delete button and the Army has no neuralizers.

            The thinking and the process here is flawed. Once information is leaked it should be "de-classified", since that's what it is. To continue trying to operate as though the leaked information is still somehow magically top-secret is insanity.

            • If it is available from a public web site then the information is no longer "classified", but public knowledge

              Technically, that's not true - a document is only de-classified if a government agent declares it as such, public disclosure notwithstanding.

              The thinking and the process here is flawed.

              Understatement of the month, man.

        • Re:network ignorance (Score:5, Interesting)

          by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:14AM (#44132531)

          By blocking a publicly accessible journalism website?

          Oh, right this is the Army, where Process A Requires Solution B, So Do C Instead is command's modus operandi.

          No, it actually makes sense.

          Suppose your objective is to prevent malware from appearing on your PC. (or secure a server.) This isn't a Windows-vs-Unix thing, the answer is the same for what happens when a server gets rooted.

          What's the best thing to do when your PC has malware on it? When a server is rooted? You wipe the disk and reinstall the OS from a known good image. It's the only way to be sure that not a single byte of malware/rootkit remains on the disk.

          That's the objective. Not one byte of bad stuff on the disk. A single NOP in the wrong place could open a back door.

          You could spend a few hours editing registry keys, burning a CD of the contents of /bin from a known good workstation and copying the files over, doing a byte-by-byte comparison of /bin/cp and /bin/ls, and so on, but you'd never be completely sure the system wasn't compromised. If you got rid of the malware and any back doors left by whoever rooted the system, you're fine.

          That's what the .mil folks are trying to do with their networks, except that instead of "malware", it's "classified information on computers used for unclassified work."

          And it's not as silly as it sounds. You want to know that if malware exists on your system, there's something wrong. In PC terms, there's no harm done by users downloading dancing-bunnies.exe as long as they never actually run it. (Maybe it's a false positive -- the user was merely going to spend a lunch break disassembling it to understand how the exploit was written... Maybe they're downloading a Linux rootkit for analysis on a PC, or vice versa. But how can you tell the difference between that and someone downloading a Linux rootkit with the intention of maliciously installing it on a Linux server that can only be accessed through the compromised PC...)

          If you only have one user, you could ask them, but if you have 100,000 users, you can't. You just don't have enough sysadmins to nicely ask everyone on the network if their copy of the rootkit was downloaded deliberately with no intent of using it to harm the network, or if there's something seriously wrong. So you say "Sorry, no dancing-bunnies.exe on this part of the LAN. If you want to do virus research, do it at home, or, if we think you're smart enough, we'll give you a PC on the portion of the network that we've separated from the company LAN, and you can do research there without any risk of the dancing bunnies spreading to other users..."

          And then you wipe the disk and reinstall the OS from a known good image.

          The only reason classified information should appear on an unclassified machine is if there's a security breach. If every innocent download of dancing-bunnies.exe results in a nuke-and-reinstall on sight, your security researchers will stop doing it on the company LAN, eliminating the false positives.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by BrokenHalo (565198)

            And it's not as silly as it sounds.

            Actually, it is. Wiping disks to get rid of malware is an entirely different thing, and has absolutely no correlation with army personnel somehow having to somehow "unsee" or pretend they can't see something that is already in the public domain.

            • by yurtinus (1590157)
              Still looking at it the wrong way around - the purpose is to keep classified data off of unclassified machines, not to get the operators to "unlearn" things they've read about. I'm sure the .mil IT group would love it for somebody with authority to declassify the documents - but until that happens, part of their job is to keep classified materials off of unclassified hardware within their control. They know the stuff is out there and that they can't put the genie back in the bottle, that doesn't mean they'r
      • by crashcy (2839507) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:26AM (#44132073)
        Why target the Guardian then, except spite that they broke the story and had (or have) direct contact with Snowden? The information has already spread all over the internet, they can't block access to it all.
        I don't know what the process is for officially declassifying the information, but I don't see how you can really call something that's public knowledge classified anymore.
        • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:31AM (#44132127)

          I can see the Pentagon briefing now: "Clearly, the only obvious answer is to destroy the internet. Men, you have your orders! America...America...God shed his grace on thee..."

        • by cold fjord (826450) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:32AM (#44132143)

          It is unlikely to just be the Guardian, at least in the future if not now. If other sites have the stolen documents available they'll probably be blocked too.

          Classified information remains classified until declassified. It may sound silly, but there are some practical reasons to do that.

        • by Rougement (975188) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:17AM (#44132555)
          I'd imagine they blocked The Guardian as it's a British paper and so can't be leaned on like the bulk of US corporate media can. Also, their coverage is very well researched, comprehensive and persuasive. They don't want their personnel getting ideas. I also wouldn't rule out small-minded pettiness.
        • by PhxBlue (562201)
          Because they actually had screenshots of slides marked "Top Secret" on their website.
      • by gl4ss (559668)

        This isn't about preventing employees from knowing. It's about keeping classified information off of unclassified networks.

        umm but it manifests only as preventing employees from knowing.. or are they afraid chinese hackers who also can't get to guardian to get the information from their hacked network.

        apparently it's their automatic filtering - but doesn't sound like too smart filtering unless it's meant to keep the troops from questioning legitimacy of some actions.
        it is public information after all, available in printed form from any newsstand. sure, it was meant to be kept secret but can't put the cat back in the bag.

        (btw if

      • by hawguy (1600213)

        This isn't about preventing employees from knowing. It's about keeping classified information off of unclassified networks.

        Once it's made public, then what's the point of keeping it designated as "classified"? If it's already known to be in the hands of the public and the "bad guys", what possible justification is there for keeping it out of the hands of the "good guys"?

        • My guess is this is an IT problem for them. They likely have scripts that troll un-classified networks looking for keywords that would indicated classified material and gotten onto them. When they find one, they flag it and investigate. They've probably had a huge spike in hits because of this, with most of them leading back to the guardian. Until they update their scripts they probably thought the easiest solution was to block the website. Just a guess...

        • Due process. Chain of command integrity.
      • by Alioth (221270)

        But that ship has already sailed. The classified information is now all public knowledge, it's just stupid still calling it classified.

        • How else do you have thought-crime if you don't allow the maintained "classified" nature of information that's public? </orwell>
      • by _UnderTow_ (86073)

        This isn't about preventing employees from knowing. It's about keeping classified information off of unclassified networks.

        No, it's about the people in charge wanting to be appear to be doing something.

    • Re:network ignorance (Score:5, Informative)

      by philip.paradis (2580427) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:27AM (#44132089)

      What they're referring to is blocking of site access on NIPRNet [wikipedia.org], which is the "unclass" side of US military network operations, but is still subject to additional scrutiny and a strict requirement that no information that has been classified be stored on connected systems. This is standard protocol bordering on the boring for office communications in the military, and is absolute non-news.

      Nobody is actively working (well, okay, not openly working) to restrict communications viewed by active duty DoD personnel on their personal computers while utilizing Internet connections not-uplinked-in-the-barracks-or-other-stupid-places-where-you-know-your-traffic-is-being-logged-shipmate. Military personnel are keenly aware that they face serious legal penalties for improperly accessing and or disseminating classified materials. This is not difficult to understand.

      It's worth noting that in this particular case, I firmly believe Snowden acted as a patriot and is absolutely not the traitor he's being painted as by the administration and various members of Congress. I say this as a former service member myself (Navy) who also held a TS/SCI clearance. This young man exposed wholesale disregard for our Constitution on a massive scale, and it's been happening at an increasing pace for about twenty years. I ardently hope he finds asylum somewhere safe.

      • by Xest (935314)

        Is secret information still secret information if it's no longer secret?

        Only in a mindless non-thinking bureaucracy could that ever be the case.

      • I want to thank you for your service, and I agree 100% on Snowden being a patriot.. I believe, a patriot on a par with many of the patriots of the first American revolution.. You may notice I said the "first American revolution"..This is because I'm firmly convinced we're in the early times of the second American revolution..
        I'm a 63 year old Vietnam vet, and am sickened daily by the sewage that controls the government... A lot of us suspected for a long time what Mr Snowden exposed, but with his disclosure

    • Wiping a TV is a lot less labor intensive.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:17AM (#44131991)

    Not only did NSA chief General Keith Alexander lie to the people, he lied to Congress, he lied to the President, and of course they don't want the foot soldier knowing the lie.

    Push comes to shove, everyone of your foot soldiers should remember that you swore an oath to defend the constitution, not the crook at the top.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:31AM (#44132121)

      Which is why I chose to not re-enlist. Granted, my re-enlistment window was over a year ago (before this all came out), but what I saw our elected officials doing made me realize they were a greater threat to our freedom and constitution than any terrorist would ever be... I couldn't in good conscience swear an oath to defend the constitution from both enemies both foreign and DOMESTIC, and sleep well at night knowing I was breaking that oath every day I marched in step to the idiots that are leading our country into the "dustbin of history." I know Ronald Reagan isn't the most popular president here on Slashdot, but here is a very cogent remark he made:

      “Someone once said that every form of government has one characteristic peculiar to it and if that characteristic is lost, the government will fall. In a monarchy, it is affection and respect for the royal family. If that is lost the monarch is lost. In a dictatorship, it is fear. If the people stop fearing the dictator he'll lose power. In a representative government such as ours, it is virtue. If virtue goes, the government fails. Are we choosing paths that are politically expedient and morally questionable? Are we in truth losing our virtue? . . . If so, we may be nearer the dustbin of history than we realize.”

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by xiando (770382)
        You may not have noticed, and may be in denial, but the relevant part for the United States today is âoeSomeone once said that every form of government has one characteristic peculiar to it and if that characteristic is lost, the government will fall. In a monarchy, it is affection and respect for the royal family. If that is lost the monarch is lost. In a dictatorship, it is fear. If the people stop fearing the dictator he'll lose power. In a representative government such as ours, it is virtue. If vi
    • by TWiTfan (2887093) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:36AM (#44132173)

      I seriously doubt NSA lied to the President. And they only lied to Congress because they knew that the Congressmen didn't really give a shit and were just putting on a nice show for the cameras. If they had thought for a second that Congress might actually follow up on their answers (or that the press even had the ABILITY to follow up), they would have parsed their language much more carefully.

      • And they only lied to Congress because they knew that the Congressmen didn't really give a shit and were just putting on a nice show for the cameras

        Regardless of your rationalization someone cannot lie to Congress under oath. It is a crime of perjury and one that got a former President partially impeached.

        • by TWiTfan (2887093)

          Well, in that case, better send the Congressional Police to arrest him!! They can put him in Congressional Jail with the many, many others who've lied to Congress and been prosecuted for it.

        • Assuming you're referring to Bill Clinton, he was fully impeached (a function of the House of Representatives, analogous to indictment), but then not removed from office by the Senate. The article of impeachment that passed accused him of lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice, but not lying under oath to Congress.
  • by DougDot (966387) <dougr@parrot-farm.net> on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:18AM (#44132009) Homepage

    WAR IS PEACE
    FREEDOM IS SLAVERY
    IGNORANCE IS STRENGTH

    Although admittedly, we've had the ignorance bit down for quite a while.

  • "Collection and analysis of content is NSA's traditional way of reporting SIGINT. Content generally refers to words spoken during a telephone conversation or the written text of an email message. NSA collection of the content of telephony and Internet communications under the PSP improved its ability to produce intelligence on terrorist-related activity. For example, by allowing NSA access to links carrying communications with one end in the United States, NSA significantly increased its access to transitin

    • You don't suppose that the NSA just might have more than one program targeted at different types of communication, with each having its own method?

  • by Darth Snowshoe (1434515) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:22AM (#44132043)

    How about the Washington Post? Is the Army also blocking access to 'the newspaper of record for the Federal government"?

  • Wishful Thinking... (Score:2, Informative)

    by tibit (1762298)

    As in: we wish the problem would just go away. Wish wish, shoo shoo, go away problem!

    The source of this madness comes from the regulations that were intended to be applied in an entirely different scenario. An unclassified computer could be used to store classified data that wasn't leaked yet, so the rule was there to protect the information from leaking out in the first place. Of course the geniuses who wrote the rules didn't think of massive leaks where tens or even hundreds of thousands of pages of class

    • I have yet to see anything leak from a print newspaper onto my computer.

      If you had a classified document from a website publishing those documents, how would they guarantee that is the source for your document? Since the document is still classified even if publicly available, why do you have it on that computer?

      The rule isn't that they bomb the Guardian's servers and the homes of people accessing those documents. Blocking access to the servers and warning government employees and contractors will do.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        Since the document is still classified even if publicly available

        Therein lies the problem. Wish wish, shoo shoo, go away problem! Kids may be learning it in grade school, but if someone has a stamp somewhere saying it's classified, then come hell or high water, classified it must remain. That's the kind of rulemaking that only career bureaucrats can come up with.

  • Same as Wikileaks (Score:5, Informative)

    by cold fjord (826450) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:28AM (#44132101)

    No surprise here, they did the same thing on the documents that Manning stole and leaked to Wikileaks. There were also stories like this:

    Will reading WikiLeaks cost students jobs with the federal government? [cnn.com]

  • by poofmeisterp (650750) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:31AM (#44132129) Journal

    Ah, I see... So this is an action that tries to illustrate blocking, destruction, and punishment are completely common actions when it comes to "classified" data.

    I guess that means that any actions taken against people and/or organizations in the *future* can be treated as, "Hey, this is what happens all the time. You didn't know that?"

    Nice move, government. Very childish and hackneyed, but still... Bravo.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:36AM (#44132167)

    To see the knee-jerk comments on this story in the tech news. I honestly thought that the collective inteligence level of the people who read tech news was a little higher.

    The DoD is not trying to censor what service men and women see. No one is saying that they cannot go look at these websites from their own personal omputers. What is going on, is that the DoD is trying to prevent CLASSIFIED data from being loaded onto, looked at, and stored in the caches of UNCLASSIFIED government owned computers, something refered to as spillage. I'm staying out of the argument on legal precendet about classified data in the public domain, the government says the data is still classified, so if it ends up on an unclas system, that system has to be wiped, sometimes a great expense.

    No one could care less if military members looked at whatever they want to at home, but the computers that they use at work belong to the government and thus the government can dictate what can and cannot be viewed on those computers. Just like the comouter and network at a civilian place of employment, your employer can dictate what you can and cannot use your company owned computer to do.

    • by TheCarp (96830)

      As one of the militaried greatest detractors, I agree completely with your take on it. This is not some boneheaded attempted to put their head in the sand. No, this is just a hamfisted application of blind policy.

      This is really more like the military version of "Office Space" than anything else.

      Lt. Lumberg: "Um yah, didn't you get the memo about the classified documents? They can't be on machines that are not authorized or accessed by unauthorized people"
      Pvt Gibbons: "Yes I saw the memo, and I understand th

  • There is stupid, then there is "Army stupid". Now, "DoD stupid needs to be even better.
  • "'Campos wrote if an employee accidentally downloaded classified information, it would result in "labor intensive" work..."

    Or, you know, they could just 'de-classify' the information... since it's already out there. Problem solved. Nobody needs to face disciplinary action.

    • by blueg3 (192743)

      That's not their decision to make. A different part of the executive could declassify it, sure, but in the meantime, the DoD is just dealing with the bureaucratic reality of regulations concerning classified data.

  • by Bugler412 (2610815) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:45AM (#44132261)
    If it appears on The Guardian, I think any classification is rather moot at this point isn't it? This is more about restraint of a news outlet than protecting classified information.
  • This would make a great DoS attack against the military:

    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

    All a hacker needs to do is hack some website commonly used by the military (army.mil?) and post some leaked classified information on it, or send an email blast to army.mil email addresses with the classified information, and the Army will be forced to wipe thousands of computers, and maybe discipline soldiers for having classified information on their insecure computer (rules, are rules, right?)

  • ... But the government blocking a newspaper because they don't agree with what it published? That's fucking totalitarian, military or no.

  • by ciderbrew (1860166) on Friday June 28, 2013 @10:50AM (#44132321)
    Monitoring all communications
    Locking people up without a trial
    Blocking journalism
    Disappearing dissidents
    Murdering civilians.

    Not too long before that Second Amendment for a well-regulated Militia is needed. Good luck America. You gave the world dreams and put a man on the moon. You were awesome.
  • Of course the army is going to block access to the guardian. There have been several stories published there that prove the US government is listening to the private phone calls of the troops, including tape recording their phone sex and passing it around the office as entertainment.

    Army officials are then quoted in the same articles as saying that the troops should know that their phone calls are not private.

    I mean really, who wants the troops to know this and be all demoralized and shit, we need to spy

  • The full story is posted at the Monterey Co. Herald's website: http://www.montereyherald.com/local/ci_23554739/restricted-web-access-guardian-is-army-wide-officials [montereyherald.com] The article says:

    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."

    So what happens if activists start mass-emailing the Guardian article to @mil email addresses -- will NETCOM's "strict policies" require that they disable the DoD's email servers?

    • "Activists"? You mean the kind of people who want to give succour to regimes like those of Russia and China? The kind of people who resent the fact that their world view was decisively destroyed when the Berlin Wall came down? They aren't "activists"; they're bloody fools.
  • by BrendaEM (871664) on Friday June 28, 2013 @11:33AM (#44132745) Homepage

    Of all the things I have seen the US do to its own people,this is one of the most appalling! The United States cannot function without the oversight of its people. The people who did this should be arrested and charged with treason, but that is indeed the problem in the first place. Those few people who systematically worked to undermine the spirit of the US Constitution and The Bill of Rights, are now scared. They know that they must try to fight not to lose their power over us.They know that if they lose, they might go to prison, and I hope with every fiber of my being that the do lose their power, that they do go to prison. No citizen is safe, no freedom cannot exist in the climate they dare to make for us. Please stop them. Please help do something if it is only what each one of you can. Help in your own way, but please help.

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