Department of Defense Blocks Popular Recreational Sites

Tuesday, May 15, 2007 at 08:51 AM

The Department of Defense is instituting a "global" ban on popular sites such as YouTube, MySpace, and others in order to reduce security risks and save bandwidth. Is this a good idea?

The Department of Defense has posted videos on YouTube showing U.S. forces befriending Iraqis and beating insurgents, and insurgents and terrorist organizations have posted videos depicting the opposite.

The war in Iraq, and indeed the War on Terror itself, is much more a PR campaign that a physical war, regardless of the battles taking place. While the Bush administration jockeys for position and moral high ground in their choice of battle theater, the insurgents and Al-Qaeda seek to undermine and undo that advantage.

According to Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander, blocking access across department networks to popular recreational sites will reduce impact on the networks and reduce security risks:

From MyWay:

The policy is being implemented to protect information and reduce drag on the department's networks, according to Bell.

"This recreational traffic impacts our official DoD network and bandwidth ability, while posing a significant operational security challenge," the memo said.

The armed services have long barred members of the military from sharing information that could jeopardize their missions or safety, whether electronically or by other means.

The new policy is different because it creates a blanket ban on several sites used by military personnel to exchange messages, pictures, video and audio with family and friends.

Blocking access to sharing information across these sites may very well represent a positive security gap closure, but at what cost? If soldiers are unable to not only share, but see videos, messages, and pictures of their family and friends back home using these sites, there stands the distinct possibility that it will lower morale and spread more melancholy among troops already over extended and facing an increase in opposition to the war both at home and abroad.

Now, of course sharing on YouTube is not what a soldier's job is, and that's understood. There is no requirement that soldiers be allowed to access these sites and share or see pictures from home. But it seems to be a break from common sense to disallow them these contacts, whether it is a requirement or not.

In this time of low morale and a decreased sharing of the "vision" for the Iraq War, it would be a smart move to increase troop morale in any way possible, to keep them in touch with what they believe is the reason they are fighting a war in the first place, their families and loved ones back home.

For many, the question may come down to this: Is the security increase (unmeasurable) worth the possible loss of morale in the troops in the field (unmeasurable)?

I don't have an answer to that question, certainly, but I imagine we'll have one soon enough.


The suspicious person might suspect that the ban has more to do with controlling information from the battlefield than with network capacity. Especially since the ban on DoD access to these web sites is accompanied by a rule requiring preapproval of personal blogs by soldiers.

From an Australian source:

In a separate move, the Pentagon also introduced new regulations clamping down on blogs by soldiers. Troops must now have any proposed blog site, and its content, previewed and approved.


Noah Shachtman, who runs a national security blog for Wired magazine, said the restrictions on blogging and access to websites seemed intended to stop soldiers circulating bad news but could also prevent them from providing positive reports from the field.

The military isn't like being a civilian in the United States. Certain rights are restricted (only granted as privileges) for any number of reasons; including, discipline, teamwork, operational security, communications security (location and content) and restriction of equipment to official usage, among others.

Even something as innocent as an unusually emotional correspondence may reveal operations, movements, or specific unit and individual identities; allowing order of battle files to be perfected.

There isn't anything sinister in this effort at discipline and good order -- except what some may use to foster negative stereotypes.

Thomas A. Dowe

It's called "Dumbing down the troops."

Long years ago, me and the zoo crew were in Europe. You had little choices for news, either AFRTS or The Stars and Stripes paper. Both were censored to the nines.

Which explained our addiction to Radio Luxembourg. Not just that the music was better (and it was), but the jocks would fill in the blanks for us about Nixon, the misery of Vietnam (which was still raging), and even silly crap like John & Yoko's "sleep-in" for peace. Why didn't we need to know these things?

Morale, of course. Same as it is today, DOD does not want the kids to watch videos that condemn King George, or to learn the truth about "The Exxon War". If they did? They might want to come home!

All the troops know and understand that the military must work through teamwork and good order, if it hopes to be victorious. That discipline can't be applied to just the troops on the lines; fighting daily and where intelligence concerning them endangers their lives; it must be applied across the board, to all the troops no matter where they live and work for the same ultimate goal.

If the consequences of applying that discipline is 'dumbing down' the ranks, then that's the price that has to be paid to win, to sustain our way of life and the freedom we enjoy as civilian citizens of the greatest nation on Earth.

However, claiming to be 'dumbed down' in Europe, during Vietnam, is quite a stretch of the imagination, but if true, paints an unfavorable picture.

Then, besides all of that, the normal military censorship began with the Johnson administration, and where they actively restricted journalists from combat coverage, and where civilian officials manipulated statistics to justify our presence there . . .

. . . it is all Nixon's fault . . . to the 'dumbed down' . . .

Thomas A. Dowe

Isn't it interesting, how the military can only function through a commune, when the greatest red herring on the planet for us was communism for fifty years?

I love it, right-wingers talking about "the greater good". They're like Democrats, if Democrats were dumber.


Anthony's aside, "Isn't it interesting, how the military can only function through a commune, when the greatest red herring on the planet for us was communism for fifty years?"

Isn't it interesting that for the military to work in such a large organization, that freedoms must be given up and a strict discipline must be enforced; on the level of tyranny?

"I love it, right-wingers talking about "the greater good". They're like Democrats, if Democrats were dumber."

It takes an ostrich-like view of history not to note that the "Cold War" started by Democrats, and was ended by a Republican. Isn't it interesting to note that a part of that "Cold War" was a huge conflict in Vietnam and started by a Democrat? It took a Republican to end that war, too . . .

Perhaps some Democrats are a lot dumber than they might suppose?

Thomas A. Dowe

"a huge conflict in Vietnam and started by a Democrat? It took a Republican to end that war, too"

Isn't it interesting how few people know that US invovlement in VN began under Dwight D. Eisenhower, the Republican president?

And isn't it interesting how Nixon played politics with ending the war, timing the truce so that the inevitable collapse of South VN would occur after the next election?

Check out the transcripts of the tape recordings of conversations between Nixon and Kissinger.

Responding to Thomas Dowe:

Tom, can I call you Tom? Tom, you've engaged in personal attacks over here quite a bit, and I can understand that and empathize with it.

In my article, I asked whether this was a good idea, the lowering of morale of the United States military. I would think that such a thing contributes mightily to the success of our troops, their morale. Since in your mind I am a Democrat, nothing I say will serve as anything but fodder for your personal attacks. Again, I understand that completely.

And to the point of my comment on this article previous, the one you tore apart and then used to call me stupid, I'd like to comment that I wasn't saying the Democratic party members in power are smart, just that the Republicans in power are dumber. If you ask me, the whole damn bunch of these morons should be weaving baskets at the flea-market, not running a country, and that goes for all of them whether they have an R or a D next to their name.

And you're an asshole. I forgot to mention that. If you'd like to keep on with the vitriolic nonsense, I'll be happy to answer it with the same level of discourse, until you bore me and I ignore you.