Restricted web access to The Guardian is Armywide, officials say
The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday’s Herald, but Armywide.
Presidio employees said the site had been blocked since The Guardian broke stories on data collection by the National Security Agency.
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, www.guardiannews.com, but were blocked from articles, such as those about the NSA, that redirected to the British site.
Sources at the Presidio said Jose Campos, the post’s information assurance security officer, sent an email to employees early Thursday saying The Guardian’s website was blocked by Army Cyber Command “in order to prevent an unauthorized disclosure of classified information.”
NETCOM is a subordinate to the Army Cyber Command, based in Fort Belvoir, Va., said its website.
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.
The Guardian’s website has classified documents about the NSA’s program of monitoring phone records of Verizon customers, a project called Prism which gave the agency “direct access” to data held by Google, Facebook, Apple and others, and more.
The source of the leaks, 29-year-old Edward Snowden, is on the run from American authorities. He is a former contractor for the agency.
Van Vleet said the department does not determine what sites its personnel can choose to see on the DOD system, but “relies on automated filters that restrict access based on content concerns or malware threats.”
He said it would not 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 Guardian declined to comment, but its editor-in-chief, Alan Rusbridger, sent a link to The Herald’s story on Twitter.
Army Cyber Command: www.arcyber.army.mil/
The Guardian’s “The NSA Files” page: www.guardian.co.uk/world/the-nsa-files.
Phillip Molnar can be reached at 646-4487 or firstname.lastname@example.org.