Wired LogoWired posted an article pointing out that the US Air Force has started blocking access to domain names with the word “blog” in the URL as a matter of general policy.

Out of Touch?

The thrust of the article is that the primary reason for the new policy is because blogs are seen by the Air Force as illegitimate sources of information for airmen. The article then goes on to paint the Air Force leadership as really out of touch with what blogs are all about.

Air Force LogoThe theme is developed primarily from a quote of an Air Force officer. The most troubling section of the quote is

AFNOC has imposed bans on all sites with “blog” in their URLs, thus cutting off any sites hosted by Blogspot. Other blogs, and sites in general, are blocked based on content reviews performed at the base, command and AFNOC level …

The idea isn’t to keep airmen in the dark — they can still access news sources that are “primary, official-use sources,” said Maj. Henry Schott, A5 for Air Force Network Operations. “Basically … if it’s a place like The New York Times, an established, reputable media outlet, then it’s fairly cut and dry that that’s a good source, an authorized source,” he said …

Skimming through some of the comments by Wired readers I see that many of them don’t understand the realities of the military. There are many who see this explanation as simply a cover for the Air Force’s desire to suppress the ability of airmen to express their outrage about the war. These commenters see the move as trampling on airmen’s First Amendment right of free speech.

In reality military personnel are under the authority of the Uniform Code of Military Justice which restricts certain civilian rights in some very significant ways. For example the UCMJ criminalizes people in uniform who express Contempt Toward Officials, perpetrate Frauds Against the United States, or are found guilty of Forcing a Safeguard.

Of those three, which would you guess to be a capital offense? Would you believe it’s the last one?

When people don a military uniform they are living under a different set of rules from the civilian community. So yes, the Air Force does have every right to restrict access to information for their personnel on Air Force equipment.

I find the rational given for the restriction of greater concern that the actual restricting.

To say that the “reason” the Air Force decided to implement a blanket restriction of access to domains with the word “blog” in the URL is because they are uniformly less reliable than the New York Times seems completely out of touch.

Out of Context?

Of course that is only a concern if the quote actually reflects the statement of Major Schott accurately. And it may very well do that.

But I gotta say, looking back through that paragraph I see a whole bunch of ellipses where words were left out and most of the text in the block quotes is not actually inside quotation marks.

Makes me wonder what the full text of the Major’s statement actually is. Has the quote been taken out of context?

I appreciate the approach Uncle Jimbo over at the award winning military blog Blackfive used towards this issue. He wrote the Major an email asking for clarification.

In it he asks some very valid questions.

Is the quote accurate? Does that reflect the view that the US military now decides what sources of information service members may access? Will you now decide which magazines they can subscribe to, what DVDs they may buy?

I’m curious how the Major responds to the email. I sure hope he does respond.

Because I’d really like to know whether the Air Force is out of touch or was quoted out of context as far as blogs are concerned.