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Aug-17-2008 22:04printcomments

Land of the Free Continues to Black Out Popular Websites for U.S. Military

American troops are asked to fight and die for the freedom of other nations while the government strips them of their own.

MySpace is one of the sites soldiers are unable to access.

(FORT BENNING, Georgia) - We reported on May 16th 2007 that the U.S. government appeared to be on the verge of relaxing its complete blackout of MySpace and YouTube on all U.S. military computers. (see: DoD Will Listen to Internet Companies at Roundtable Discussion Thursday) I can tell you over one year later that it apparently never happened.

As I spend extra days on a military base in Georgia waiting for a flight to the war in Iraq which I will cover for the next several weeks, I am reminded of the frustration this limitation brings to the tens of thousands of soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen who rely on personal networking sites like MySpace and YouTube to keep in touch with people they care about.

It seems unusual that the Department of Defense would continue this ridiculous information "blackout" at a time that we are asking so much from these brave warriors. In fact, it seems far more like something we would expect from places like Iran and China and North Korea where the same freedoms are removed from the general population. Our troops are being punished without justification.

The newer generation relies on the Internet and various popular sites to send and receive photos and videos of their children and family members and friends. Both MySpace and YouTube were created to ease the problems often encountered when trying to work through the technological maze of delivering media from one point to another.

The DoD said our military forces were using too much bandwidth in the combat theaters and that is what led to this round of big brother intervention. I call foul on that, because I spent time covering the war in Afghanistan and there was plenty of bandwidth. The excuse was never even a valid subject, but was enough to relieve our soldiers' access to this particular freedom, even while in the States.

At Camp Phoenix in Kabul, Afghanistan, the troops' computers are on their own satellite, the satellite is taken care of by Australians, and it is completely separate from the Internet systems used by soldiers during the work day. Other troops have Internet service that they have to buy from an Afghan vendor on the base; it has nothing to do with the base's daily operation and I have confirmed that fact with higher ups in the military who will not be named here.

I think the bandwidth issue might have been the only smart-sounding reason they could come up with, it is a hard call. At the end of the day it is just one more way that our government behaves like the countries it persecutes and attacks.

Come on MySpace and YouTube, get in there and fight for the people who fight for your country. Don't let the Bush administration "dumb them down" by restricting and in this case, eliminating their right to simple things like information.

My own video reports were going to be delivered back to the United States via YouTube and now I know that the process is going to be much longer and more difficult thanks to this embarrassing rule that punishes the wrong people for a crime that they never committed.

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Vic August 28, 2008 4:49 pm (Pacific time)

I agree with Henry...Bandwidth my ass, it's about censorship and trying to regulate what info gets out...after Abu Gharib especially.

Sinbad August 26, 2008 1:21 pm (Pacific time)

The Rosenbergs (Julius and Ethel) sure learned something about the averse effects of leaking, albeit a bief lesson. Security is a real tough thing to explain to those who have never experienced the need for it, thus it's a waste of time attempting that endeavor. Many have died because of failing to follow security protocols, especially during wartime. There are those who will never understand, and that's why we have security protocols. The New York Times provides an excellent example of what happens when the wrong people are put in charged of a newspaper, maybe that's why they are about to fade away. Ironically Senator Obama would not qualify for even a low level security clearance without a waiver.

Henry Ruark August 26, 2008 11:04 am (Pacific time)

"National security" is old sop so often used by military to cover own transgressions it has become highly suspicious when used as really required. That's price we pay for the vulnerabilities of our own democracy, as in the First Amendment denied even at home. War II saw early, wide use of precisely that pretext by military, even at home, as I experienced personally in own work-then, distorting what we could tell public even when seeking further recruits--with same facts already in daily press !!(Laughably so, in my case...) Authority seeks any way to preserve itself and special privilege despite costs to all others, including egregious damage to our Constitution. Founding Fathers are on the record with statements re pretend-and-pernicious reliance on distorted and perverted "patriotism", and historical record abounds with use of false-charges for ANY dissenter, often and regularly used to deny right to speak, defy dissent, and defeat needed affects, by ANY means and at ANY cost... That's far more dangerous than any possible leak to any enemy in all practicality...

T August 24, 2008 2:20 am (Pacific time)

In case you didn't notice, we're at war. Military personnel, of all people should understand the need to limit communciations during this time. Why can't you?

Retired Military August 19, 2008 9:28 am (Pacific time)

There is much discontent concerning this matter, as there is also much misinformation. Does anyone recall when Geraldo Rivera was 86'd from Iraq from the unit he was embedded with? Security is always an essential issue and much cannot be shared with the public in real time. Expect more explanations regarding this matter as things wind down in Iraq and Afghanistan.

John Dodson August 18, 2008 3:46 pm (Pacific time)

Tim, Change is coming. YouTube and MySpace should concentrate their efforts on the next President and if it's the guy I hope it is he has used technology effectivly to get into the office...let's hope all will work out for the best. Good luck and be safe! JD

JR August 18, 2008 2:34 pm (Pacific time)

you know why nothing changes? Because nobody fights for people in the military. That's why civilians get a bad rap from soldiers, because they don't mind if we fight for them and even protect them, but were supposed to also defend ourselves. nobody cares if we are deprived. were just soldiers, so it doesn't matter if we can talk to our wives and kids. its true!

Anonymous August 18, 2008 2:16 pm (Pacific time)

From the other side of things, it sucks that we don't have any way to connect. It might seem like nothing to people that don't use the web but its stupid. Who does it protect anyhow?

Bob August 18, 2008 7:23 am (Pacific time)

Sorry to hear that our government using ”limited bandwidth” excuse to restrict access to YouTube and MySpace. Maybe this a fallout of “Abu Ghraib” photos taken by troops and released over the internet. I can see how this may make your reporting from Iraq difficult. It’s amazing how this story never gets visibility in the media. Looks like your waiting for a "space available" flight out of Army Lawson Airfield. On the plus side, the field now has two 10,000 foot runways, a major improvement the last time I flew out of there. Good luck.

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