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May-14-2007 10:36printcomments

Op-Ed: Government Bans Soldiers From Internet Sites

Soldiers have few if any options for passing the long hours. Staying in touch with family and friends on Myspace was one of them.

YOUTUBE
YOUTUBE

(SALEM, Ore.) - Military forces in the war theatre are already banned from alcohol and sex. Porn sites and other less than wholesome locations are screened by the Department of Defense, soldiers readily accept that, but the latest move by the military to remove a soldier's access to Myspace, YOUTUBE, and other sites strikes many as an unnecessary discipline that will only lead to a plunge in morale.

A spokesperson for the DoD says the department's computer systems are being used more often for personal surfing, decreasing Internet availability and presenting security risks. Who is in charge?

I learned earlier this year while covering the war in Afghanistan, that the U.S. government maintains secured and unsecured Internet lines, though they claim that, "This recreational traffic impacts our official network and bandwidth availability, while posing a significant operational security challenge."

"The Department of Defense has a growing concern regarding our unclassified Internet," a department release explained.

There are computer lines in the war that are only operated by people with the highest security clearances. I know this because I asked for permission to use them and was promptly denied. The military is not seeing that type of security threat, if soldiers watched MTV on the secured lines they would quickly be busted.

I have a growing suspicion that the sites being banned are on the hit list because they sport an anti-government position, maybe anti-war? anti-Bush?

The department says it decided to implement the ban after noticing its resources were being tied up by employees listening to music or watching videos. I can tell you for a fact that very few marines, soldiers, sailors or airmen are cruising videos or listening to Internet music when they are on the the clock.

They would be in trouble with their commands if they did that.

The DoD's statement about recreational traffic posing a significant operational security challenge implies that our forces are doing things that compromise national security. That makes little sense since their lives are in the line of danger, in the war zone. I suspect that they have little interest in increasing the hazards in their daily lives.

The government said that sending personal videos, photos and data files can compromise sensitive unclassified information and increase risk of identity theft. I almost laughed aloud at that one, I assume most people recall that the only significant identity theft in the DoD system was committed by one of their own employees under extremely questionable circumstances.

It went something like this: employee takes files of every American serviceman and veteran home, a bad guy "breaks in" and steals the records, the government knows nothing about it, and suddenly the identity of everyone has been compromised.

Besides, how does using YOUTUBE result in ID theft?

But nearly all of the soldiers using sites like Myspace are only staying in touch with people that they know and love and miss, people like their wives, husbands and kids.

The restriction affects nearly 5 million employees from accessing the sites on the department's computers.

I can personally attest to the usefulness of YOUTUBE and Myspace because I have posted many videos from the war there, and they are videos that offer a positive reflection of our involvement in Afghanistan.

Because of this latest move, all of the war coverage on Salem-News.com can not be accessed on DoD computers since we work with YOUTUBE on the video side. I admit that this is personal, but I went to the war so that I could show the better side of our people in uniform, and they media is constantly slammed for not showing their accomplishments. I know that the armed forces long ago focused on Rush Limbaugh and other ultra conservative voices for their extremely biased radio broadcasts. This is a purely political move by the DoD.

It seems their primary goal is to keep people programmed. We learned a few days ago from the Department of Defense, that "only 47 percent of soldiers and 38 percent of Marines agreed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect. More than one-third of all soldiers and Marines reported that torture should be allowed to save the life of a fellow soldier or Marine, and less than half of soldiers or Marines said they would report a team member for unethical behavior."

This is the new America, and the nation is not on a good course. Each day the DoD and the Pentagon try to find more ways to spin the story, soaking up MY tax dollars hiring more spinsters to do their dirty work. More access to information is removed, and they have the nerve to say they do it in the name of freedom.

The new restriction will prevent government employees from using 13 sites altogether. Some of the others include mtv.com, photobucket.com, and stupidvideos.com.




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Albert Marnell May 18, 2007 10:45 am (Pacific time)

Rosenberg is working for the "ILK" that trys to cover up TRUTH. He is on the PAYROLL.


Ariel May 17, 2007 10:06 am (Pacific time)

I think that until you have been on one end or the other; overseas or a spouse back home, can you really understand what a negative impact this ban has on our families. Keeping in touch with family and friends is what keeps these soldiers going everyday. Seeing pictures of their kids, chatting on IM, anything that can keep them connected to their world back home. Can you imagine how low their morale is already? Now cut most of their connection with home...now can you imagine how low their morale is?? For those of you like Blackwolf, who admit to being one of those soldiers who sit in front of a computer all day surfing the internet while on duty, thank you! Thank you for being the reason my husband can no longer get on myspace and look at new pictures of the kids or exchange messages with friends and family after working his butt off all damn day in the shop or after a long mission. It is soldiers like you that ruin it for everyone else who actually take their jobs seriously. I believe that this ban is uncalled for. As long as the soldiers are not leaking important information they should be allowed to keep in touch with family any way they can.


Rosenberg May 16, 2007 1:51 pm (Pacific time)

HR, relax, get a grip buddy!


Hank Ruark May 16, 2007 1:27 pm (Pacific time)

To all: As "HR" in Rosenberg comment, I have right to suggest you check Op Ed now up and see comments bu historians there...may help you understand that "incorrect" here equals "YOU don't agree with ME ??!!"


Albert Marnell May 16, 2007 10:41 am (Pacific time)

Rosenberg, You are so convincing...NOT!


Rosenberg May 16, 2007 10:17 am (Pacific time)

Been 4 plus years now Marnell, appears, as usual---like HR, you are incorrect.


Albert Marnell May 16, 2007 9:56 am (Pacific time)

Rosenberg, You just want to keep your military crap going. Once the troops find out what a crock of crap being overseas is; besides removing Birkas, they will rebel and want to come home. Screw this fraud that started after the fraud of 9/11.


Rosenberg May 16, 2007 8:36 am (Pacific time)

This ban is appropriate as per my "informed" opinion.


Albert Marnell May 16, 2007 7:23 am (Pacific time)

I am just responding to that stupid euphemism "Iraqi Freedom". I guess once you kill people, unleash a civil war and destroy hospitals, schools, food supplies etc., you free them with death.


Albert Marnell May 16, 2007 7:10 am (Pacific time)

Tim, Do not have a suspicion that sites are banned and put on a hit list. PrisonPlanet.com was recently censored by MySpace. If you go to the site, read Paul Watson's article.


Charlene Burgess May 16, 2007 1:15 am (Pacific time)

And Tim: Thank you so much for being over in Afghanistan with our military. Its means so much to have an advocate like you!


Charlene Burgess May 16, 2007 1:13 am (Pacific time)

I have been in the military and my husband is currently serving in Afghanistan. From my personal experience, anything can be with-held from soldiers at the whims of those in charge...I am not saying is in anyway right. When I was in Basic, I had to ask my Drill SGT why I was not allowed to vote in the Presidential Election. I know the government "owns" the soldier, but this is supposed to be a free country, and to treat our military personel as less than free is very wrong. My husband is stationed in Afghn. and has a set schedule for eating, working, and off time, which is very much less than a day a week. On his "day-off" he still works a half-day. They only have 2 MWR phones in their phone room for their hundreds of soldiers and are only allowed 15 minutes on them. You tell me how often he might get a chance to call. They also have a small computer rm that might have 3 or 4 computers and he has just told me that they are now limited to 15 minutes on the computers as well. The morale over there is not very good right now. I am waiting for the day he returns and can live a "normal" life and not be regulated to death like a 3 yr old. Someone's comment said that "aren't they over there for a reason". Yes, they are, and doing a very good job over there, but would you like to be treated like that?


Hank Ruark May 15, 2007 11:36 am (Pacific time)

Tim et al: This one "tells it like it really is", on basis of own contacts intermittently with some overthere, and word from relative on service assignment. These guys-and-gals need full access, and as usual Army et al is F......Up one more time. We treat 'em badly overthere and then abandon to WReid care when they return. About-time for "very large" shakeup from top allaway down to lower ranks seeking to play games with real soldiers.


Albert Marnell May 15, 2007 7:30 am (Pacific time)

nirbid holmes- Bingo! Your exactly right.


nirbid holmes May 14, 2007 11:07 pm (Pacific time)

Well Robert, you surely dont spend 24hours a day at your working place, do you? Does your employer monitor your online behaviour when your off duty? I dont think so!


Anonymous May 14, 2007 10:41 pm (Pacific time)

Honestly this doesn't come as a shock, but I fail to understand why there isn't an alternative to gov. lines if this is being done for genuine reasons. Is there available internet for purchase across the drink? (btw I have absolutely no military experience so excuse the lack of knowledge) If not then why can't it be accomplished? If I were a million miles away and I was desperately homesick I would sacrifice some of my "off-time" to help set up and maintain a public network. I can understand that there wouldn't be internet let alone computers in a majority of locations over there but aren't our brave men and women in uniform, over there for a reason? I believe the administration said something about Iraqi Freedom or something like that...isn't public internet a good foundation of free speech? Or in the worst case scenario a way to build an infrastructure for a fledgling country, you know like the revolution that developed over here through the years (internet revolution, and computer age; not the rev. war). I'm pretty sure that was an important step for Americans.....yeah it was. The only real thing that I can possibly imagine that could provide a problem would be a potential security risk, one or two dissinant (sp?) groups giving away classified information or combat information deliberately to impact our forces.....I really can't speak for everyone but like the article said, if my life were constantly on that edge of living and dying I wouldn't deliberately send information to endanger my life anymore than it already was. Like I said earlier, I have no military experience so I don't know how the system works and I am probably completely wrong on all accounts but I think that the most anyone would have to fear from this is the truth, which can be a really lethal thing if you just so happen to be a liar or if we really aren't getting the whole story back here. -Anonymous


Albert Marnell May 14, 2007 7:19 pm (Pacific time)

Military personnel do have and are entitled to their recreation time. Are they supposed to play "Candyland"? One minute people call them brave men and heros; the next minute they are treated like children that need to be monitored to the extreme, like little boys. Make up your minds!


Jack Idema, UFMF, Special Forces May 14, 2007 6:48 pm (Pacific time)

Tim- OUTSTANDING ARTICLE. I totally agree, and so do the soldiers I know, and I know lots, in Afghanistan. But it isn't the DOD that is the wolf here, it is the DOS. The DOS put the pressure on the DOD because the DOS does not want people knowing about bad policy, bad decisions, and bad sitreps. All of which eminate from State Department's actual control of how this war is waged. The last thing they want is a SGT in the 82nd Airborne putting up videos of what really happened and contradicting Rene Boucher on the 6 O'Clock News. And that's just the tip of the iceberg, you keep up the good work, you are DEFENDING the troops, and that is RARE among journalists. I suspect you will soon be fired. Write a book and F#ck them all. All the best to you.


Tim King May 14, 2007 6:12 pm (Pacific time)

John, I completely remember you. I was floored to see your name, and I really appreciate your words and I think this is one of the most uniquely validating things I have ever read. I was going to be back in Afghanistan already but my dad got sick, if you don't mind passing that along to the people that were expecting me to come back in April I appreciate it. I knew the MWR rooms were going to lose myspace too, hopefully some will remain in some places. MEZ huh? I went there briefly when Gen. Reese was visiting last year, the Alamo was the coolest thing around Kabul though. I am really moved to receive this John. I should be back in country by the end of the summer, we need to stay in touch, please shoot me an email brother, thanks.


John Parsons May 14, 2007 5:56 pm (Pacific time)

Tim you might remember me we talked when I you were at the Alamo this last winter. I'm now up in MEZ and we lost myspace and several sites including any IM on the MWR computers a while ago. The only access we have to these is on a network that is operated and paid for by us through a local company. I wont go into my opinion about why this has happened but I know bandwidth was sighted as the reason up here. As to the people who want to make cracks about your motives they can just shut their mouths. People I have spent time talking with this man. Between 12 years of service and two combat tours, him and Mike Francis are the only two reporter I have met that I feel give a damn about Soldiers, and are willing to tell our story regardless of what it is. Most media I have talked to don't want to hear what Soldiers say unless they can use it for a specific agenda. These men just listen and that is what a reporter is suppose to do in my opinion.


Tim King May 14, 2007 5:45 pm (Pacific time)

OK Blackwolf, I sure hope you're legit because I do have more faith in people than that and you sure don't mind indicting your fellow soldiers and yourself. Do me a favor and don't question if I was overseas, if you are on this site there are about thirty stories that I posted from Afghanistan last winter. Glad you're so committed to the cause, because you speak AS IF YOU ARE THE GOVERNMENT.


Anonymous May 14, 2007 4:44 pm (Pacific time)

I'm actually surprised it's taken the DOD this long. My employer has banned those sites for the past three years! To include AOL, Hotmail, Yahoo and Google mail, any streaming video or audio, and more. The IT guys were just overtaxed with all the email spam and viruses and bandwith bottlenecks with employees streaming videos all day. Ebay and personal finance sites are blocked too. Hey, what can you do, it's the employer's network. Keep in mind that this DOD policy applies to their "official unsecured" network (different from the "secure" network). Our military folks will still be able to access those sites from the MWR internet cafes on base.


Blackwolf May 14, 2007 4:32 pm (Pacific time)

Ok - what is this? An anit-military hype piece? Give me a break Mr. King - I'm a soldier, serving overseas. Your claim that soldiers don't surf during work is uninformed and does not represent reality! Soldiers, every day, surf various sites, watch videos, and listen to internet radio while they are online - esp. those whose jobs are NOT related to combat, but are instead related to jobs that require them to sit in front of a computer for most of their day. The DOD is banning the sites because there are TOO many soldiers doing this during work - I know -I'm one of them - and so are all of my buds! Obviously, you must be anti-bush by your statement that the DOD is banning the sites because the site have a lot of "anti-bush" media. Get real. DOD doesn't care one way or the other whether you are pro- or anit- bush. We have people on both sides of the fence on that. What the military doesn't want, is their government systems, that are OWNED by the US GOVERNEMENT, being used to tie up critical bandwidth - and in IRAQ and other PLACES, there is LIMITED bandwidth - if you'd served there you'd know just how little actual bandwidth there is! Some days, downloading is slower than using a 56K modem - do you know what a 56K modem is? I do! I'm old enough to remember when people thought that was the fastest way to DL stuff! Since the computers ARE THE GOVERNMENT'S COMPUTERS, I guess the GOVERNMENT can pretty MUCH decide HOW and WHAT soldiers who USE THEM can do!


Tim King May 14, 2007 3:33 pm (Pacific time)

Arkane, The cell phone thing is entirely different in Afghanistan and it is not as cost effective as it is in Iraq. Not to say it can't be done. I had a friend who was a major that preferred to pay cell phone bills because he preferred not to wait in line at the MWR facility. Of course he was a field grade officer and he could afford to. Everyone isn't as well off as you my friend, plenty or people don't have cell phones over there. I think it is easy for you to write here that the MWR rooms are going to continue having myspace and youtube, but I'll wait for my friends in the war to let me know how the govt. is really going to do it. Oh wait, now that these sites are being taken away, maybe I won't hear from my friends in the war anymore. Imagine, me trying to imply that soldiers at war are "suffering"... no kidding man, what are you saying, that they are all having a picnic?


jcurrie May 14, 2007 3:32 pm (Pacific time)

I guess this gives new meaning to "Not Safe For Work."


Arkane May 14, 2007 3:28 pm (Pacific time)

I've served twice in Iraq. The bandwidth you refer to is the official bandwidth for command and control,not the recreational bandwidth for Morale, Welfare, and Recreation facilities. Soldiers can do pretty much anything they want on those (Chat, IM, Play WoW, etc..). This is another oped piece trying to make it out like these poor soldiers are suffering. Did you know most of them now have cell phones over there?


Albert Marnell May 14, 2007 3:18 pm (Pacific time)

Military personnel should see everything they can in order to find out the truth about our presence overseas. They are allowed time for recreation and it is very telling if they are being told to stay away from something. The higher-ups just do not want them to know fact. It is not about morale, it is about the money agenda of the corporations and military officials that benefit from WAR and OCCUPATION. I would like to suggest another true story based on original transcripts: Sophie Scholl: The Final Days. Apply it. The German version is on DVD. The story is factual and on many websites. Beware of the military, industrial, congressional, complex.


David Remus May 14, 2007 3:10 pm (Pacific time)

The truth behind the lies the military tells us about what is happening these days often comes from videos made by soldiers. The photos from Abu Ghraib, for instance. I started looking at the military's public face during the Vietnem conflict. They've lied so many times and then later said 'Yes, that's what really happened' I see no reason to believe them, ever. They have no problem lying over and over if the problem goes away. Think about it, if someone you know flat out gives you a bunch of bull in an attempt to hide what they've done, then admits (only after the overwhelmng evidence is presented publically) that they lied, do you believe them again over and over? If you do, you're a fool. What you do after the first time is take everything they say with a grain of salt. If they continue, they shouldn't be listened to at all. In the case of government officials they should be fired with no benefits if they lie to us, we're they're employers. The military apparently doesn't wish to stop torture, abuse, murder. They just wish to suppress the knowledge of it. Our government ultimately answers to the people, not the 'boss'. This isn't like someone goofing off at work instead of doing their job. Our troops are there for us citizens, not the administration. In a free country they should be allowed to communicate as they feel fit as long as they aren't helping the enemy. Our troops deserve the best they can get whether it's equipment or communication. I say leave it open.


David Remus May 14, 2007 2:35 pm (Pacific time)

The lies the military tells us about what is really happening often comes from videos made by soldiers. The photos from Abu Ghraib, for instance. The military doesn't wish to stop torture, abuse, murder. They just wish to suppress the knowledge of it. Our government answers to the people, not the 'boss'. This isn't like someone goofing off at work instead of doing their job. Our troops are there for the citizens. In a free country they should be allowed to communicate as they feel fit as long as they aren't helping the enemy. I say leave it open.


Tim King May 14, 2007 2:25 pm (Pacific time)

Kathleen, You are not considering what was stated in the first paragraph. Those guys overseas are going stir crazy, this was something that they really enjoyed having. I know, the government giveth and the government taketh away, that is fine. Still, I think your empathy factor for the soldiers is at zero and we really are watching the fabric start to unravel in different directions. They have been put in a bad situation by bad leadership and all that leadership tries to do now is damage control and information restrictions. Sorry if I sound like I am whining, maybe if you paid attention you would notice that it isn't just me, it is millions and millions of people around the country. So much for supporting the troops I guess, right? And James Zenger, you must be new around here, because all I do is promote our soldiers in my spare and professional time. I am a former Marine and I spent the winter covering the war in Afghanistan. I suggest you do a little research and take a look at what is going on. I won't return your insults, "foolish" and "ignorant" are big terms to use on a person so easily. I call it Internet courage, and I think you are sorely mistaken, we'll leave it at that.


James Zenger May 14, 2007 2:17 pm (Pacific time)

These sites should never have been allowed in the first place. Trying to argue that these sites have little or no impact on any network is just foolish and ignorant. Myspace, YOUTUBE, and similair sites constitute about 60%-70% of bandwidth used at any unrestricted college dorm in the USA, I'm sure todays' military with the equivalent age domographic would show similair statitics. I'm an 11 year Army veteran and know the importance of corresponding with loved ones when deployed, that's why we have e-mail! This crack down has nothing to do with politics, it's simple logistics and has no affect on the authors' ability to cover the story of our soldiers' outstanding accomplishments. Shame on you for using this as another liberal snipe against the administration instead of using your position topromote our fine service men and women.


Kathleen Ferguson May 14, 2007 2:15 pm (Pacific time)

Sorry, sounds good.....BUT the use of government equipment for personal use has always been a no-no. When it did happen it was engineered by the brass..and what they gave, they could take away. Many generations have put up with so-called boredom of military life and service...so quit whining--you sound child like.


Tim King May 14, 2007 2:13 pm (Pacific time)

If a soldier is in control of what he or she is doing professionally, I personally don't mind if they communicate with their wife or husband on myspace. Please remember that I have seen these activities in person and most of the soldiers overseas aren't even around the Internet except during specific times. They get really motivated and even feel a reward for what they are doing when they watch videos about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on those video Websites. Most of the content is very pro military. I just fail to see how further restrictions are going to benefit anybody, that is why I wrote the article.


Robert Hanson May 14, 2007 2:10 pm (Pacific time)

Does your employer pay you to spend your time watching videos on their computer? I know mine doesn't.

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