US army blocks access to Guardian website to preserve 'network hygiene'

05.07.2013 15:38

The US army has admitted to
blocking access to parts of the
Guardian website for thousands of
defence personnel across the
A spokesman said the military was
filtering out reports and content
relating to government surveillance
programs to preserve "network
hygiene" and prevent any classified
material appearing on unclassified
parts of its computer systems.
The confirmation follows reports
in the Monterey Herald that staff at
the Presidio military base south of
San Francisco had complained of
not being able to access the
Guardian's UK site at all, and had
only partial access to the US site,
following publication of leaks from
whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The Pentagon insisted the
Department of Defense was not
seeking to block the whole website,
merely taking steps to restrict
access to certain content.
But a spokesman for the Army's
Network Enterprise Technology
Command (Netcom) in Arizona
confirmed that this was a
widespread policy, likely to be
affecting hundreds of defence
"In response to your question about
access to the
website, the army is filtering some
access to press coverage and online
content about the NSA leaks," said
Gordon Van Vleet, a Netcom public
affairs officer.
"The Department of Defense
routinely takes preventative
'network hygiene' measures to
mitigate unauthorized disclosures
of classified information onto DoD
unclassified networks."
The army stressed its actions were
automatic and would not affect
computers outside military
"The department does not
determine what sites its personnel
can choose to visit while on a DoD
system, but instead relies on
automated filters that restrict
access based on content concerns
or malware threats," said Van
Vleet. "The DoD is also not going to
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
Similar measures were taken by
the army after the Guardian and
other newspapers published leaked
State Department cables obtained
via WikiLeaks.
"We make every effort to balance
the need to preserve information
access with operational security,
however there are strict policies
and directives in place regarding
protecting and handling classified
information," added the Netcom
"Until declassified by appropriate
officials, classified information -
including material released through
an unauthorized disclosure - must
be treated accordingly by DoD
personnel. If a public website
displays classified information,
then filtering may be used to
preserve 'network hygiene' for DoD
unclassified networks."
A Defense Department spokesman
at the Pentagon added: "The
Guardian website is NOT being
blocked by DoD. The Department of
Defense routinely takes
preventative measures to mitigate
unauthorized disclosures of
classified information onto DoD
unclassified networks."