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Air Force Blocks Sites With Leaked Cables


The U.S. Air Force is blocking its personnel from using work computers to view the websites of the New York Times and other major publications that have posted secret material obtained by WikiLeaks, people familiar with the matter say.


Air Force users who try to view the websites of the New York Times, Britain's Guardian, Spain's El Pais, France's Le Monde or German magazine Der Spiegel instead get a page that says, "ACCESS DENIED. Internet Usage is Logged & Monitored," according to a screen shot reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. The notice warns that anyone who accesses unauthorized sites from military computers could be punished.

The Air Force says it has blocked more than 25 websites that contain WikiLeaks documents, in order to keep classified material off unclassified computer systems. Major Toni Tones, a spokeswoman for Air Force Space Command, wouldn't name the websites but said they may include media sites. Removing such material after it ends up on a computer could require "unnecessary time and resources," Major Tones said.

The move was ordered by the 24th Air Force, commanded by Major Gen. Richard E. Webber, following the late November publication of U.S. diplomatic cables. The Army, Navy and Marines aren't blocking the sites, and the Defense Department hasn't told the services to do so, according to spokespeople for the services and the Pentagon.

The Office of the Secretary of Defense has issued guidance against visiting WikiLeaks or downloading documents posted there, according to defense officials. The Air Force told its own personnel in August to avoid those actions.

One senior defense official questioned the wisdom of blocking the newspaper sites or even prohibiting service members from visiting them on military computers. The defense official said blocking the New York Times was a misinterpretation of military guidance to avoid visiting websites that post classified material.

The 24th Air Force is responsible for maintaining Air Force computer networks and the military's cyberspace operations. Service commanders have latitude to go beyond the Pentagon guidance and issue orders to protect classified information.

The new order doesn't prevent Air Force personnel from viewing the media websites on nonmilitary computers, one Air Force official said. The block can also be lifted if accessing one of the news sites is essential to a person's job, according to the screen shot.

WSJ
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