If You’re Air Force, You Can’t Read This!

by wjw on February 28, 2008

The U.S. Air Force’s new Cyber Command has blocked servicemen from viewing this blog.
Though I can sympathize with the brass in their quest to prevent their people from viewing my morale-sapping essays, they didn’t stop with just this blog. No sir. They’ve blocked any blog that has “blog” in its URL, which would mean any blog on Blogger or Blogspot or the Cute Puppies Blog or Continuing Education Blog or even the We Think The Air Force is Cool Blog.
Anything on LiveJournal is still getting through, I guess. Including the Subversive Commie al-Qaeda Death to the Great Satan Journal, provided it doesn’t have the dreaded word “blog” anywhere in its URL.
The very word “blog” has now become subversive! Just spray-paint the word on enough signs and bridges and walls, and the government is bound to come crashing down!
In the past, the military has selectively banned sites like Facebook and YouTube, mainly for sucking up bandwidth, this is the first time they’ve employed such a huge filter.
“Often, we block first and then review exceptions,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, a Cyber Command spokesman.
As a result, airmen posting online have cited instances of seemingly innocuous sites — such as educational databases and some work-related sites — getting wrapped up in broad proxy filters.
This is so stupid, it makes me want to— well, it makes me want to ridicule those fools without mercy!
Air Force so dumb, it brought a spoon to the Super Bowl! Air Force so stupid, it tripped over a wireless telephone! Air Force so dumb, when it saw a sign that said Disneyland Left, it turned around and went home! Air Force so stupid, it sat on the television and watched the couch! Air Force so dumb, it thought Meow Mix was a dance album for cats!
There. I feel a little better now.
On the plus side, Cyber Command now has a cool recruitment video. Note the airman turning the security alert status from red to green with the push of a button!
Damn, we’ve gotta give these guys more billions!
birdhousefrog February 29, 2008 at 3:35 am

Perhaps you have forgotten that while at work their time and computers are not their own but yours, O Mighty Taxpayer. As an AF wife for 17 years, I’m perfectly happy that “blog” is blocked from access at work. Let them go home to read blogs. Blog surfing is not appropriate while on duty guarding the Free World or whatever you want to call what our military does.

Military is not the same as cvilian life. You don’t give up your Constitutional Rights completely, but you do check them at the gate when you go on base.

But your post is still amusing.


dubjay February 29, 2008 at 3:58 am

Nonsense! All human beings have an absolute right to view my blog and agree with whatever it is I’m saying!

All that said, Cyber Command isn’t blocking blogs because they’re timewasters— I mean jeez, if you told the military they couldn’t waste time and public money, where would they be?— they’re doing it on national security grounds. They don’t want our military elite to get their news from “unapproved” sources.

Which is not only dumb, but a little scary.

Also, they’re blocking web pages that their own guys need for work!

An example: I spoke recently with the author Ellen Klages, who formerly worked at the Exploratorium, a science museum aimed at children. One day at work, she found that she’d been blocked from viewing the Exploratorium’s own site!

Why? Because the Exploratorium had received a nationwide ban on the grounds that it had provided instructions for making a bomb. No government computer was allowed to view this site.

This “bomb” was a volcano made from vinegar and baking soda.

The resultant publicity forced the government to remove the ban, but still . . .

Thomas Jackson March 1, 2008 at 11:07 am

Good Grief, this story or the issue of Air Force blocking blogs just made it to the Coast Guard end of the blogosphere. At our end of internet, we have not all been blocked as of yet, but rumblings inside Coast Guard Headquarters point in that direction. We have uncovered what has been labeled the “ugly underbelly” of the Coast Guard and report on issues they sooner not have discussed. Of the three main blogs, CoastGuardReport.org, and two others we take on issues that otherwise would not be discussed at the level and with the sources inside the Coast Guard we use.

As the Coast Guard tries to come to grips with its new and increased missions since 911, along with its increased funding, we have much to report on. From the failed 27 billion dollar acquisition portfolio to upgrade the Coast Guard’s aged and deteriorating fleet of ships and aircraft, to a base infrastructure that is largely made up of base hand-me-downs from the other services, they have much to do. Coast Guards 27 billion dollar acquisition portfolio is still being managed today by an Admiral with ZERO professional acquisition training, qualifications or certifications. Why the congress let alone the Commandant of the Coast Guard don’t tackle that easy fix is beyond anything anyone outside the Coast Guard can fathom.

Good Luck Bloggers!

Michael Grosberg March 2, 2008 at 8:53 am

Very amusing post… but the best part, I have to admit, was the picture of the Playmobil airport screening set. I was not aware that such a thing existed, until now. When I was a kid their sets included cops, pirates, cowboys & indians, civil war soldiers, camel riding arabs – things you could actually have an adventure with. But these days their sets are really strange – My three year old nephew has a plumber playset, complete with plunger and toilet bowl. What do kids do with such sets? With the airline screening set, do they arrest the figures from the arab adventure sets and randomly strip search them?

halojones-fan March 3, 2008 at 3:53 am

It’s easier to say “national security grounds” to a reporter than it is to say “we want our people to be doing their fuckin’ jobs and not fuckin’ around on LGF all day”.

WJW: “Also, they’re blocking web pages that their own guys need for work!”
Article: “”Often, we block first and then review exceptions,” said Tech. Sgt. Christopher DeWitt, a Cyber Command spokesman.”

Meaning that if they’ve blocked something you need, then you go ahead and tell the IT department, and they unblock it for you. Seriously, this is not a difficult process.

dubjay March 3, 2008 at 11:44 pm

May I just say that coastguardreport.org is really cool? A side effect of the unjust neglect that the Coast Guard has suffered all these years is that there’s been plenty of opportunity for the barnacles of bureaucratic and financial shenanigans to build up under the water line. As it were.

A nifty excerpt, if I may:

The TEMPEST failures of the NSC are ugly failures involving classified signals leaking from one cable to another and not being isolated from unclassified systems. The cables basically leak classified information due to shoddy design. The actual structural area that includes classified areas of the NSC are the wrong size for proper isolation of RED and BLACK systems so that C4ISR systems that process classified information are leaking into the systems that are not designed to handle classified information. The shielding, bulkheads, and doors of the classified areas are flawed, and leaking classified information. The NSC cannot be used if the classified systems leak. If the CG can not be trusted to protect classified systems such as this then they should not be allowed to spend the public’s money on such systems.

Technical, but damning. And if you’re Air Force, you don’t get to read these things.

And speaking of the Air Force . . .

Look, if they’d just said, “You cannot use the Internet for your own amusement during work hours,” then I, and all the other hard-working taxpayers out there, would probably have been cool with it. I suspect even the Fortune 500 executives who spend their afternoons gawking at Internet porn would have been pleased to see their tax dollars used more efficiently than the dollars of their investors.

But what they said was, in effect, “We don’t want our airmen getting their news from any sources not pre-approved by the Air Force.”

Now, attempting to subject something as amorphous as the Internet to top-down military hierarchy is pretty dimwitted to begin with, but then I think it has been established that there are lots of dimwitted people in authority.

But still— haven’t they noticed the cutting-edge journalism on the web? Haven’t they noticed that bloggers are breaking the stories that we all wished were being done by the Britney Spears/Anna Nichole Smith-obsessed television networks and the corporate-owned newspapers with their falling circulations, rising “soft news,” and decimated newsrooms?

Mind you, the Internet is also full of crazies in tinfoil hats, but that’s just part of the merry kaleidescope that is the Twenty-First Century.

As for me, I’m going to go check out WikiLeaks, my favorite site for finding out the stuff that They don’t want you to know.

dubjay March 3, 2008 at 11:45 pm

I should also ask for a bit of compassion for airmen on foreign stations, whose only access to the Net comes from an official computer, and who now can’t blog even on their own time.

dubjay March 4, 2008 at 3:33 am

The best part of the Playmobil security station set, by the way, is reading the user comments on Amazon.

halojones-fan March 4, 2008 at 4:33 am

At my previous job–the secret one–we were required to maintain a one-foot separation between any “unclassified cables” and any “classified cables”. This often led to some seriously wierd cube layouts, because you had to fit your telephone into place not only with your computer, but with your neighbor’s computer…

Anonymous March 6, 2008 at 1:21 pm

I work for the Navy, and I can assure you the inanity of military IT does not stop with the US Air Force. Military IT security is based on the precept that if you can’t actually get anything done, then your computer and the network are secure. The end result is that paper pushers in far away places, who are accustomed to seeing everything as a threat, decide what websites and software I need to do my job.

Note that this isn’t about “having fun” — it’s about DOING YOUR JOB. I generally come in late one day a week because there is so much work that I simple am not allowed to do on my work computer and have to do at home.

This is driving good people out of government service. It’s driven others out I know about, and it’s going to drive me out, too.

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