Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Alternative Theory

According to various IT experts who responded to our recent post, the "blocking" of In From the Cold" at various DoD Force installations may not be the result of our series about the Minot nuclear incident, but rather, a change in filtering software used on government computer systems.

Mike, a military IT guy who blogs at http://madurkeevirginia.blogspot.com/ suggests that the culprit may be a new filter called Bluecoat.

Well, the culprit behind not being able to visit Blogspot and many other blogs is BlueCoat Web Filter. Apparently the license for Smartfilter has expired and the powers that be bought off on Bluecoat instead. I know, I know, much like 90% of the things I ramble on about in my blog...who cares?

Well, a lot of us care, because the new filter (apparently) prevents access to a number of milblogs, including our favorite correspondent from the brown-shoe Navy, Neptunus Lex.

Yesterday, Op-For John mentioned in comments that these our humble digs had been blocked from view on at least one Air Force base because of - wait for it: Racism.

The charge seemed more than a little overblown to me as race qua race is simply not an issue I’ve spent much if any time writing about, not to mention the fact that I consider myself to be at least as enlightened on the topic as any Shelby Steele enthusiast of my age, race and gender. Probably more than most.Turning it over in my head, I pondered whether my occasional tendency to treat violent religious extremists roughly on these pages could be considered a form of “racism,” but unless an ideology that transcends race can itself be classified as a race, the connection seemed far fetched. Although the notion does raise intriguing ontological questions on the nature of “race” as a social construct - is it real, or received - I rather doubt the USAF asks those sorts of metaphysical questions when they block a site for objectionable content.

While the software explanation certainly makes sense, we find the timing rather odd. Our site has been around for almost three years, but the filter didn't cover our portion of the blogosphere until the Minot series appeared.

Additionally, there are plenty of blogs that can still be accessed on DoD computer systems. We asked a former colleague, now stationed at a base in the Midwest, to check on a few of our favorite websites and blogs, to see if they've been blocked, too. A quick check revealed that Powerline, Instapundit, Michelle Malkin, RealClearPolitics and Air Force Times (among others) were still accessible, as were the military-related blogs of Michael Yon, Strategy Page and The Danger Room.

We understand that the referenced computer systems belong to the Air Force and they can block whatever they want. We also realize that various USAF leaders have tried to be as lenient as possible in restricting internet content. But a little consistency would be helpful. None of the sites listed above are strangers to controversy; on occasion, some have posted observations that might be described as less-than-flattering to the military. But they are remain accessible through Air Force computers--as they should be (emphasis ours).

The notion of blocking some web content--porn sites and on-line casinos come to mind--is completely defensible. But restricting access to blogs and websites that provide a frank and balanced discussion of military issues is more difficult to fathom. A clarification from the Air Force (and DoD) would be both timely and welcome.

4 comments:

Steve said...

The new filter could be MAJCOM sensitive, or geographically sensitive or various IPs could go thru certain "new" routers.

Netdude said...

Again...calm down.

The firewall blocks Websites by domain...not individual Websites. So anything that is on "blogger" or "blogspot" or "wordpress" domains are blocked. That's all. That is why Yon's Noah's and others "get through"...because of the domain they are on.

You say: "But restricting access to blogs and websites that provide a frank and balanced discussion of military issues is more difficult to fathom. A clarification from the Air Force (and DoD) would be both timely and welcome."

Why is it difficult? Is it work related? Is it mission essential? No. Is a military member prohibited from viewing these blogs at home? No. Frankly...I don't think anyone owes you a clarification other than restating the DoD policy that you already agree with.

Yes..it is kidna a pain not to be able to view certain Websites at work...but thems the rules.

I can kinda understand how one might raise the flag about being "banned" as you were publishing your Minot articles. Don't worry though...it wasn't personal....just interesting timing (in my opinion).

Matthew said...

To add to the others...here in Air Staff land there was a small problem with (all of) Blogspot on 25 JAN...but it was resolved within about 30 minutes. No problems since.

halojones-fan said...

Your blog url has "spook" in it; that's a racist term for black people. That's probably how you got tagged for racism.