When it comes stopping the spread of information from the National Security Agency leaks facilitated by Edward Snowden, the United States government is more or less out of luck. Even so, that is not stopping it from making sure the confidential information does not get to its soldiers.
In order to do so, the Pentagon has recently blocked all United States military personnel serving in the Middle East and South Asia from viewing The Guardian online, according to an article published Monday on the paper’s web site. Initially, the ban was placed on certain articles containing classified information but was expanded to the entirety of the award-winning British paper’s online edition.
The ban is implemented by U.S. Central Command, or CENTCOM, which has blocked the web site on computers and devices using its system, which covers all soldiers in the Middle East, South Asia and the CENTCOM headquarters in Florida. While the paper that broke the news of the NSA’s surveillance programs and revealed its source in Snowden has already disseminated a great deal of confidential information to the world, CENTCOM spokesman Lt. Col. Steve Wollman defend the organization’s actions as a “safeguard.”
“U.S. central command is among other [Department of Defense] organizations that routinely take preventative measures to safeguard the chance of spillage of classified information on to unclassified computer networks, even if the source of the information is itself unclassified,” Wolman said to The Guardian.
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He also explained classified information “is not automatically declassified simply because of unauthorized disclosure.”
As sweeping as the action is, this is not the first time the Pentagon has restricted access to published classified information in the name of “network hygiene.”
In August 2010, Air Force officials blocked United States airmen from reading The New York Times, The Guardian, Le Monde, El Pais and Der Spiegel after WikiLeaks released a plethora of confidential military documents. The aforementioned newspapers published reports and analyses of these classified documents, which drew the ire and censorship of the Air Force.