07 March 2009

Regarding Proxy Servers and Blocked Websites

David Axe at War is Boring has notified us all that the US military has just now blocked his blog from their servers.  Add this to a long list of milblogs that are on the US military's ban list, to include great ones like Andrew Exum's Abu Muquawama, blogs.state.gov (an actual .gov address from the US State Department), Global Guerillas, The Captain's Journal, and others (by some accounts, this includes Small Wars Journal, and other professional websites). 

You have to wonder about the military IT department's criteria for blocking websites.  Blogs which feature significant commentary on issues pertaining to foreign and defense policy are now on the hitlist.  I suspect that they're on the hitlist because they're "blogs", and that word sometimes sends up a red flag in some military circles.  Note that I say some military circles, because in the Army's  Command and General Staff College, students are required to maintain a blog on foreign and/or defense policy in order to engage in thoughtful debate, to keep up with the latest news, and to provide an exceptional public relations campaign, building a link and rapport with the community.  This is exceptionally important since, as pointed out in Andrew Bacevich's The New American Militarism, the all-volunteer Army, for all of its advantages, has the disadvantage of creating a near-cloistered warrior class, which often has minimal contact and interaction with the civilian world.  There should be no reason in the information age that we can't use social networking to change this dynamic.  It's Public Diplomacy within the military. 

Not to mention that many of these milblogs are sometimes the only source of up-to-date information on a number of topics, particularly ones that don't seem to catch the eye of the mainstream media.  

The blocking of websites is nothing new, but it surprises me how haphazardly the bans are applied.  I could probably load up stupid sites like "hampsterdance" and get through, but the US State Department's series of blogs would be blocked.  Facebook used to be a safe refuge until the US military blocked it.  This distressed me for a week or so, until I typed in https://www.facebook.com and skipped the IT ban completely for a few months until someone figured that out and banned that as well. 

In the meantime, a simple workaround for having your favorite blogs blocked is to add your favorite blogs to your RSS reader (plug for Google Reader here).  That way, regardless of the DOD's ban on sites, you can still catch up on the news through a page within Google--all the news from Abu Muqawama to Zenpundit and from Tasty Booze to Tucker Max, you can read it all.

Focus:  What was work like before the Internet?  How did you waste time before the modern era?

Focus 2:  Okay, complain about your workplace's banned websites...


John Brown said...

Thank you for your interesting posting. You might be interested in my blog, "Public Diplomacy Press and Blog review," http://publicdiplomacypressandblogreview.blogspot.com/
which will cite your posting in its March 8 edition.

Starbuck said...

Thanks, I'll subscribe to this. You actually have a link to a posting of mine on Small Wars Journal under my real name from a few months back.

SunJun said...

If the Army's IT department is like any other corporate environment, then their block list is going to be random as heck. I know in my office, Tuckermax and Craigslist are blocked as "sexually explicit" but sites like Collegehumor and Bachelor Guy apparently are not.

As for work before the Internet, I remember I had an internship with the government before the Internet. I just read the newspaper for an hour, fell asleep in my chair, and counted down the seconds to lunch. In other words, I behaved like any other GS-bureaucrat. :P

Anonymous said...

Definitely not just Army IT. Our friends at USAF IT once summarily
blocked all of our contact
with Australia from one day to the next without notification, and included the Pentagon. Blogs were the least of our problems, we couldn't even e-mail, or get into any of the US embassy sites.

Their recommended solution was to feed them BY-NAME e-mails to clear
individually,which would have been ridiculous based on numbers of programs, people, and offices involved. Diplomatic relations were not at their highest that day.

Of course for e-mail you can find work-arounds using commercial servers, but that can also add
security risk.


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mark said...

Much thanks for the shout out!

The DoD IT policies make very little sense from either an IO or a security perspective. At one time, I had the dubious distinction of being banned by both PACOM and Communist China. The Chinese have relented ( or everyone just gets around the firewall) not sure about PACOM.