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Jan 10 2013

Pentagon Blocks LGBT Sites for ‘Operational Security’ Reasons

The Pentagon blocks many LGBT sites on its computer network, which uses filter software called Blue Coat. It’s not because the sites are pornographic or anything like that; the sites being blocked include Pam Spaulding’s blog and many others like that. Here’s the Pentagon’s absurd rationalization:

The Department of Defense does not block LGBT websites. The pages referenced in several recent articles were denied access based on web filters blocking the “Blog/Personal Pages” category, not the specific sites themselves. While individuals on a DoD system may visit portions of the main websites (i.e., www.towleroad.com, www.AMERICAblog.com), certain additional links/pages – to include personal blogs – are blocked. Personal pages and blogs are blocked in accordance with DoD policy allowing military commanders the option to restrict access to personal pages for operational security reasons.

Not even an attempt to argue why blogs would present any more of a danger to operational security than any other kind of site. Or to explain why they allow access to lots of anti-gay blogs:

As AMERICAblog’s John Aravosis points out, this statement does not withstand scrutiny on multiple counts. First of all, the filtration software specifically identifies the sites as “LGBT” as a reason for being blocked. Secondly, this doesn’t explain why plenty of anti-gay conservative blogs and personal pages are not blocked, including RedState, Breitbart, the Family Research Council’s blog, the National Organization for Marriage’s blog, and Ann Coulter’s and Glenn Beck’s personal sites.

So it appears that only pro-gay rights “personal pages” are a threat to operational security.

13 comments

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  1. 1
    Didaktylos

    Because all the security personnel were spending time on those sites on Uncle Sam’s time (and dime) instead doing the jobs they’re actually paid to do?

  2. 2
    matty1

    @1 If it were a blanket ban on all sites not related to their job that would stand up but with other personal and opinion based sites apparently getting through the filter it doesn’t. That said I do think this is as likely to be incompetence in setting up the filter or the prejudice of a few people in the IT department as it is official policy.

  3. 3
    thebookofdave

    I can’t wait to hear them try to explain how only Teh Gay gives you loose lips.

  4. 4
    regexp

    So it appears that only pro-gay rights “personal pages” are a threat to operational security.

    Its simply not as clearcut as that. Most orgs (including the DoD) just have the default settings for webfiltering configured and its run by some group buried in the organization giving sketching policy direction. The categories within the product paint with a wide brush and many sites can be categorized under multiple headings. Freethought.com is categorized as “Blogs and Personal Sites” which would normally be blocked in most companies I’ve worked for. “redstate.com” is categorized as a news and media site. townloard.com is identified as a gay interest website but its a subset of a broader category that would normally be blocked in many companies. So while the blocking software has identified the site as a gay interest site – its not the reason its blocked.

    And many personal blog sites are poorly managed and frequently host malware so its easier in many instances just to block the damn things.

    @didaktylos

    Because all the security personnel were spending time on those sites on Uncle Sam’s time (and dime) instead doing the jobs they’re actually paid to do?

    Because you do nothing remotely personal at work right? Like comment on blog entries? You must be a joy to work for.

  5. 5
    Modusoperandi

    Oh, come on! It’s for our safety. Everybody knows the HomoWeb are where Al Qaeda recruits!

  6. 6
    eric

    [didikaylos]Because all the security personnel were spending time on those sites on Uncle Sam’s time (and dime) instead doing the jobs they’re actually paid to do?

    [regexp] Because you do nothing remotely personal at work right? Like comment on blog entries? You must be a joy to work for.

    I took Did’s comment to be humorous. As in: they block Pam Spaulding’s site but not Anne Coulter’s because personnel spend thousands of work hours reading Spaulding and zero reading Coulter. Its amusing to think that was true, and the reason for blocking LGBT is that they cause far more lost work hours than far right sites…but let’s face it, its probably the reverse.

  7. 7
    Shin

    I mostly agree with regexp. I work for a monster company who’s name everyone here would recognize on a team that manages network security devices. Blue Coat (the name of the company that makes the products, not the software) proxies are widely used, and will have a lot of categories that are blocked by default, and even more that companies will chose to block.

    If anyone is curious you can go to sitereview.bluecoat.com to see how they categorize a certain site. You can also request they re-evaluate a site and suggest what category you think it should fall in to.

    With some quick checking it seems most of those right wing sites are categorized as News/Media by Blue Coat and not Blog/Personal page. Now this doesn’t mean that someone at the DoD didn’t make sure that other site categories that these blocked sites would fall in to are blocked (there’s an LGBT category for example). There are a lot of site categories that Blue Coat uses – if you’re curious visit the link above.

  8. 8
    Suido

    Interesting that the explanations so far have only dealt with the ‘secondly’ part of the problem. Any takers for explaining the primary concern?

    First of all, the filtration software specifically identifies the sites as “LGBT” as a reason for being blocked.

  9. 9
    Suido

    *Explanation must include reference to the first sentence of the quoted explanation by the Pentagon.

  10. 10
    Irreverend Bastard

    It’s because any “military commander” found to be surfing gay (or any other “deviant” or “perverted”) blogs might risk being blackmailed.

    “We know you’re interested in teh ghey. Now tell us all your classified secrets, or we’ll tell on you.”

  11. 11
    ragarth

    The answer is obvious, gayness will destroy society and the pentagon is out to protect us.

  12. 12
    JJ831

    That said I do think this is as likely to be incompetence in setting up the filter or the prejudice of a few people in the IT department as it is official policy.

    That’s some pretty bad incompetence, then. I’ve setup multiple web filters for multiple companies, including Blue Coat. The first time I ever set one up, I had no training, but they are so basic it’s ridiculous. The hardest part isn’t the filtering, but deciding the proper topology and network design (gateway or in-line, bandwidth constraints)

    The fact that it was ‘rejected to to LGBT content’ means that they are likely using a built in filter and have checked the box “LGBT content”. It’s literally a check box. Every web filter I’ve put in has had most things open by default, minus Porn, violence, torrent and known malicious sites.

  13. 13
    David Eriksen

    Along these same lines, I could access your old sciblogs site from work even while I was in Iraq because the DOD filters classified it as “reference.” FTB is completely blocked but I don’t remember what the exact category is.

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