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Censored: Air Force blocks news at Eielson, Elmendorf

Eric Christopher Adams

The Gray Lady has been banished from the browsers of Eielson and Elmendorf Air Force bases -- and so has virtually every other national newspaper of record in the Western hemisphere, all due to the recent release of a treasure trove of previously classified military documents by WikiLeaks.

Capt. Frank Hartnett, public affairs chief for the 354th Fighter Wing stationed at Eielson AFB near Fairbanks, confirmed Tuesday that he could not view the New York Times website from his on-base computer.

Approximately 1,200 airmen are based at Eielson, Hartnett said. The censored websites would be inaccessible to all airmen and their families living on base or using Air Force networks to access the web.

Reuters first reported that at least 25 websites hosting the classified documents, including the Times in New York, the Guardian in the United Kingdom, and other major news websites of the West, had been targeted in the Air Force blackout.

Those sites, as well as the French paper of record, Le Monde, Der Spiegel in Germany, and El Pais in Spain, had been scrubbed by an Air Force command in San Antonio, Tex., which is in charge of routinely "cleaning and safeguarding" military networks, Maj. Toni Tones, an Air Force Space Command spokesperson at Peterson AFB, Colo., told Alaska Dispatch.

"Our requirement is to safeguard classified intelligence ... from our unclassified Air Force networks," Tones said, adding, "we routinely block access to sites containing classified documents, inappropriate material, malware and/or spyware."

Tones offered no comment on whether the First Amendment rights of the New York Times were being infringed upon by the order. She said the Times website, and at least 24 others that she would not immediately identify, would be blocked to some 300,000 airmen on various Air Force bases across the globe for the "foreseeable future."

How could the airmen resume accessing the world's news?

"We routinely monitor blocked sites and routinely unblock them in the normal course of business once we feel (the sites) are no longer a risk to our unclassified Air Force networks ... when they are no longer unsanitary, access may resume," Tones said.

She added that the websites would not be censored from non-Air Force networks.

Here's a link to the well-reported, Constitutionally-protected research by the New York Times.

Contact Eric Christopher Adams at eric(at)alaskadispatch.com