DOD says it’s banning gay blogs for national security reasons – doesn’t ban FRC’s blog, Red State

The Pentagon has just issued an official statement, on its Facebook page, about the growing controversy over it censorship of gay blogs and other progressive political content on its computers, while not censoring certain anti-gay and Republican political content.

In addition to being incredibly tone-deaf – the Pentagon statement shows that DOD has no intention of rectifying the problem – the statement is flat-out contradicted by the facts.

First, DOD’s statement, then an in-depth walk-through of the Defense Department’s odd, contradictory, statement.

We’ve received some questions/comment recently about DOD’s web access policies, and wanted to provide this statement:
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.

Here’s an imagine of DOD’s response on their main Facebook page (lower left):

dod statement on censoring gay blogs

They don’t block LGBT, but their ban page labels us “LGBT”

Let’s start with this claim by DOD:

The Department of Defense does not block LGBT websites.

Really, then why does the Defense Department categorize banned domestic American political content as “LGBT” on the Pentagon page that notifies the Web surfer about the ban?

Screen Shot 2013-01-03 at 1.39.55 PM

Why is there if it’s not a category they’re banning?  And why is the Pentagon classifying content as “LGBT” at all?  I don’t see the Pentagon classifying content as “Jewish” or “black” or “Latino.”  So what is doing classifying Web content as “LGBT”? It’s creepy as hell for a government entity that claims it’s not discriminating, to then put us into a discriminatory category that others are not placed into, which is by its very nature “discriminatory.”

They block “blogs,” but Red State blog and Breitbart blog aren’t blocked

We’re to believe, per the Pentagon, that our sites are being blocked, not because they’re “LGBT,” but because they’re “blogs.”  More from the DOD statement:

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.

A few problems.  First off, how can some portions of Towleroad and AMERICAblog be visitable, while the “personal blog” portions of those sites are not visitable by military personnel?  We don’t have different parts of our site and neither does Towleroad.  So what is DOD even talking about?

Second, if the Pentagon doesn’t ban LGBT content, but rather “blogs,” then why did US sailors today discover that the gay newsmagazine, the Advocate – which is not a blog – is banned on military computers found on board the ship the USS John C Stennis (CVN-74), and has been for over a year?

And for that matter, if we are to believe the Pentagon today that AMERICAblog, for example, is simply being blocked for being a blog, then why is the prominent Republican blog, Red State, not blocked on the same Air Force computers that block AMERICAblog?  One is gay and progressive, the other is straight and Republican. Here’s a screen shot of Red State taken from an Air Force computer in the last day:

Conservative blog RedState is not banned.

Conservative blog RedState is not banned.

Breitbart blog isn’t blocked either:

breit

 

HRC’s blog is blocked, but not FRC’s blog

The DOD computers also blocks the blog of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest gay rights group, but not the blog for the Family Research Council, which basically is the anti-HRC, and also an officially-designated hate group.  As Josh Seefried, founder of OutServe, and co-chair of OutServe-SLDN, the lead “gays in the military” group noted today, referencing the Blue Coat Internet filter the Pentagon is using:

“The Blue Coat system should not be filtering LGBT period. Nor allowing hate sites such as FRC and NOM.”

But alas it does permit hate sites like FRC’s. Here is FRC’s blog, accessed just moments ago:

frc-blog

DOD blocks personal pages, but not Ann Coulter’s personal page which is also a blog

And the Pentagon tells us that they block “personal pages”:

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

But somehow Ann Coulter’s personal page – which is also a blog – a two-fer in the Pentagon ban filter – slipped through unscathed:

Ann Coulter's Web site is not banned by the Pentagon

Ann Coulter’s personal blog is not banned by the Pentagon

Reading AMERICAblog would risk national security

Possibly the most incredible thing in the entire Pentagon statement is the following:

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.

Really?   That’s the excuse – you banned us for national security reasons.  But Red State is fine, it doesn’t jeopardize US national security.

How exactly does it compromise operational security to let US service members read AMERICAblog and Pam’s House Blend and Towleroad, but it doesn’t jeopardize operational security for them to read Red State?  You can only add content to my blog by commenting.  And you can comment on Red State as well.  So why is the Pentagon now claiming that reading AMERICAblog and other gay blogs (and some straight ones as well, such as Daily Kos) is now a threat to national security?

Dan Savage had perhaps the most appropriate response to the Pentagon’s bizarre statement that AMERICAblog, Towleroad, Pam’s House Blend, Good as You, Bilerico, and HRC’s blog are a threat to the operational security of the US armed forces:

“Makes sense. I understand they hide the nuclear football in the *ss of a pass-around party bottom at the White Party. Wouldn’t want the ruskies to find out about the location of the party.”

What’s really going on

I fear that what’s really going on is two things. One, yes, it’s confusing the entire network of censorship filters the Pentagon has up around the world.  They don’t use a unified system, they have different censorship rules in different services and even different geographic locations in the same service, so it’s difficult for the right hand to know what the left hand is doing.

Well too bad.  You’ve been informed that you’re discriminating against gay content and Democratic content and your answer was to blow us off.

Second, there’s some homophobia and anti-Democratic bias going on here.  It’s the only explanation that makes sense as to why Red State isn’t banned.  Why the Family Research Council’s blog is fine, but the Human Rights Campaign’s blog is a threat to national security.  It’s because we’re all progressives, we’re all Democrats (at heart), and a lot of us are gay.  And any time you tell the commanders that they can ban whatever they want in the name of “operational security,” the weakest among us – and in DOD circles, that’s gay and Democrats – are going to be the first to suffer.

 


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+. John Aravosis is the editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown (1989); and worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, and as a stringer for the Economist. Frequent TV pundit: O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline & Reliable Sources. Bio, .

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  • Gaysneedleadpoinsoning

    Ahhh, are the poor queers blocked? I would not worry about it, few in the military have any interest in reading about your nonsense. But thanks for the information, now I know I can still read some decent publications without having to worry about someone around me reading some trash from gay nation.

  • george powers

    Have stared a petition at the White House to end this practice, please go to http://wh.gov/Uw58 and sign it.

  • george powers

    Have started a White House petition to end this practice please go to, http://wh.gov/Uw58 and sign it.

  • MyrddinWilt

    Oh I wouldn’t say there was no excuse. All those right wing bloggers plotting sedition and threatening to take up arms against the US government. Sounds to me like the DoD should be watching them pretty carefully, don’t you think?

  • http://twitter.com/JafafaHots Jafafa Hots

    Wait – the greatest force of death and destruction the world has ever seen is behaving unethically?

    I’m shocked.

  • ComradeRutherford

    According to the DoD, all things ‘liberal’ are a threat to the ‘national security’ of the far-far-far-right-extremists.

  • NCMan

    The question becomes why are the anti-gay and conservative sites, such as Ann Coulter, categorized as “News” instead of “Blog/Personal Pages”? It’s the difference in categorizations where the bias is taking place.

  • rmthunter

    Maybe we should be contacting any senators who are going to be involved in hearings for confirmation of the new Secretary of Defense — this should be a question, and “I’ll look into it” is not an adequate answer.

  • NCMan

    In both of their statements the DoD has said they block sites identified as “Blogs/Personal Pages”. The ban page for every site you have highlighted in these posts has had the identifier of “Blog/Personal Page” on it. So, the explanation sounds logical. The next question should be why are LGBT and progressive sites identified as “Blogs/Personal Pages” while anti-LGBT and conservative sites are identified as “News”? The bias seems to be coming in through Bluecoat’s categorizations of sites. How can Ann Coulter’s site be categorized as “News” while progressive sites are categorized as “Blogs/Personal Pages”? It’s Bluecoat that needs to be answering some questions here.

  • dula

    It makes a lot of sense from the Pentagon’s perspective. If they wish to engage our troops in wars of choice based on lies, then it’s wise to allow them access to jingoistic sites. If our troops went to blogs that really informed them about reality, it would undermine morale.

  • Jim Olson

    Bull. Apply the rules evenly if thats the case. All blogs, liberal or conservative. It’s clear what’s going on here, but perhaps not to you.

  • Jim Olson

    Lawsuit?

  • cole3244

    this is still a rw nation and things like this will never change until we steer our country in a liberal direction, will that ever happen, not in my lifetime i’m sad to say.

  • accountuser

    Time for someone with a lot more savvy than I to start a WH petition about LGBT censorship in the military. Acts of this kind of bigotry must stop now.

  • bearWoman

    Civil defense employees as late as 2005 could view pornography sites no problem during working hours on DoD computers, I know because my husband talked about it when he came home,

  • kurtsteinbach

    THE DOD is a racist organization run by GOP civil servants. Remember when President Bush politicized the Justice Department. He was actually politicizing the entire Civil Service. This is the reason, for political gain. They do it so that they can influence the political leanings of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines who are the future of military leadership.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marlyn-Daust/1367536319 Marlyn Daust

    Which liberal pages did you want checked out? I can actually fact-check an article for once.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marlyn-Daust/1367536319 Marlyn Daust

    So I had this long reply but I agree with you. I have been to LGBT pages on the network and never had issues. I have had issues with ‘blogs’ even science based to diy craft blogs that are blocked. I have seen some coworker’s online school pages blocked from them. All they had to do was email to get it established on the network. I will have to wait until I go back to work to test the pages out. Maybe I’ll screen shot pages I find offensively blocked like Pintrest!!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Marlyn-Daust/1367536319 Marlyn Daust

    Hmm not necessarily, considering there has been articles linking a quick distraction can reinvigorate a person from browsing the news or commenting on a funny picture. It is similar to taking a walk or smoke break.

  • Randy

    Then please go ahead and explain why conservative personal blogs are allowed, but not liberal personal blogs, and why conservative websites are allowed but not liberal ones.

  • ckg1

    AGAIN: Time to sic Anonymous on these folks.

    It’s time to take the gloves off. Playing nice didn’t seem to work. Time to get NASTY.

  • TKnTexas

    If these are their work computers, then everything not related to the job performance of the DOD should be banned. It is not a censorship issue. It is an employee performance issue. Browsing and commenting on ANY blog is non-productive non-work related behavior. Before there is a lawsuit, they should just restrict access (not ban) it all.

  • http://www.facebook.com/randyariddle Randy Riddle

    This is really a question for the Commander-in-Chief. If parts of the military are having certain types of information censored based on political content, it’s a violation of long-standing policies and that govern the Armed Forces Network (formerly Armed Forces Radio and Television), “Stars and Stripes”, and other media for our men and women in the service.

    Many of these outlets came about during World War II and the fact that our military media presented all points of view – left and right – to our troops was a point of pride in a conflict against fascist regimes that highly controlled political thought and media.

    This censorship is an insult to the principles men and women of our military have fought for. Those responsible should be immediately dismissed and our Commander-in-Chief should make it clear that censorship of political speech will not be tolerated. There is no excuse for this behavior – none whatsoever.

  • Butch1

    Why?

  • scottrose

    Gay-bashing religious right-wingers with positions of authority in the armed forces are abusing their authority and censoring LGBT-rights-specific news, in violation of the rights of members of the armed forces. Of course if one believes claptrap, such as that LGBT acceptance and rights will bring “God’s judgment” on the US, then that becomes justification for a phony national security claim.

  • Frustrated

    Your breathless chasing of this myth would be comically absurd if your spreading these partial truths wasn’t do potentially harmful to LGBT service members who might want to look for ZLGBT resources but are driven off by your near belligerence. I’ve been on your site – self-categorized by you as LGBT – off and on all day…from a DoD computer.

    To imply that there is some sort of top-down, anti-LGBT bias in the DoD computer enterprise simply does not withstand intellectual rigor.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Or rather, they did ‘tailor’ it.

    They chose to enable the filter to block LGBT websites. There’s a great honkin’ long list of categories over at Bluecoat describing all kinds of websites from ordinary to malicious and hate. If sailors can’t access Towleroad AND The Advocate, the only common tag
    between them is LGBT, which means the DoD obviously did enable that particular filter.

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    I wonder if someone will let the HRC know they’re on the DoD’s banned website list…

  • http://www.rebeccamorn.com/mind BeccaM

    Whatever the mechanisms, whatever the rationale, the result is obviously blatant bias and censorship targeting progressive and LGBT websites, while green-lighting far-right conservative and anti-gay websites.

    In a way, I’m glad the DoD has issued this statement, because they’re making clear by citing a ridiculous ‘national security’ justification as to why servicemen and women can’t read The Advocate or AmericaBlog or DailyKos — but can read Redstate and visit the websites for FRC and AFA — that someone in a position of operational authority has decided to favor right-wing conservatism over left-wing progressivism, and are happy to play the propagandist to ensure that our troops and civilian defense employees aren’t exposed to “unmutual” ideas and opinions.

    It is institutionalized bigotry and political bias, nothing less.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Michael-Bedwell/1822575019 Michael Bedwell

    The DoD “mislead”—READ: fucking lie to us? That’s known as “Situation Normal,” and this particular situation will only change when OS-SLDN and HRC stop being lapdogs for the Administration.

  • rerutled

    It is quite clear that your blogs are filtered based — ultimately — on someone’s subjective judgement. The DOD’s excuse is clearly meant to be misleading.

  • eahopp

    Maybe the DoD brass thinks that when soldiers start visiting and reading gay and progressive blog sites, those same soldiers will mysteriously become gay and progressive, thus secretly enticing even more soldiers to become gay and progressive. In time, instead of the DoD becoming comprised of snarling, tough, macho, Schwarzenegger-style soldiers who will blindly follow whatever orders the GOP and military-industrial complex issue to them, the entire DoD will be comprised of hippy-styled, liberal peacenicks who want to stick flowers in gun barrels and show a little love together in the foxhole.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    It can be tailored. DOD just refuses to do it.

  • magekillr

    Also also, we utilize Blue Coat.

  • NCMan

    Seems to me the next set of questions should be going to “Bluecoat”, the filtering system that is being used. Bluecoat should be asked why its system doesn’t identify sites like Ann Coulter’s as “Blogs/Personal Pages” they way they do with the sites being blocked.

    If the DoD claims they are only blocking sites in the “Blogs/Personal Pages” categories and Coulter and FRC are not blocked, then they must not be categorized as “Blogs/Personal Pages”. It’s been reported that Bluecoat is the entity that categorizes the sites. So, they are the ones who should be explaining why some sites are categorized that way while others are not.

  • magekillr

    Not sure about DoD, but where I work in the Feds, I can access your site and virtually every political blog out there. I don’t go on all of the ones I visit at home, but in general I do visit Daily Kos, here, FDL, and others during my breaks. I will note that one time I tried accessing “Politico” and it was blocked because of “politics,” so sometimes the filter just flat out sucks. Another time I got blocked from visiting hardcore gaming, as I think it thought it was a porn site (hardcore).

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