DOD to investigate complaints that gay blogs, news sites are censored on Pentagon computers

I just received a statement from the Pentagon, in the name of Pentagon Press Secretary George Little, in response to our series of stories over the past day about a number of gay and progressive Web sites – including AMERICAblog, Pam’s House Blend, Towleroad, Good As You, Bilerico, The Advocate, HRC’s blog, and the blog of a co-chair of OutServe-SLDN, Josh Seefriedbeing censored (blocked) by some DOD computers.

The Pentagon was informed this past summer that it was incorrectly censoring gay Web sites.  Nothing was done.

A statement posted earlier today on the Pentagon’s Facebook page suggested that the Pentagon does not ban LGBT sites, but rather personal sites and blogs.  We noted that this was not exactly true, as the Pentagon does not censor Ann Coulter’s personal blog, nor does it censor the conservative blogs Red State and Breitbart, nor the blog of the religious right hate group Family Research Council.  The Pentagon’s earlier statement gave no indication of any effort to look into the matter, or correct any sites mistakenly censored.

This new statement is better.

First the statement from the Press Secretary, then a few thoughts.

Statement by George Little on Internet Information Access

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little

Pentagon Press Secretary George Little

Recent reports have suggested that the Pentagon is blocking access to LGBT related websites. The Department of Defense does not block websites based on LGBT content.

The Department of Defense strongly supports the rights of gay and lesbian men and women in uniform to serve proudly and openly.

With Internet technology constantly evolving, the Department of Defense is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security.

There are a number of different Internet tools used across the department to ensure that adequate cybersecurity and information security standards are maintained, and in certain instances, access may limited to content not directly related to carrying out mission or professional duties.

In order to help maintain adequate levels of information security in support of DoD policy, some components employ commercial tools that may allow users to visit “news” sites while disallowing pages categorized as “personal sites and blogs”.

No filter is perfect and some sites may have unnecessarily been blocked. The Department Chief Information Officer will work with relevant components to address these situations.

First point.  It’s generally a big deal when a statement is issued in the name of the Press Secretary himself.  Usually agencies, or even the White House, release statements from lesser staff.  When the statement comes from the Press Secretary (or even better, the Secretary himself), it means they’re taking the issue seriously.  That’s one thing I’ve learned in my years in Washington.  So that’s a good sign.

I do think the statement comes off a bit reticent, especially at the end, which is the part that matters.  To be fair, the Pentagon needs to investigate further before they can say definitively that there’s a problem.  Having said that, when HRC’s blog is banned and FRC’s blog is not, clearly there’s a problem somewhere when your policy is to ban all blogs and you’re not.

More generally, it is a bit 2005 of the Pentagon to have a policy that “blogs” are bad.  AMERICAblog was the first blog accredited to cover an Obama press conference.  And AMERICAblog’s Joe Sudbay was the journalist responsible for eliciting the “evolving” quote out of President Obama concerning his position on gay marriage.  Clearly “blogs” have changed over the years.  I’d also suggest that when a blog is writing stories that are eliciting statements from the Press Secretary of the Department of Defense, then perhaps some blogs are in fact worthy of being read by Defense Department personnel.  Hopefully that is something that this “work” will look into and resolve.

My approach to these kind of controversies is two-fold.  I write about them publicly, and I get on the phone to a lot of my contacts privately and urge them to fix things.  In the past, I’ve found that this approach is best for resolving these kind of problems.  I can’t tell you what I’ve been told privately, but I can say that I’ve been speaking to someone knowledgable about this situation and I feel assured that they’re genuinely working on it.

Yes, I’d have preferred a stronger statement from the Pentagon, but I do believe that they got the message.  I’ll be looking forward to hearing from OutServe-SLDN that the Pentagon is working with them on this, and keeping them up to date as to its final resolution.

Good job, everyone.  You helped share this series of stories across the Internet (with the help of the Huffington Post, that graciously linked to our first story on their home page), and it made a difference.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Google+ | LinkedIn. 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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  • Butch1

    Perhaps, they should investigate who the homophobes were who blocked them in the first place and put them on probation until they have been trained properly. We need to find out who these people are that work for us and they need to be required to attend sensitivity training on diversity so that this type of thing doesn’t happen again. When they only allow right-wing blather and Ann Coulter nonsense to be allowed, it shows a mentality that only leans to the right and this cannot be allowed to continue unchecked.

  • https://twitter.com/leliorisen leliorisen

    That is pretty much a big part of getting to a solution.

  • https://twitter.com/leliorisen leliorisen

    There were issues with the Ed Schultz show not being allowed, while Rush was? I believe that changed when he made noise about it (as well he should have). He did have politician friends on his side to help state his case. We need a loud advocate in Congress.

  • https://twitter.com/leliorisen leliorisen

    Excellent comment Don.

  • https://twitter.com/leliorisen leliorisen

    To fast track this, maybe this is something that Senator Baldwin can initiate a high-level discussion on. Now that we actually have some Senate visibility, we can accomplish something.

    Personally, I am a bit stunned that it took this long to have this even being addressed by anyone.

  • Don Chandler

    I would like to hear someone ask Hagel at confirmation hearings about his take on the censorship issue. It seems like the Pentagon is shirking the law…certainly not the first time.

  • george powers

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

  • MyrddinWilt

    Hey I keep pointing it out but nobody seems to take notice.

    The wingnut blogs are full of treason and sedition. Their answer to everything is to threaten to take up arms against the government. They need to be watched!

    I guess maybe we should be concerned about this. After all watching the wingnuts is a slippery slope to taking names and hauling them off to Gitmo. I think the wingnuts should start asking DoD why they are spying on them and demand that the DoD block their sites.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    I’m looking forward to a lot of explanations :)

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Or rather, the big blogs are more than one person. There are certainly tons of individual blogs still out there. But the line has grown fuzzier, especially since as you both note, most newspapers have blogs.

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    Boxers vs briefs.

  • http://adgitadiaries.com/ karmanot

    You would think the Pentagon has more to do than losing the last couple decades of wars (excepting Guilbert and Sullivan’s war on Grenada) than to fret about teh gay.

  • Stev84

    It used to be that blogs were written by one private person, writing about their personal life. Or maybe one person doing political commentary. But that’s not really the case anymore. Some blogs have multiple contributors.

    You can’t distinguish it by the ability to leave comments either. Most newspapers allow that these days.

  • clarknt67

    Is there a definitive threshold that separates blogs from news sources? I don’t know what that would be? News sites have blogs and blogs report news. The dividing line will only get more and more blurry in the future. (Note Newsweek is no longer a print outlet and only online…)

  • fredndallas

    Got their attention. Well done. DOD obviously has some lingering homophobia troubles, at best. With the rumored nomination of gay slamming Chuck Hagel as DOD Secretary, are we about to have Barack Obama’s 2013 version of Rick Warren-only worse?

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

    BRAVO! But, as I noted in a comment yesterday, there are
    those in the Pentagon who have known about this SINCE SEPTEMBER 2011—not just
    since Summer 2012. Second, as you well know, the Pentagon has a history of
    outright LYING to cover its ass, Administration after Administration—and Obama,
    Inc., is NO exception. [SEE: May 2009 lies about whether they'd been talking
    about DADT repeal yet, and the last TWO YEARS of lies about how they STILL need
    to "study" the feasibility of extending gay military couple benefits despite the fact their November 2010 report admitted they'd already investigated the issues extensively]. Hopefully the promised report on their “investigation” will be less devious than that in 2008 about the initial erasing by someone IN the
    Pentagon building itself of any reference on Wikipedia to the fact the Army
    Major Alan Rogers was gay after he’d been killed in Iraq. As some will
    remember, one of Rogers’ gay acquaintances traced the IP address of whoever had
    deleted the information to, and found it assigned to “Army Information Systems Command-Pentagon,”
    and the department then run by a Deputy Chief of Staff for Army Intelligence
    who had worked with Rogers, and participated in his funeral and Pentagon
    memorial service. Afterward, then Army spokesman Maj. Nathan Banks claimed that
    they could not identify the source of the Wikipedia article edits
    eliminating any mention Rogers was gay; and that his friend’s IP tracing “[did] not NECESSARILY indicate” that the IP address associated with the changes “NECESSARILY belongs to any one specific
    office.” Emphasis mine.

    OF COURSE, there are many well-intentioned, non-homophobic people in the Pentagon, and I have no current evidence that the Press Secretary is anything else. BUT he, too, has helped perpetuate THE BIG LIE, claiming as recently as this past July that they are “working through questions related to
    benefits” to gay service members. And that his statement about censorship is filled with
    disingenuous dodges and ludicrous implications [HRC has been a threat to many
    things, but national security isn’t one of them], hardly warms one’s heart.
    Whether he was aware of it personally, based on the failure of anyone to do
    anything for the last nearly year and a half since out Marine Maj. Matthew Phelps
    first brought it to their attention in September 2011—along with the
    institution’s two and a half centuries of rabid, ruthless homophobia—Good
    People notwithstanding, the approach of the Community and its paid advocates
    must uncompromisingly be: “Guilty until proven innocent.”

  • Naja pallida

    Welcome to the new Syria. :)

  • http://AMERICAblog.com/ John Aravosis

    OutServe-SLDN will be dogging it and letting me know if things aren’t progressing.

  • ComradeRutherford

    And in two or three years they may have a report…

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

    Is Bluecoat used by the military produced by the commercial company Blue Coat Systems?

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Coat_Systems

    If so, the DoD should be questioning the contract with the company. According to the Wikipedia article, the US government in 2011 looked into allegations that the company’s software was being used by Syria to censor web access in that country.

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

    The Armed Forces Network has a mandate to make a range of programming available to the troops that is reflective of the media available at home. So, no, they can’t kick Rush off AFN.

    You have to keep in mind that the Armed Forces Network isn’t a single channel. They offer 12 different radio feeds available to service members, each with a different music or talk format and around ten different television channels.

  • ronbo

    Perhaps we should have them look into their pushing Rush Limbaugh onto military radio. I’ve heard Limbuagh insult the President in a clear political manner.

    It’s time we set standards for our military. Garbage in, garbage out. We can do much, much better than feed paranoid political misinformation into every service member’s cerebrum over and over again. This type of forced political manipulation (while in military service) is both harmful and destructive.

    Any wonder why suicide kills more young american soldiers than actual conflict?

  • NCMan

    If they are sticking with their story that they are blocking “Blogs/Personal Pages” as identified by Bluecoat, then it comes down to finding out why Bluecoat has identified LGBT and progressive sites as “Blogs/Personal Pages” while identifying anti-LGBT and conservative sites as “News” instead.

  • usckitty

    Good! It’s about time the DoD do something…there have been TOO many instances of institutions like the DoD or school districts like the one in Missouri blocking websites deemed too friendly to the LGBT community while permitting anti-gay websites like the AFA and Family Research Council…It doesn’t really strike me as the overzealous staffer…

    http://www.villagevoice.com/2005-04-19/news/the-wacky-misadventures-of-the-overzealous-republican-staffer/

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

    It would also be good to hear their explanation as to why The Advocate (www.advocate.com) is also blocked, when it is not at all a blog or personal website, but a legitimate source of LGBT news and information.

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