martes, 15 de mayo de 2007

Pentagon limits web for troops

Washington - Lieutenant Daniel Zimmerman, a US army infantry platoon leader in Iraq, puts a blog on the internet every now and then "to basically keep my friends and family up to date" back home.

It just got tougher to do that for Zimmerman and a lot of other US soldiers. No more using the military's computer system to socialise and trade videos on MySpace, YouTube and nine other websites, the Pentagon says.

Citing security worries and technological limits, the Defence Department has cut off access to those sites for personnel using the Pentagon's computer network.

"I put my blog on there, and my family reads it," said Zimmerman, 29, a platoon leader with B Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment.

"I keep it as vague as possible," he said. "I'm pretty responsible about it. It's just basically to tell a little bit about my life over here," he said.

Private accounts

He is regularly at a base where he does not have Defence Department access to the internet, but he has used it when he goes to bigger bases. He will have to rely always on a private account now.

Memos about the change went out in February, and it took effect last week. It does not affect internet cafes that soldiers in Iraq use that are not connected to the Defence network. The cafe sites are run by a private vendor, FUBI (For US By Iraqis).

The ban does not affect other sites, such as Yahoo, and does not prevent soldiers from sending messages and photos to their families by e-mail.

Internet use has become a troublesome issue for the military as it struggles to balance security with privacy rights. As blogs and video-sharing become more common, the military has voiced increasing worries about service members revealing details of military operations or other information about equipment or procedures that could aid the fighters on the other side.

At the same time, service members have used the websites to chronicle their time in battle, posting videos and writing journals that provide powerful personal glimpses into their days at war.

Waivers allowed

After the warnings of the shutdown went out, military members were allowed to seek waivers if the sites were necessary for their jobs.

Often insurgent groups post videos, including ones of attacks or, in some high-profile cases, of US or coalition soldiers who have been captured or killed.

If the restrictions are intended to prevent soldiers from giving or receiving bad news, they could also prevent them from providing positive reports from the field, said Noah Shachtman, who runs a national security blog for Wired Magazine.

"This is as much an information war as it is bombs and bullets," he said, "and they are muzzling their best voices."

The sites covered by the ban are the video-sharing sites YouTube, Metacafe, IFilm, StupidVideos and FileCabi; social networking sites MySpace, BlackPlanet and Hi5; music sites Pandora, MTV, and live365; and the photo-sharing site Photobucket

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