Defense Department bans Web sites

MySpace and YouTube are among the sites the military has restricted, citing security reasons.

Published May 15, 2007

WASHINGTON - Lt. Daniel Zimmerman, an 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 U.S. soldiers. No more using the military's computer system to socialize and trade videos on MySpace, YouTube and more than a dozen other Web sites, the Pentagon says.

Citing security concerns and technological limits, the Pentagon has cut off access to those sites for personnel using the Defense Department's computer network. The change limits use of the popular outlets for service members on the front lines, who regularly post videos and journals.

"I keep it as vague as possible, " said Zimmerman, 29, a platoon leader with B Company, 1st Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment. "I'm pretty responsible about it. It's just basically to tell a little bit about my life over here."

He's regularly at a base where he doesn't have Defense Department access to the Internet, but he has used it when he goes to bigger bases. He'll have to rely on a private account all the time now.

Memos about the change went out in February, and it took effect last week. It does not affect the Internet cafes that soldiers in Iraq use that are not connected to the Defense Department's network.

Internet use has become a troublesome issue for the military as it struggles to balance security concerns with privacy rights. As blogs and video-sharing become more common, the military has voiced concern about service members revealing details that will aid the enemy.

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

"I guess it's a good general policy, " Zimmerman said about the ban on MySpace and YouTube. "If people could be trusted not to break operational security, then they wouldn't need to have the policy."

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."

Fast Facts:


Web sites ban

The ban: Starting last week, the Pentagon cut off access to more than a dozen Web sites for personnel using the Defense Department's computer network.

Why: Security concerns and technological limits.

Some of the sites: Video-sharing sites YouTube, Metacafe, StupidVideos, IFilm and FileCabi; social networking sites MySpace, BlackPlanet and Hi5; music sites Pandora, MTV, 1.fm and live365; and the photo-sharing site Photobucket.