Air Force Prohibiting Airmen from Reading NSA Scandal Stories



Internet_cafe_inside_Bagram_Air_BaseOver the weekend I received an email from a mother whose son is stationed with the U.S. Air Force in the Middle East.  He and other Airmen received a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) from the 624th Operations Center prohibiting them from accessing stories about the NSA surveillance activity on  the Air Force’s NIPRNET (Non-Secure Internet Protocol Router Network) systems.  The 624th Operations Center located at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas serves as the operational arm for the 24th Air Force’s cyberspace operations capability.

His team received an email about the NOTAM that read:

I wanted to make sure that all of you read this because just doing a simple search could jeopardize your future.  In summary, anything to do with the recent news about the NSA and Verizon phone records are considered classified and searching news or records about these on our NIPRNET computers is unauthorized.  Thanks!

The executive summary of the NOTAM states:

Similar to events associated with WIKILEAKS disclosures in the past 2 years, classified documents associated with a news story on NSA and wiretapping are potentially classified and readily available on the internet.  Users are not to use AF NIPRNET systems to access the Verizon phone records collection and other related news stories because the action could constitute a Classified Message Incident.

They then provide more details:

Classified documents regarding Verizon phone record collection and court order have been identified as being hosted on publically accessible Internet Web Sites, most notably “The Guardian” news site.  Viewing and/or downloading these documents on Air Force NIPRNET computers could constitute a Classified Message Incident.  Therefore, users are not to access these file (sic) for any reason (i.e. viewing, downloading, forwarding, etc.)

You can view the original NOTAM here.

So essentially our service members, at least those in the Air Force, are prohibited from searching, forwarding, reading or saving any news stories related to the NSA Scandal on NIPRNET computers.  Those like this Airman currently deployed to UAE only have access to this news through Air Force computers.  Members of our military are being censored from reading news about how the rights and liberty they are fighting for is being destroyed at home.

According to this Airman many of his colleagues are upset and outraged by this – understandably.  They do not deserve to be treated in this manner.  I wonder if other branches of our Armed Services have been given similar notices and how high up this order originated.

We’ll be monitoring this story and provide updates as we learn more.

Keep updated with Caffeinated Thoughts!

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  • Theo P. Neustic

    When you sign up and are sworn in, you’re owned.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Having been in the Army I understand that, but it doesn’t make it right.

      • Theo P. Neustic

        Oh, I certainly agree. You swear to protect the Constitution and what it stands for but you give up your rights enabled by it.

  • Victory

    It’s becoming, the day you are born, you are owned.

  • chasrmartin

    Bullshit. a NOTAM is a directive from the FAA to all pilots.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      Yes, it’s that as well. Did you think it had only one meaning?

      Besides, the document exists whatever you want to call it.

      • chasrmartin

        Let’s see it. I think you’re being hoaxed.

      • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

        There’s a link to it if you’d actually take the time to read the story.

  • Dapandico

    The US army has blocked any news stories about Manning.

  • Bob

    Having classified information on an unclassified computer network will get people in trouble, not only for the user, but for anyone involved to prevent classified incidents to occur. This is a best practice method to prevent airmen, sailors, soldiers, and marines from doing stupid things like access/pass/view material that is not privileged to be on NIPRNET.

    Government computers are under the rules established to protect sensitive information from getting out, there are no exceptions. Allowing access of information that is still classified will trigger a CMI, and that’s not a laughing matter. These computers are work computers and have many restrictions placed on them to prevent malicious use. Anyone with knowledge about any of the security policies understands this.

    Also, it’s a shame that this airman has screenshotted the message that is FOUO. Clearly, he has a problem understanding what information needs to be public or not.

    Also, by the way, government business computer policy does not apply to one’s personal computer use.

    - USAF Network Tech.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      “This is a best practice method to prevent airmen, sailors, soldiers, and marines from doing stupid things like access/pass/view material that is not privileged to be on NIPRNET.”

      I can understand the classified documents, but news stories?

      “Also, it’s a shame that this airman has screenshotted the message that is FOUO. Clearly, he has a problem understanding what information needs to be public or not.”

      It wasn’t classified, and if he didn’t we in the general public would have no idea this happened (or be able to prove it).

      “Also, by the way, government business computer policy does not apply to one’s personal computer use.”

      I understand that and said that in my story. The problem is with those deployed overseas who don’t have access to the internet except through NIPRNET which is also a point I brought up. If bring personal devices with internet connectivity was the norm then I could see you point… just curious with a personal laptop when an airman is overseas how do they connect to the internet?

  • Kevin Subra

    Shane, the response has everything to do with classified information, not someone’s rights. If classified information is viewed on an unclassified system, it requires an official response, as a “leak” has occurred. I am not justifying the restriction on the story (necessarily). It is, however, procedure and policty, not politics, that dictates the response to leaked classified information. Whether or not the US is legally collecting information is another issue altogether.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      I understand that, but there also needs to be some common sense to the policy. It’s ALREADY out there and in the news so the only thing being prevented is members of our military being informed. I see your point, but this is kind of like closing the barn doors after the horses are already out.

      • Kevin Subra

        Again, the issue is containment, not rights. Technically, only those cleared have the “right” to view the classified information. Today’s pervasive technology makes such a leak hard to contain, but there’s a reason behind it. What if it was a private video of your family (for example)?

      • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

        I understand your point, and having served I do understand protecting classified information. Containment seems futile at this point, and restricting them from reading news about it seems to be overkill. And no I wouldn’t want a personal video of my family out there, but telling my family members they can’t access it, search for it or download it when it is out there wouldn’t make sense either.

      • Kevin Subra

        Released, classified information is still classified until it is unclassified. Those are the rules. They were not made because of this leak…

      • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

        So everybody else can read about it except members of the military, that makes total sense. I understand it’s the rules, but perhaps some rules need revisiting when the times and circumstances change.

        Also, I was just told by a woman whose husband is a Navy contractor than when the Wikileaks thing came down he was told they couldn’t Google it on it own time and his own computer. That seems just a tad excessive. For the record I’m not in favor of members of our government leaking classified documents.

        I do think we had the right to know about the NSA’s activity as it’s evasive and likely unconstitutional.

      • USAF SSgt

        You seem to still be confused as to what exactly the NOTAM disallows on the Air Force network… The NOTAM doesn’t disallow reading about the incident. It disallows downloading the classified files on an unclassified system attached to the Air Force Network. Everyone is allowed, and encouraged, to educate themselves and read up on the incident.

        The reason why the Navy contractor was told not to Google the Wikileaks things is because he’s working for a military entity! (Surprising isn’t it?) The Navy (or any branch) can tell and encourage everyone that works for that branch to not visit Wikileaks because those employees may not have the clearance authorized to view those classified files. Again, it comes down to having the appropriate clearance and need-to-know, regardless of whether or not it is made public.

  • Maxwell

    Why are our military playing on the internet when they should be working? I’m not paying them to goof off- go hunt terrorists!

  • USAF SSgt

    “So essentially our service members, at least those in the Air Force,
    are prohibited from searching, forwarding, reading or saving any news
    stories related to the NSA Scandal on NIPRNET computers. Those like this
    Airman currently deployed to UAE only have access to this news through
    Air Force computers. Members of our military are being censored from
    reading news about how the rights and liberty they are fighting for is
    being destroyed at home.”

    Absolutely wrong. All military members
    on the Air Force network are prohibited from downloading CLASSIFIED
    DOCUMENTS on UNCLASSIFIED NETWORKS. What part about that didn’t you
    understand? Regardless of what anyone’s opinions are about the leaked
    files, the fact remains that they are CLASSIFIED. As such, viewing,
    downloading, disseminating, etc classified documents on an unclassified
    network is unauthorized and not allowed; period. This is called a
    Classified Message Incident (CMI). It doesn’t matter if the document
    was ILLEGALLY released to the public. It is still classified and will
    remain classified until deemed unclassified. This has nothing to do
    with military members not being allowed to download while others are
    allowed to download. No one’s “allowed” to download. The gov’t doesn’t
    not authorize civilian to download the classified content; they just
    can’t stop you and they have no authority to prevent civilians from
    doing so. However, they have all the authority in the world to issue a
    direct order to all military members to NOT download a classified
    document.

    “Members of our military are being censored from reading news about how
    the rights and liberty they are fighting for is being destroyed at home.”

    Nowhere, ABSOLUTELY NOWHERE, does the NOTAM or anything else say that
    you cannot read about news pertaining to the NSA/Verizon scandal. The
    Air Force is not trying to cover up anything since they are not involved
    in the situation. Additionally, many US Air Force members are
    unfortunately subscribed to Verizon and are therefore entitled to know
    what
    is going on, hence why the NOTAM says NOWHERE that airmen are not
    entitled to read about the story; they just are not allowed to download
    classified files. With that said, there are secure channels that are
    available to almost all airmen. NIPRNet is not one of them. Finally,
    get real. No one in the US are fighting for liberties overseas. We
    haven’t fought for rights or liberties since WW2, nor are they “being
    destroyed” as you so ignorantly love to proclaim. Get over yourself and
    your sensationalism.

    • http://shanevanderhart.com/ Shane Vander Hart

      If everybody in the Air Force saw this the same way as you I wouldn’t have received the email.

      • USAF SSgt

        It’s not a point of view, nor an opinion. It is fact, and largely common sense. Your article is a purely uneducated, ignorant opinion based on the feelings of an uneducated, ignorant airman (probably an Amn or A1C) that can’t grasp onto the concept of “the big picture” because he’s not had the experience of being in the Air Force long enough to comprehend or understand such a thing. As a prior Army enlistee, as you like to call yourself, I’m baffled how you don’t even understand any of this considering that everyone enlisted and commissioned in the entire DoD Military must be able to maintain at least a Secret clearance.

      • Guest

        It seems the uneducated, ignorant airman has a better understanding of ‘the big picture’ than you claim to have. The fact is that unconstitutional acts are being perpetrated against American citizens by their own government. It’s clearly obvious that these types of information are classified for the sole purpose of preventing the those who swore an oath to defend the constitution from doing just that.