Air Force blocks access to newspapers online

Posted by Emma Woollacott

The world's bastion of free speech and liberty, the USA, has banned Air Force personnel from reading some of the most prominent and well-respected newspapers in the world.

While advice had already been issued that government personnel shouldn't read the classified cables released by Wikileaks over the past few weeks, the Air Force has now gone one step further.

News agencies are reporting that it has blocked staff from accessing 25 websites that have posted WikiLeaks files, including the New York Times, Le Monde and the Guardian. While people are allowed to peruse the papers at home, access is forbidden on military machines.

According to the Wall Street Journal, staff that try see an on-screen message reading: "Access denied. Internet usage is logged and monitored." Transgressors are warned that they'll be punished.

Just why it's acceptable for Army, Navy and Marines personnel to read the cables when it's so dangerous for Air Force staff hasn't been made clear.

Major Toni Tones, a spokesperson for Air Force Space Command, told reporters that the sites would be unblocked once it had been determined that they were no longer a risk.

Allowing access to continue, she said, would entail a laborious and resource-intensive process to clean the machines and eliminate all the classified information - just in case, presumably, some spy thought it was easier to get hold of from a military machine than from the New York Times website itself.

The military clearly believes that the latest round of cables, detailing such state secrets as Silvio Berlusconi's predilection for pretty girls, is far more subversive than the 70,000 Afghan war documents released by Wikileaks last summer.

Then, the Navy, Marines and Air Force banned access to the documents themselves - but not to the news organizations reporting them.