U.S. Blocking Soldiers' Access to YouTube, Other Popular Sites

Q Boyer
DENVER — The U.S. Department of Defense is blocking soldiers’ access to a handful of popular social networking and user-post sites — including YouTube and MySpace — under a new policy that took effect Monday.

In a Defense Department memo obtained by XBIZ, General Burwell “BB” Bell, commander of U.S. forces for Korea, states that the Defense “has a growing concern” regarding the use of its unclassified Internet, known as the NIPRNET.

The primary sources of concern for the Defense Department are wasted resources and potential security lapses, according to Bell’s memo.

“The Commander of the DoD’s Joint Task Force, Global Network Operations (JTF-GNO) has noted a significant increase in use of DoD network resources tied up by individuals visiting certain recreational Internet sites,” Bell wrote. “This recreational traffic impacts our official DoD network and bandwidth availability, while posing a significant operational security challenge.”

Under the new policy, the Defense Department is blocking “worldwide access” to YouTube.com, 1.fm, Pandora.com, PhotoBucket.com, MySpace.com, Live365.com, Hi5.com, Metacafe.com, MTV.com, iFilm.com, BlackPlanet.com, StupidVideos.com and FileCabi.com.

Major Bruce Mumford, brigade communications officer for the 4th Brigade, 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, told Forbes.com that he thinks blocking such sites is just good military policy.

“The U.S. Army’s not going to pay the bill for you to get on MySpace and YouTube,” Mumford said. “Soldiers need to know what they can and cannot do, but we shouldn’t be facilitating it.”

The access policy will affect only Defense Department computers and will not apply to the computers soldiers keep at home, Bell stated in the memo, although he cautioned soldiers to take appropriate precautions from home, as well.

“[If] you access such sites using your personal home computer, you should exercise caution in forwarding any links from these sites to DoD computers or networks,” Bell wrote. “To do so could compromise OPSEC [operational security] and create an opportunity for hacking and virus intrusion.”

Bell also cautioned Defense Department personnel to “always be alert to protecting sensitive, unclassified information” whether surfing the net from home or from their Defense Department-owned computers, and to keep in mind other forms of risk inherent to the Internet environment.

“This benefits not only you, your fellow servicemembers and civilian employees, but preserves our vital networks for conducting official DoD business in peace and war,” Bell wrote. “You should also be mindful of the risk of identity theft that these sites pose and protect yourself and your family.”