Air Force and Army: Digital Extremes

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In the wake of WikiLeaks, the U.S. Air Force has announced it will block its personnel from using work computers to access websites that have recently posted classified documents.

Members of the Air Force attempting to view online sites for The New York Times, Britain’s The Guardian, Spain’s El Pais, France’s Le Monde or German magazine Der Spiegel will receive the following: “ACCESS DENIED. Internet Usage is Logged & Monitored,” and violators will be punished.

The order came down from the 24th Air Force, which has responsibility for maintenance of the Air Force computer networks. The Navy and Marines have not taken similar measures, nor has the Defense Department ordered any of them to do so.[more]

“It is unfortunate that the U.S. Air Force has chosen not to allow its personnel access to the most important news, analysis and commentary,” a New York Times spokeswoman said.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Army is considering making smartphones standard issue equipment and even footing soldiers’ monthly phone bills.Soldiers will be given a choice between Apple’s iPhone or a smartphone running Google Android. It is the next step in deploying smartphones in war zones.

The Army is also looking into integrating Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, Barnes & Noble’s Nook and mini-projectors into the field, according to Mike McCarthy, director of the mission command complex of Future Force Integration Directorate at Fort Bliss.

An official report states, “At war, smart phones would let soldiers view real-time intelligence and video from unmanned systems overhead, and track friends and enemies on a dynamic map…But the Army must first work through the complex task of securing the data and the network before it sanctions smart phones on the battlefield.”

The plan is to fit phones like the iPhone into custom antenna sleeves that link to the Army’s network via a “patchwork of ground stations and airborne nodes.” It’s a plan that has support from some of the Army’s highest ranking officials including Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Chiarelli.

The Army used custom iPods in 2008 for on-the-spot translating in Iraq and has used Macs in its IT infrastructure to prevent potential hackers. In 2009, they integrated Apple hardware into video surveillance installations.

They are disruptive digital times we live in, and issues of access, cyber-terrorism, national security and privacy are being played out publicly, as the military strives to take advantage of technology whilst maintaining control over it.

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