Monday, May 14, 2007

No Videos For The Troops

It just became tougher to share videos and pictures with American soldiers in Iraq:

http://www.cnn.com/2007/TECH/internet/05/14/military.sites.blocked.ap/index.html

Today my precious little niece, age 20, ships out to Iraq. She finished army boot camp and MP training a mere 2 weeks ago. She gets a little more training in Kuwait, then it’s off to the horrors of war for her, and she’ll be right in the thick of it. I still see her as a little girl in my mind, so the thought of her going off to kill people in an unjustified quagmire of a war that serves no apparent American interests doesn’t sit well with me, especially since I was one of those folks standing at my courthouse with anti-war signs back when it all started. But it’s the choice she made for herself. All I can do is hope she comes back in one piece, physically and mentally. I don’t want her to join the over 3100 Americans who have been killed, or the tens of thousands who have been seriously wounded.

Of course I hope to keep in touch with her while she’s “over there.” She brought her new laptop computer with her, and has a couple of email addresses and the internet, but she’ll be relying on the army electronic networks to keep in digital contact with us.

Many servicemen and servicewomen and their families use photosharing and video websites, like YouTube, MySpace, and Photobucket, to keep in touch with each other. Consider THIS video from someone to their Uncle Keith in Iraq.

Troops are also able to share their experience with the world at large, such as in THIS footage (“Looks like they blew up the showers again.”), or THIS patriotic footage of actual fighting.

But the military has decided to make these and many other photo- and video-sharing sites off-limits to their troops using military networks, starting today. Here is the DoD notice to soldiers: http://www.usfk.mil/usfk/bell-sends/5_11_07_27%20-%2007%20Restricted%20Access%20to%20Internet%20Entertainment%20Sites%20Across%20DoD%20Networks.pdf.

They say it’s because it slows the system down too much, but you would think the world’s most funded army would be able to have a decent networking system that could handle the bandwidth. They also say they worry about sensitive information being leaked. Maybe they have a point there, but don’t they already censor such things? No, I think they are afraid more about morale, since a great many videos and photos out there are being put out about the horrors the civilian population are facing (over 600,000 civilians have died, according to one estimate, and over 2.6 million have refugee status according to the U.N.), and increasing numbers of anti-war videos are being published. Here is a good example, but WARNING, it contains very graphic images: HERE. My niece has told me how nearly everyone she has met so far in the military is strongly against the war. And we’re talking about the new recruits, who are supposed to be “gung-ho” fresh from boot camp!

The military’s reaction is strangely hypocritical, since they are posting their own videos on the web, for the sake of recruitment and banging the patriotic drums, even have their own channel on YouTube (EXAMPLE). It’s a two-way street. As the CNN article says, this war is as much about minds and action as it is about bombs and guns. When the troops aren’t able to broadcast their side of things, all you are left with is official propaganda and the many, many videos put out by the other side.

Oh, well. For now I can still send emails to my niece, at least, as well as standard mail. Let’s hope cooler heads prevail and bring home the troops soon, anyhow.

Bring ‘em home, Bush.

Addendum: On a related note, the U.S. military set up its own YouTube channel just last week, and about a week before that they banned all blog posting by soldiers without express supervisory approval for each post (see blog links at this post: http://tailrank.com/1851635/The-end-of-military-blogs). Of course, how many supervisors would allow it, thinking that any perceived slip would fall on their heads? It all adds up to a serious clamp-down on soldier communications while at the same time increasing the military's propaganda machine. What's next? Will the military forbid email? Are the soldiers to be reduced to WWII-era censored snail mail, too? In a weird and scary way, it seems to me that the very people who are supposed to lay their lives on the line for our rights are denied most of those same rights, almost to the level of inmates in our prison system.

Update (5/18/07): Today PhysOrg.com released an interview with the YouTube co-founders: http://www.physorg.com/news98692938.html. They said they could not understand why the military, with its massive network and its own YouTube channel, would use the excuse of not having enough bandwidth for its soldiers to use the system. They went on to explain how they were willing to work with the military to solve the problems, and that they censor particularly violent videos.

6 comments:

George said...

You obviously aren't entirely clear on computer networks and bandidth useage.

One streamed video uses a comparable chunk or the available bandwidth.

Your neice will shortly learn her place that whether or not she "likes" the war, she volunteered for it.

The military provides computers with (fairly)unrestricted access to the internet that are not on the internet that she should be able to use.

I'm not against such sites as YouTube, or myspace, as long as they are not on military networks.

Besides. Have you ever seen a military computer? Every single computer in the .mil domain shows the following(or extremely similar) warning before you can login in:

This is a Department of Defense computer system. This computer system, including all related equipment, networks and network devices (specifically including Internet access), are provided only for authorized U.S. Government use. DOD computer systems may be monitored for all lawful purposes, including to ensure that their use is authorized, for management of the system, to facilitate protection against unauthorized access, and to verify security procedures, survivability, and operational security. Monitoring includes active attacks by authorized DOD entities to test or verify the security of this system. During monitoring, information may be examined, recorded, copied, and used for authorized purposes. All information, including personal information, placed on or sent over this system may be monitored. Use of this DOD computer system, authorized or unauthorized, constitutes consent to monitoring of this system. Unauthorized use may subject you to criminal prosecution. Evidence of unauthorized use collected during monitoring may be used for administrative, criminal, or other adverse action. Use of this system constitutes consent to monitoring for these purposes.”

Notice those first 2 sentences?

Government use doesn't include wasting time watching videos.

Julia said...

To George, who wrote the above comment:

My brother is a combat medic and is currently deployed to Baghdad, Iraq. He has been there since June of LAST YEAR. And he has been extended, and will remain there until October of this year.

Do you know why he uses myspace?

So me, my mother and sister don't go out of our MINDS daily, and can see that he logged on and left a comment saying he loves us and misses us.

And I guarantee you that a majority of these soldiers in combat zones use the internet to communicate with their loved ones -- not to "waste time", as you so eloquently put it, watching videos.

Our soldiers are putting their lives on the line at the discretion of a commander-in-chief who sees them as mere numbers. I think they deserve to look at stupid videos to take their minds off things -- like, say, war-- every once in awhile ... don't you?

Anonymous said...

You're missing my point.

They can do whatever they want on their off time. The military blocked those sits on the MILITARY network.

Just like I can't get to myspace while I'm sitting here in my office.

Off duty time the military cares less what site you go to, on military time, you're the military's.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry, what portion of a military outpost in Baghdad is not considered "military?" Shall they just pop on over to the corner internet cafe and do a bit of on-line chatting? Three guys to coving you while one guy gets five minutes writing to the family? Have some compassion for those who are actually missing loved ones and a single youtube video can give them the contact they need to get through another long deployment.

Anonymous said...

They can also email such videos.

Anonymous said...

Right, because videos are so convenient to load via e-mail and obviously will not tie up the militaries networks. Helpful that they are sent to just one person instead of "posted" to anyone who wants to watch them. Anyway you look at it, this is a PR campaign at the expense of the troops.