With Washington abuzz over concerns Watergate reporter Bob Woodward was threatened by the White House over his critical reporting, another dispute is playing out involving WND – which is being censored on numerous military bases run by Barack Obama’s Department of Defense.
The exact number of bases isn’t known, but reports have come from Tinker Air Force Base, Kirtland Air Force Base, Hanscom Air Force Base, Hill Air Force Base and several others.
It was only a few years ago that WND was being blocked from Navy and Marine Corps bases worldwide. It took months of investigating before the block eventually was lifted.
WND reported at the time that the decision to block WND was reversed after a “security” issue was resolved.
WND reported that the Navy confirmed it was blocking users from access to the news site. At that time, Capt. Teresa Ovalle, from the Navy operations at Quantico, Va., where the Navy Marine Corps Intranet is managed, explained that it was an issue of security on the servers providing readers access to WND. The issues ultimately were resolved.
The current censorship problems online for WND came to light only over the last few weeks as readers contacted WND, asking why the site suddenly was blocked from various military bases.
Typical was yesterday’s contact from a man who works as a contractor at Hill Air Force Base in Utah.
The contractor, who like others who contacted WND is not being identified, reported that he normally checks WND’s front page via the link on the Drudge Report when he arrives at work.
“Everyone reads news of some sort at work,” the contractor said. “The USG is now apparently blocking WND. When clicking the link, it opens WND from the day Joseph [Farah] wrote about ‘some old proverbs.’ When you try to refresh – it’s a no go. WND works fine at home.”
WND first checked through its own processes and confirmed availability and compatibility. The company performs regular browser compatibility audits for desktop and mobile users using Internet Explorer, Safari, FireFox and Chrome. In addition, the company runs separate desktop and mobile websites for viewing WND stories, audio and video.
Department of Defense spokesman Damien Pickart told WND, when asked about the blocking, that it was being investigated.
“With Internet technology constantly evolving, the department is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security,” he said. ‘There are a number of different Internet tools used across the department to ensure that adequate cybersecurity and information security standards are maintained, and in certain instances, access may be limited to content not directly related to carrying out mission or professional duties.”
Pickart said that “to help maintain adequate levels of information security in support of department policy, some components employ commercial tools that may allow users to visit certain sites while restricting access to pages that fall under certain blocked categories.”
He said the DoD was not intentionally blocking WND.
But the complaints were widespread, including a reader who was unable to get through to WND through a U.S. Navy work computer.
“Up until about a month ago I could go to your website and read the news. Not anymore.”
- “I work on a southern U.S. Air Force Base and have checked your site for news for a couple years. Over the last three weeks, i have been unable to access your site. It displays as open, but is showing the same info/news from three weeks ago.”
- “It seems that WND.com has been put on a censored list of websites. I’m an employee for the Air Force and can no longer get WND articles (except for what is cached). But naturally I can get msnbc.com fine (http://www.nbcnews.com/), as well as http://www.salon.com/ and http://mediamatters.org/”
- Another reader simply got a website “error” message.
- “Used to be that the headlines would change daily; now they’re up for weeks!. Also, clinking on the headlines no longer does anything. Hmmmm. Is something sinister afoot?”
- From Kirtland was the comment: “I’m having trouble accessing your website, it’s been slow or I’ve been rejected for about a week and a half.”
- From Hanscom came: “This is what I get every time: ‘Network Error (tcp_error). A communication error occurred: ‘Operation timed out.’ The web server may be down, too busy, or experiencing other problems preventing it from responding to requests. You may wish to try again at a later time.”
- “Are you guys getting any questions about people not being able to get on your site from military installations? I can’t seem to pull you up at work on a DoD network … I can pull you up at the house though.”
WND readers have told the news site that problems with the website being blocked on military bases date back a decade.
“When I reported for duty in Oct. 2003, I was not able to access WND’s site,” one reader wrote earlier, saying he’d even asked about the problem but “never received a satisfactory answer.”
During the earlier episode, a contractor that runs much of the Internet service functions for the U.S. Marine Corps and the U.S. Navy said it was a Navy computer blocking access to WND.
WND’s own server statistics show the news site has a huge following among members of the military. Statistics gathered over just a few days show that from computers with an address ending in “.mil,” indicating a military source, there have been readers coming through hundreds and hundreds of Internet service providers.
Members of the military regularly contact WND from both domestic and foreign locations with news tips, concerns and notes of appreciation.
The McAfee Internet security corporation at one point listed WND as “blogs/wiki” and “controversial opinion” in a database of website URLs, triggering a number of systems to deny users access to the site.
In another case, a “Web Guard” option offered by T-Mobile on its cellular telephone service disconnected access for some readers to WND, mistakenly classifying it as “adult” material.
Another case arose in Minnesota when a reader told of getting a response of “inappropriate” when he tried to access WND through the Wi-Fi services at a Dunn Bros. coffee shop.
The coffee shop was using software from DansGuardian.org. Other problems were raised by WND readers over the work of one of the larger filtering companies, ContentWatch.com, which has a product called Net Nanny that has been cited by readers several times for incorrectly blocking WND for having “hate and violence.”
WND also has experienced deliberate discrimination. Several months ago, PRWeb, which distributes press releases from businesses, politicians, bloggers, activists and just about everyone, drew the line at sending out a paid report from the Beat Obama Committee that cited information from WND. PRWeb considered WND not “credible” and a “biased source of news.”
After days of delay and negotiations with PRWeb management, BOPAC reworked its press release, citing other news agencies, and the release was accepted.