Air Force 'Notice to Airmen' Warns Them Not to Read NSA Data-Mining and Related Stories

In a story which I can attest is accurate, Gina Loudon at WND.com, formerly WorldNetDaily, reports that the Air Force's 624th Operations Center is warning airmen not to look at the news.

That's not exactly what they're saying, but they might as well be. What the "Notice to Airmen" says is that "Users are not to use AF NIPRNET systems to access the Verizon phone records collection and other related news stories because the action could constitute a Classified Message Incident." It's currently pretty hard to go to a news site without seeing a blurb on a "related story," given how many "related stories" there are which go way beyond Verizon to nine tech companies, 50 other companies, Edward Snowden, White House, congressional and bureaucrats' responses, etc. The Air Force's claim that reading a news story or even looking at documents which have been made public is a "Classified Message Incident" is pretty shaky, based on the definition provided in a two-year old memo I located. That definition, and a grab of the censorious memo, follow the jump.


Here's the relevant portion of the memo:

AForderNotToReadNews060713

Here's the definition I found of a "Classified Message Incident," accompanied by additional commentary (bolds are mine):

6/8/2011 - AVIANO AIR BASE, Italy -- A classified message incident is when classified material or information is sent through e-mail over an unsecured work center computer such as the one I am using to write this article. A CMI is a foundational break down in our ability to protect classified information and results in a loss of man-hours, money and time. We as a team must focus on preventing these costly incidents and ensure everyone has a broader understanding of the CMI process and how we can prevent them.

Causes of CMIs are numerous and highlight poor classified protection practices. Computer users can prevent CMIs by not transmitting sensitive to classified material through normal e-mail and instead use secure means such as secret internet protocol router network, commonly referred to as SIPRNet. Information Protection practices are aimed at preventing the transmission of classified material through e-mail. E-mail users must take the time to consider material classification being written on their desktop or laptop before sending. Poor classified protection practices can be eliminated by slowing down. Always determine classification of material you are working with and never send classified via unsecured means.

... Raising awareness about what a CMI is and how to prevent them are positive steps we can take to continue our efforts in preventing them. Together, we can make a difference by slowing down when writing information, ensuring we are fully aware of the type or classification of material we are working with, and learning from our costly mistakes. Remember, preventing CMIs saves man-hours, money and time.

Everything discussed above has to do with sending information which shouldn't be sent.

If the Air Force has an argument, it's that its personnel arguably shouldn't be sending "look at this" emails to friends, relatives and acquaintances about the allegedly security-compromising leaks.

There is nothing in the CMI definition or the rest of the memo which could conceivably stretch its definition to include receiving the bits and bytes of a news story and then reading it.

The Air Force memo effectively keeps service members from accessing Drudge, the New York Times, the Associated Press, and virtually every other national and international news site's home page for the next several days -- if not weeks and months, at the rate things are going.

This isn't what our service members has in mind when they swore to "support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic," and that they "will bear true faith and allegiance to the same;" Those sections of the oath come before those relating to obeying the orders of the President of the United States and the officers appointed over them.

Officers at the 624th need to be ordered to stop bullying their subordinates. Frankly, someone deserves some serious discipline for issuing such a tyrannical order.

This story, whose accuracy I was able to indirectly verify, is not news anywhere except WND.

Does anyone remember the military ordering soldiers not to read stories about Watergate in 1973 and 1974? I didn't think so.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.

Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer
Tom Blumer is a contributing editor for NewsBusters.