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In a typically misguided display of bureaucratic ineptitude, the Department of Defense is blocking 13 popular social networking and media sites as of today, according to a memo sent Friday by Gen. B.B. Bell, the U.S. Forces Korea commander. The sites include video-sharing sites YouTube, Metacafe, iFilm, StupidVideos, FileCabi; social networks Myspace, BlackPlanet and Hi5; music sites Pandora, MTV, and live365; and the photo-sharing site Photobucket. The "reasons" cited: bandwidth and security: "This recreational traffic impacts our official DoD network and bandwidth ability, while posing a significant operational security challenge." This rationale is absurd and will be met with criticism in the media and anger within the ranks of the military.

While its true that many corporations are facing similar rises in recreational traffic and also instituting bans, one would hope that America's military networks are a bit more robust and that the Pentagon would be more tolerant and conciliatory to an overworked military deprived of familiar entertainment and close links to their families and friends. No matter what one thinks of these sites, they are certainly excellent tools for entertaining oneself and communicating with your loved ones. One would hope the military could exploit them to their advantage; certainly some positive usage and information is also involved along with the negative information they hope to control.

Suggesting such filters are an effective measure against intelligence leaks is simply absurd. Firstly, personal computer usage is not blocked (despite many soldiers not having their own computers and despite these personal computers still, presumably, clogging the DoD's network). Secondly, traditional lines of communication are still open to those abroad including email and myriad other web sites. (The fact that the memo only mentions 13 web sites shows the Pentagon's inability to comprehend the internet.Why not flickr? Facebook? Valleywag?)

The strangest rationalization is the potential for identity theft and/or compromising the network to "hacking and virus intrusion." Although some of these sites have had dodgy histories (to say the least), most corporations have implemented sufficient security to prevent such attacks. Is the Pentagon suggesting that its IT department is worse than the average company's staffed with Microsoft-certified network administrators?