US Army blocks whistleblower Guardian over PRISM

The US Army has blocked access to the website of UK newspaper and PRISM whistleblower The Guardian, claiming security issues over leaked "classified information". Describing the move as "network hygiene" a spokesperson for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command (NETCOM) confirmed the block to the Monterey Herald, after restricted access was spotted this week. "There are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information" spokesman Gordon Van Vleet highlighted, with army security staff supposedly arguing that in fact the censorship is in the best interests of armed forces employees.

For instance, according to an email from Presidio of Monterey's information assurance security officer on Thursday, notifying staff at the site that The Guardian was being blocked, the move would avoid "labor intensive" work sanitizing computers which had inadvertently accessed classified data. Any employee knowingly downloading classified material onto an unclassified computer could find themselves facing disciplinary action, according to leaked details of the message sent by Jose Campos.

If such a situation was discovered, the hard-drive of the computer would have to be wiped at the very least, or potentially even physically destroyed.

"We make every effort to balance the need to preserve information access with operational security" Van Vleet said of the block. "However," he continued, "there are strict policies and directives in place regarding protecting and handling classified information."

News on PRISM broke earlier this month, with the UK newspaper publishing confidential information about a clandestine monitoring program allegedly operated by the US government. The data came from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who later shed his anonymity and is currently trying to evade extradition back to the US.

The PRISM revelations prompted outcry, not only from the public and privacy activists, but from companies named in Snowden's leaks. Google, Microsoft, and others all took issue with the suggestion that they had granted – or succumbed to – back-door access into their servers for the NSA and other security agencies, arguing that they only revealed the bare minimum of necessary data when legally required to.

Greater focus on such requests, usually made under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), has in fact prompted Google and Microsoft to demand more flexibility in reporting the frequency of disclosures. Not being free to do so, the companies argued, damaged their reputations among users, and led to uncertainties over how secure data stored in services like Gmail and Windows Live Mail might be.

There's more on PRISM in our SlashGear 101 summary.