Language Selection

English French German Italian Portuguese Spanish

Pentagon Troop-Morale Site Censors Political Messages

Filed under
Web

The Defense Department has removed messages containing political commentary from a Web site designed for people to show their support for U.S. forces serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Most of the postings at americasupportsyou.mil express love and encouragement -- "The greatest nation in the world is kept that way by men and women like you," reads one message from a family in Maryland -- without partisan asides.

But among the 60,000-plus messages were at least a few dozen -- located using the site's search function -- that equated troop support with backing the Bush administration's political goals. Still others lambasted Democratic politicians including Sens. John F. Kerry (Mass.) and Edward M. Kennedy (Mass).

A message sent by Stephanie A. Chalkey of Oceanside, Calif., "aka: Proud Republican," said: "I thank you Mr. President for all you have done and standing up to the one's [sic] who don't believe in you. My theory is that if they don't like it here; we will pay their way out. Can you put that in the budget? :-)"

Another by Jan Stout of Las Cruces, N.M., said: "I show my support verbally in public and by donations to the RNC and reelect George W. Bush campaigns." Both of these messages, visible on the site two weeks ago, are now gone.

The decision to remove such messages reflects a policy posted on the site last week that warns readers that political speech will be barred.

"We are not including messages with political commentary -- pro or con," said Allison Barber, deputy assistant defense secretary and creator of the Web site. "Frankly, this a site to support the troops and thankfully, our men and women in the military volunteer to defend our country no matter who is in political office."

Previously, the staff used its judgment to decide which messages would be published, Barber said in an interview conducted before the policy was displayed on the site.

The messages are reviewed by college interns, but Barber said full-time staff members decide which ones will be posted online.

Since the new policy was adopted, many messages, including all those found two weeks ago by washingtonpost.com using search terms such as "George Bush," "RNC" and "John Kerry," have been removed.

At the time this story was published, several messages remained on the site that both support and oppose the Bush administration and the U.S. military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Gary" from Flint, Mich., writes: "We very much support the troops serving but do not support the administration's handling of the conflicts where they are currently asked to serve. Please, bring them home as soon as possible."

"I verbally reinforce the actions of our administration when the occasion arises, which seems much more frequent than warranted," writes Robert E. Belville, Jr. of Beaumont, Tex. "I am a Viet Nam-era veteran who still despises the inappropriate actions of some during that conflict."

Posting political content on a taxpayer-financed, government-run Web site may not violate any rules, several experts said, but they warned that it creates an image problem.

The military "should not be seen as promoting a political agenda," said Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics and former general counsel for the Federal Election Commission.

Jonah Seiger, co-founder of ConnectionsMedia.com, which develops online campaign strategies for Democratic candidates, said posting political messages on the site could amount to tacit endorsement.

The Hatch Act forbids federal employees from supporting candidates and being politically active in their workplace, but experts said it is unclear how it would apply to messages from the public on sites such as americasupportsyou.mil.

Nevertheless, "It's questionable if a government-sponsored site is expending both taxpayer money and government employee time solely to burnish one party at the expense of another," said Larry Purpuro, founder of RightClick Internet strategies, which develops online strategies for Republican campaigns.

Barber, the chief of Defense Department communications, launched the site last November.

It attracted mass attention when President Bush urged people to leave messages there during a speech he gave at Fort Bragg, N.C., in late June. According to the Web site, people have so far left more than 127,000 messages, of which more than 60,000 have been edited and published. The site also displays hundreds of messages from U.S. service people back to their supporters.

Previously, messages to the troops were rejected if they were deemed abusive or non-supportive, Barber said.

Defense Department officials removed at least two messages from the site last month, the Wall Street Journal reported. Barber's office also oversees American Forces Radio and Television, the Pentagon Channel, the American Forces Press Service, the Defense Department's Internet operations and the Stars and Stripes newspaper.

The American Forces Radio and Television service was the target of scrutiny last year after CNN reported that the government-funded network broadcast one hour of the "Rush Limbaugh Show" every weekday. Barber told CNN that the service also broadcasts 1,200 other programs, including selections from National Public Radio.

By Robert MacMillan and Mary Specht
washingtonpost.com

More in Tux Machines

GNOME: WebKit, Fleet Commander, Introducing deviced

  • On Compiling WebKit (now twice as fast!)
    Are you tired of waiting for ages to build large C++ projects like WebKit? Slow headers are generally the problem. Your C++ source code file #includes a few headers, all those headers #include more, and those headers #include more, and more, and more, and since it’s C++ a bunch of these headers contain lots of complex templates to slow down things even more. Not fun.
  • Fleet Commander is looking for a GSoC student to help us take over the world
    Fleet Commander has seen quite a lot of progress recently, of which I should blog about soon. For those unaware, Fleet Commander is an effort to make GNOME great for IT administrators in large deployments, allowing them to deploy desktop and application configuration profiles across hundreds of machines with ease through a web administration UI based on Cockpit. It is mostly implemented in Python.
  • Introducing deviced
    Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been heads down working on a new tool along with Patrick Griffis. The purpose of this tool is to make it easier to integrate IDEs and other tooling with GNU-based gadgets like phones, tablets, infotainment, and IoT devices. Years ago I was working on a GNOME-based home router with davidz which sadly we never finished. One thing that was obvious to me in that moment of time was that I’m not doing another large scale project until I had better tooling. That is Builder’s genesis, and device integration is what will make it truly useful to myself and others who love playing with GNU-friendly gadgets.

KDE: Usability & Productivity, AtCore , Krita

  • This week in Usability & Productivity, part 6
  • AtCore takes to the pi
    The Raspberry Pi3 is a small single board computer that costs around $35 (USD). It comes with a network port, wifi , bt , 4 usb ports , gpio pins , camera port , a display out, hdmi, a TRRS for analog A/V out. 1GB of ran and 4 ~1GHz armv8 cores Inside small SOC. Its storage is a microSd card they are a low cost and low power device. The Touchscreen kit is an 800×480 display that hooks to the Gpio for touch and dsi port for video. To hold our hardware is the standard touch screen enclosure that often comes with the screen if you buy it in a kit.
  • Look, new presets! Another Krita 4 development build!
    We’ve been focusing like crazy on the Krita 4 release. We managed to close some 150 bugs in the past month, and Krita 4 is getting stable enough for many people to use day in, day out. There’s still more to be done, of course! So we’ll continue fixing issues and applying polish for at least another four weeks. One of the things we’re doing as well is redesigning the set of default brush presets and brush tips that come with Krita. Brush tips are the little images one can paint with, and brush presets are the brushes you can select in the brush palette or brush popup. The combination of a tip, some settings and a smart bit of coding! Our old set was fine, but it was based on David Revoy‘s earliest Krita brush bundles, and for Krita 4 we are revamping the entire set. We’ve added many new options to the brushes since then! So, many artists are working together to create a good-looking, useful and interesting brushes for Krita 4.

Software: GIMP, Spyder, SMPlayer

  • Five free photo and video editing tools that could save burning a hole in your pocket and take your creativity to the next level
    GIMP stands for the Gnu Image Manipulation Program and is the first word that people usually think about when it comes to free image editors. It’s a raster graphics editor, available on multiple platforms on PC. It has a similar interface to Photoshop: you have your tools on one side, there’s an option for your tool window and then you have your layers window on another side. Perhaps one of the most useful features of GIMP is the option of plugins. There is a wide database for them and there’s a plugin for almost any task you might need to carry out. GIMP is extremely extensive, and it’s the choice of the FOSS community, thanks to the fact that it’s also open source. However, there are also some disadvantages. For example, GIMP has no direct RAW support yet (you have to install a plugin to enable it, which means a split workflow). It also has quite a bit of a learning curve as compared to Photoshop or Lightroom.
  • Introducing Spyder, the Scientific PYthon Development EnviRonment
    If you want to use Anaconda for science projects, one of the first things to consider is the spyder package, which is included in the basic Anaconda installation. Spyder is short for Scientific PYthon Development EnviRonment. Think of it as an IDE for scientific programming within Python.
  • SMPlayer 18.2.2 Released, Install In Ubuntu/Linux Mint Via PPA
    SMPlayer is a free media player created for Linux and Windows, it was released under GNU General Public License. Unlike other players it doesn't require you to install codecs to play something because it carries its own all required codecs with itself. This is the first release which now support MPV and some other features such as MPRIS v2 Support, new theme, 3D stereo filter and more. It uses the award-winning MPlayer as playback engine which is capable of playing almost all known video and audio formats (avi, mkv, wmv, mp4, mpeg... see list).

Funding: Ethereum and Outreachy

  • How Will a $100 Mln Grant Help Ethereum Scale?
    On Feb. 16, six large-scale Blockchain projects OmiseGo, Cosmos, Golem, Maker and Raiden, that have completed successful multi-million dollar initial coin offerings (ICOs) last year, along with Japanese venture capital firm Global Brain have created the Ethereum Community Fund (ECF), to fund projects and businesses within the Ethereum ecosystem.
  • Outreachy Is Now Accepting Applications For Their Summer 2018 Internships
    This week Google announced the participating organizations for GSoC 2018 for students wishing to get involved with open-source/Linux development. Also happening this week is the application period opened for those wishing to participate in the summer 2018 paid internship program.