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

OpenSUSE fonts – The sleeping beauty guide

Pandora’s box of fonts is one of the many ailments of the distro world. As long as we do not have standards, and some rather strict ones at that, we will continue to suffer from bad fonts, bad contrast, bad ergonomics, and in general, settings that are not designed for sustained, prolonged use. It’s a shame, because humans actually use computers to interface with information, to READ text and interpret knowledge using the power of language. It’s the most critical element of the whole thing. OpenSUSE under-delivers on two fonts – anti-aliasing and hinting options that are less than ideal, and then it lacks the necessary font libraries to make a relevant, modern and pleasing desktop for general use. All of this can be easily solved if there’s more attention, love and passion for the end product. After all, don’t you want people to be spending a lot of time interacting, using and enjoying the distro? Hopefully, one day, all this will be ancient history. We will be able to choose any which system and never worry or wonder how our experience is going to be impacted by the choice of drivers, monitors, software frameworks, or even where we live. For the time being, if you intend on using openSUSE, this little guide should help you achieve a better, smoother, higher-quality rendering of fonts on the screen, allowing you to enjoy the truly neat Plasma desktop to the fullest. Oh, in the openSUSE review, I promised we would handle this, and handle it we did! Take care. Read more

Today in Techrights

Direct Rendering Manager and VR HMDs Under Linux

  • Intel Prepping Support For Huge GTT Pages
    Intel OTC developers are working on support for huge GTT pages for their Direct Rendering Manager driver.
  • Keith Packard's Work On Better Supporting VR HMDs Under Linux With X.Org/DRM
    Earlier this year Keith Packard started a contract gig for Valve working to improve Linux's support for virtual reality head-mounted displays (VR HMDs). In particular, working on Direct Rendering Manager (DRM) and X.Org changes needed so VR HMDs will work well under Linux with the non-NVIDIA drivers. A big part of this work is the concept of DRM leases, a new Vulkan extension, and other changes to the stack.

Software: Security Tools, cmus, Atom-IDE, Skimmer Scanner

  • Security Tools to Check for Viruses and Malware on Linux
    First and foremost, no operating system is 100 percent immune to attack. Whether a machine is online or offline, it can fall victim to malicious code. Although Linux is less prone to such attacks than, say, Windows, there is no absolute when it comes to security. I have witnessed, first hand, Linux servers hit by rootkits that were so nasty, the only solution was to reinstall and hope the data backup was current. I’ve been a victim of a (very brief) hacker getting onto my desktop, because I accidentally left desktop sharing running (that was certainly an eye opener). The lesson? Even Linux can be vulnerable. So why does Linux need tools to prevent viruses, malware, and rootkits? It should be obvious why every server needs protection from rootkits — because once you are hit with a rootkit, all bets are off as to whether you can recover without reinstalling the platform. It’s antivirus and anti-malware where admins start getting a bit confused. Let me put it simply — if your server (or desktop for that matter) makes use of Samba or sshfs (or any other sharing means), those files will be opened by users running operating systems that are vulnerable. Do you really want to take the chance that your Samba share directory could be dishing out files that contain malicious code? If that should happen, your job becomes exponentially more difficult. Similarly, if that Linux machine performs as a mail server, you would be remiss to not include AV scanning (lest your users be forwarding malicious mail).
  • cmus – A Small, Fast And Powerful Console Music Player For Linux
    You may ask a question yourself when you see this article. Is it possible to listen music in Linux terminal? Yes because nothing is impossible in Linux. We have covered many popular GUI-based media players in our previous articles but we didn’t cover any CLI based media players as of now, so today we are going to cover about cmus, is one of the famous console-based media players among others (For CLI, very few applications is available in Linux).
  • You Can Now Transform the Atom Hackable Text Editor into an IDE with Atom-IDE
    GitHub and Facebook recently launched a set of tools that promise to allow you to transform your Atom hackable text editor into a veritable IDE (Integrated Development Environment). They call the project Atom-IDE. With the release of Atom 1.21 Beta last week, GitHub introduced Language Server Protocol support to integrate its brand-new Atom-IDE project, which comes with built-in support for five popular language servers, including JavaScript, TypeScript, PHP, Java, C#, and Flow. But many others will come with future Atom updates.
  • This open-source Android app is designed to detect nearby credit card skimmers
    Protecting our data is a constant battle, especially as technology continues to advance. A recent trend that has popped up is the installation of credit card skimmers, especially at locations such as gas pumps. With a simple piece of hardware and 30 seconds to install it, a hacker can easily steal credit card numbers from a gas pump without anyone knowing. Now, an open-source app for Android is attempting to help users avoid these skimmers.