Posted: 11:43 am EDT
The cornerstone of the 21st century statecraft policy agenda is Internet freedom. The policy contains three fundamental elements: the human rights of free speech, press, and assembly in cyberspace; open markets for digital goods and services to foster innovation, investment, and economic opportunity; and the freedom to connect—promoting access to connection technologies around the world. A third of the world’s population, even if they have access, live under governments that block content, censor speech, conduct invasive mass surveillance and curb the potential of the Internet as an engine of free speech and commerce.
— 21st Century Statecraft
U.S. Department of State
We’ve made references in this blog about the Great Firewall of State, most recently, when we blogged about the FS promotion stats on race and gender (see 2014 Foreign Service Promotion Results By Gender & Race Still Behind the Great Firewall of State), What we did not realize is that there is an entire operation at the State Department running the firewall operations from Annex SA-9. It is run by the Firewall Branch of the Bureau of Information Resource Management, Operations, Office of Enterprise Network Management, Perimeter Security Division (IRM/OPS/ENM/PSD/FWB).
Sometime this week, some folks apparently were no longer able to access this blog from the State Department’s OpenNet. OpenNet is the Sensitive but Unclassified (SBU) network in the Department. It provides access to standard desktop applications, such as word processing, e-mail, and Internet browsing, and supports a battery of custom Department software solutions and database management systems.
At this time, we believe that the block is not agency-wide and appears to affect only certain bureaus. Not sure how that works. We understand that some employees have submitted “unblock requests” to the State Department’s Firewall Operations Branch and were reportedly told that http://www.diplopundit.com/ has been categorized as “Suspicious.”
Holy moly macaroni!
We don’t know what constitute “suspicious” but apparently, under State’s Internet policy, this gives the agency the right to block State Department readers from connecting to this blog and reading its content.
But … but … this is the blog’s 8th year of operation and State has now just decreed that this blog is “suspicious”? Just for the record, this blog is hosted by WordPress, and supported by the wonderful people of Automattic. Apparently, the State Department’s DipNote also uses WordPress. Well, now that’s a tad awkward, hey?
Was it something we wrote? Was it about the journalists who ran out of undies? NSFW? Nah, that couldn’t be it. Was it about the petty little beaver? Um, seriously? Maybe that nugget about the aerial eradication in Colombia was upsetting? Pardon me, it’s not like we’re asking folks to drink the herbicide. Come again? You have no expectation of privacy when using the OpenNet? Well, can you blink three times when we hit the right note?
What should we call our State Department that’s quick to criticize foreign governments for blocking internet content for their nationals then turns around and blocks internet content for its employees?
Wass that? The right hand does not know what the left hand is doing? Blink. Blink. Blink.
We sent a couple emails to the IRM shop — firstname.lastname@example.org and Dr. Glen H. Johnson, the senior official in charge of IRM ops asking what’s going on. It seems the emails were chewed to bits, and we haven’t heard anything back. Looking for Vanguard contractors to blame? Blink.Blink.Blink. We’ll update if we hear anything more.