The Great Firewall of State Bites, State/IRM Now Considers Diplopundit “Suspicious.” Humph!

Posted: 11:43 am EDT
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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.”

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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?

Unless …

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 — cio@state.gov 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.

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Evgeny Morozov Explains Why Secretary Clinton Should Join Anonymous

Evgeny  Morozov writes in slate.com that the State Department and the online mob are both destroying “Internet freedom.” Excerpt:

The diplomats’ problems are quite well-known by now. While Hillary Clinton likes to give speeches in which she fashions herself the world’s greatest defender of “Internet freedom,” the harsh reality is that her own government is its greatest enemy. Given the never-ending flow of draconian copyright and cybersecurity laws coming from Washington, this fact is getting harder and harder to conceal from the global public, who starts to wonder why American diplomats keep criticizing Russia or China but don’t say anything about the impressive online spying operation that the National Security Agency is building in Utah. Nor does the State Department object when America’s allies push for harsh surveillance laws; Britain, with its proposed surveillance legislation, is a case in point. America’s “Internet freedom agenda” is at best toothless and at worst counterproductive. While focusing on (and overselling) the liberating promise of social media in authoritarian regimes, it conceals a number of emerging domestic threats that have nothing to do with dictators—and everything to do with aggressive surveillance, disappearing privacy, and the astonishing greed of Silicon Valley.

Continue reading, Why Hillary Clinton Should Join Anonymous.

Evgeny  Morozov, one of the few out there who refused to jumped on the Internet Freedom bandwagon is a Foreign Policy and Boston Review contributing editor and the author of The Net Delusion: The Dark Side of Internet Freedom. Last year, he poured scalding water over Foggy Bottom’s well, net delusion:

“The State Department’s online democratizing efforts have fallen prey to the same problems that plagued Bush’s Freedom Agenda. By aligning themselves with Internet companies and organizations, Clinton’s digital diplomats have convinced their enemies abroad that Internet freedom is another Trojan horse for American imperialism.”

That burns, doesn’t it? Let’s see if Alec Ross will pick up the conversation on why HRC should not join Anonymous.

Domani Spero

State Dept Anticipates Spending $25 Million on Internet Freedom This Year

What kind of Internet freedom support has the State Department provided in the Middle East region? The official non-response says an average of $19 million from 2008-2011 but did not break it down by region. And in 2012, despite the budget cuts, Internet freedom programming is up by 7 million in the Middle East and worldwide. Below is the official State Department response to that question:

ANSWER: Advancing Internet freedom is a priority for this administration. From 2008 through 2011, the State Department and USAID have spent $76 million on Internet freedom programming. This year, at a time when we are making significant budget cuts in many areas, we anticipate spending $25 million in Internet freedom programming. Through these programs, we provide training and tools to civil society activists, in the Middle East and throughout the world, to enable them to freely and safely exercise their freedoms of expression, association, and assembly on the Internet and via other communication technologies.

Across the Middle East, we have seen that access to technological tools enables people to tell their story to the world when they are otherwise silenced by repressive governments. Our Internet freedom programming is aimed at making sure that voices for peaceful democratic reform in the region can be heard.

As Yusuf (CatStevens) sings it – “Oh baby baby it’s a wild world, it’s hard to get by just upon a smile.” You need spending money, too. Absolutely!