Department of Defense accused of blocking LGBT websites

Agency spokesman George Little says it's a problem with software and the Department of Defense is looking into it.

Is the Department of Defense blocking lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender  websites from its employees? Not intentionally, according to a public statement issued on the DOD Facebook page Friday.

Department of Defense press secretary George Little sent a personal statement Saturday to AMERICAblog editor John Aravosis, who wrote about the problem. Little admitted "some sites may have been unnecessarily blocked," and promised to investigate it.

"The Department of Defense strongly supports the rights of gay and lesbian men and women in uniform to serve proudly and openly," Little said in his statement. "With Internet technology constantly evolving, the Department of Defense is working to ensure that service members have access to an open Internet while preserving information and operational security."

Aravosis told MSN News he's glad the DOD is taking it seriously, but remains cautiously optimistic.

"I am satisfied for now, but we will have to check back and see what they have done in a few months," Aravosis said. "The problem is it's not consistent across the DOD. You can pull up these sites in some locations and you can't in others. It will take the DOD some time to investigate it, but I am glad they are finally doing it."

A military contact informed Aravosis that his blog was blocked on the DOD network. Aravosis asked other military contacts to take snapshots of other websites blocked by the Pentagon, including: AMERICAblog, The Daily Kos, Human Rights Campaign, Pam's House Blend and Towleroad.

The DOD's statement blamed the blocked access on a computer software glitch.

"The Department of Defense does not block LGBT websites," DOD's Facebook post said. "The pages referenced in several recent articles were denied access based on web filters blocking the 'Blog/Personal Pages' category, not the specific sites themselves.

"Personal blogs are blocked in accordance with DOD policy allowing military commanders the option to restrict access to personal pages for operational security reasons."

Aravosis points out the DOD does not block conservative sites belonging to Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter and anti-gay groups such as the Family Research Council and the National Organization for Marriage, sites he says fall under some of the same category.

"The LGBT filter existed in the (DOD's) computer network before the repeal of 'don’t ask, don’t tell'," Aravosis wrote. "The Pentagon was notified of the problem as early as last summer, 2012. Yet no one’s gotten around to doing anything about it.

"I’m also told that the censorship varies depending on service and geographical region – it's not entirely clear why the (DOD) doesn't use the same bans/filters nationwide and agency-wide, if it’s going to censor the Internet at all. This problem has to be fixed (agency) wide."

Zeke Stokes, a spokesman for OutServe, an association with more than 5,000 actively-serving LGBT military personnel, told Mother Jones that his organization had brought the problem to the DOD's attention when "don’t ask, don’t tell" was repealed in 2011 but didn’t receive a response until Aravosis blogged about it.

The DOD's Facebook statement resulted in a heated debate. Some commenters are calling for more transparency in the DOD's operations and others saying that employees shouldn't be accessing personal or non-mission related sites on a DOD system anyway.


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