The Captain’s Journal Blocked in Afghanistan

BY Herschel Smith
5 years, 1 month ago

Joshua Foust and I were engaging in some friendly jousting over a few articles we had written (and found much more on which to agree than disagree), and some interesting information came to light.  You see, Joshua is currently in Afghanistan, and he responded to me that he couldn’t get to my web site as it was locally blocked by S6 (or otherwise CJ6 or J6, which is Army IT Staff).

I immediately copied the article into an e-mail and sent it on its way, but only later did the importance what Joshua said dawn on me.  Pressing him for more data and information, Josh responded with an article of his own.  The results of his little investigation are striking.

Blackfive is blocked, as is Abu Muqawama, Global Guerrillas, and our very own The Captain’s Journal.  This list is not comprehensive.  Allowed are Small Wars Journal, The Long War Journal, and rather interestingly, Bouhammer, whose URL has the word ‘blog’ in it.  I use WordPress to create articles, but I am not associated with WordPress and the Army would have no way of knowing what software I use.

The Captain’s Journal hasn’t been swept up in some doltish group block such as with Twitter.  No, we have been specially selected.  Says Joshua:

On a personal level, Registan.net is blocked. This is not an automatic block, as the category used in the reason line is “local blocks,” or it was manually added. Why an S6 would want to block this blog from being read on Army computers escapes me, but it is nevertheless the case. Many other blogs, including everything on blogspot, are also inaccessible … I see no noticeable rhyme or reason to this, aside from some local blocks, like Captain’s Journal, that are deeply puzzling. But it also speaks to a deeper problem in how the military in general is approaching IT issues in the field: it makes absolutely no sense. Many of the blocked blogs are sources for deep, intelligent, and even essential analysis, news, and discussions. In fact, I only know they are blocked because I read them and see value in them.

Someone in the Army in Afghanistan, after reading our content, has made the decision to initiate a local block of The Captain’s Journal.  Is it a field grade officer?  Is it a member of Army IT staff?  We don’t yet know.  But we do know that this is not accidental.

Now, we have been critical of the failure to look forward and plan for problems in logistics in Afghanistan, given that we pointed out the strategy now being employed by the Taliban one year ago in Taliban and al Qaeda Strategy in Pakistan and Afghanistan.  We also shot straight with Major General David Rodriguez (and Army intelligence) for ignoring the signs and even arguing that there wouldn’t be a Taliban spring offensive in 2008.  And while we praised certain parts of the campaign such as the Marine Corps operation in Helmand, we were also critical of certain other parts such as the disaster at the Battle of Wanat, especially focusing on the lack of control over the terrain at Observation Post Top Side.

But there are bright aspects of our prose, such as our almost constantly reminding command that Afghanistan needs more troops along with Generals McNeill and McKiernan.  We don’t apologize for any of it.  We aren’t a cheerleader site.  We don’t try to beat other web sites with breaking news.  We don’t regurgitate talking points.  We are an analysis and advocacy web site.  Our track record is impeccable, from advocating troop increases in Iraq before the word “surge” had ever been heard, to predicting the interdiction of logistical routes through the Khyber pass.

The troubling aspect of The Captain’s Journal being blocked isn’t our own reputation.  We won’t change, and we will only do what we can do to influence policy, logistics, strategy and tactics.  We are still a relatively small blog, but we have been contacted by a number of military both in Afghanistan (before we were blocked) and after coming back stateside.  We have been told that we are one of the more “squared away” web sites on Afghanistan.

But even if it’s unlikely that The Captain’s Journal could make any substantive difference in the state of affairs – and we are not convinced that this is so – the troubling aspect of being blocked is what it says about the Army and its institutional intransigence.  I already have had such experiences with the Marine Corps, and my relationship with PAOs has probably been irrevocably harmed as a result.

But when the Army’s own Command General Staff College is now requiring its officers to blog, what does this say about their own ability to listen to constructive criticism when they apparently cannot bear the scrutiny of The Captain’s Journal?  This is not a good sign.

Others:

Joshua Foust, Registan, Dispatches from FOBistan

Wings Over Iraq, Regarding Proxy Servers and Blocked Websites

David Axe, War is Boring Blocked!

Prior:

The Captain’s Journal, Thoughts on the New Media and Military Blogging



  • Sepodati

    You know, there doesn’t have to be a conspiracy for everything. If your website falls into the same websense category as forums.bodybuilding.com and that category is blocked, then neither site will work. It will have zero to do with the content of the site and not require any conscious effort by an administrator with regards to your specific blog/journal. Just sayin…

  • timekills

    For a web site that prides itself on unbiased commentary, I’d expect more insight into whay your site my be blocked. I’ll say only that it is obvious this is a WordPress – and thus a blog – site, and due to potential malicious code in blog stes and unfortunately WordPress sites specifically they are, by default, blocked. My personal WordPress-generated website was also blocked until I asked to have it added to the safe list. Much as your site will probably be added to the safe list if someone asks to have it reviewed.

    Editorial comment from The Captain’s Journal: I wish it was that simple, but I’m not sure that it is. To say that malicious code can come from web sites that use WordPress as their software to write posts so ban all WordPress sites, is like saying we don’t like Greenhouse gas emitters so ban all Fords. Malicious code can come from anywhere. Besides, I currently have two officers in the Army looking into this – unsolicited – and the little investigation is still ongoing.

    But you’re right in that the assumption behind the article was that this site was banned because of critical stances against some of the strategic malaise that had threatened the campaign. Let’s take your perspective, though, and assume that the software is banning TCJ because – as the comment above shows – it falls into the same category as bodybuilding (note that this comment from someone in Afghanistan doesn’t say that it is a WordPress site, but that it falls into the same category as bodybuilding, making a lot of sense with all of the bodybuilding discussion on this site). But sarcasm aside, I had initially thought that the site was blocked because of content. This is a “smart” error. That is, it had to do with someone actually reading the content (and I do get hits from Afghanistan) and deciding on its viability. This error is correctable. With your assumption, the Army is using stupid software to do stupid things, and apparently doesn’t care. This error is not correctable. I’m not sure which is worse. Maybe the later rather than the former.

    Just to be clear, I do not pride myself on being unbiased. I try to offer good analysis and commentary. This is not inconsistent with being unbiased.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    I didn’t say that this web site fell into the same category as forums.bodybuilding.com. If you go back to the original post at Registan.net, you will find that the keywords:

    WordPress
    Typepad
    blog(s)
    blogspot

    Are blocked. This URL has none of those keywords in them.

  • Pingback: Afghan&Military Blog » Blog Archive » Bouhammer is not Blocked, for now

  • subbob

    The Blog Roll at the Army’s CAC blog site (http://usacac.leavenworth.army.mil/BLOG/) has 24 blogs listed. Not that it necessarily means anything, but it would be interesting to know how many of those were blocked and inaccessible from Afghanistan and/or Iraq.

    It’s also ironic that the site’s blog rules (Rule #6) states – “Entries and discussions should not be political nature, contain political bias or be construed to advocate a political party.” – yet the Blog Roll contains a link to the Huffington Post! That site is a rabidly left blog masquerading itself as a news organization.

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  • timekills

    Normally I wouldn’t engage in folow-on commentary, because invariably the “Captain” as author of this blog will have the last word and his readers will probably side with him. C’est la vie. If it matters I am an officer, and am (was) working on the stated problem of your site being blocked in Afghanistan.
    First – it wasn’t blocked in Afghanistan. There were some locations that were having difficulties getting to it due to some technical difficulties we were having with Internet connectivity in general. I can’t get much more specific here.
    Second – yes, the methodology of blocking or not certain sites may seem “dumb” to you. Let’s just say we err on the side of caution in today’s cyber-threat heavy world. Additionally, we prefer to utilize our time and resources more towards closing and destroying the enemy than scanning every web page on the Internet for potentially mis-labeled sites taht are blocked. As I stated – if someone wants to read a site and it is blocked inadvertantly, we’ll unblock it if it is not considered unsafe for pre-defined reasons (typically pornographic or malicious sites are the only ones that are pre-defined as not viewable.) If no one wants it unblocked, it probably wasn’t all that relevant site anyway. I suppose you should feel happy that your site is important enough to Soldiers/Marines/Airmen/Sailors in Afghanistan that someone wanted to know why they couldn’t get to it.

    Basically, your blog comments made good news, as news casts often do, but was just a bit more conspiratorial and anti-truth than I’ve come to expect from this site.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    Oftentimes my readers do not side with me, and vehemently so. Your attitude is snarky, and less than I’ve come to expect from good officers.

    Your latest comment added little to nothing that wasn’t said before in the comments and post. Basically, the block seems to be at Bagram rather than other FOBs, as fact that has been verified by contacts throughout Afghanistan. This would seem to be an AF thing, not an Army thing. You can correct this if it is the wrong impression.

    You should become a little more accustomed to blog posts as an ongoing conversation. From time to time I will post interviews, from time to time use MSM reports and comment and analyze, and from time to time publish information directly from contacts that the MSM doesn’t have.

    In this case, I would have made exactly zero progress in understanding the blocking of my site (and other sites) unless I made some set of assumptions and worked from there. Readers and contacts respond, I update, readers respond again, I update, and so on. It’s how the process works.

    Now. You are welcome to post comments – even disagreeing with my own. I’m am neither offended nor less confident in the things I write. But you are not welcome to be disagreeable in your disagreement.

  • Sepodati

    Your site does fall into the same websense category as forums.bodybuilding.com. I don’t make the websense categories, but I do choose which ones are allowed. For whatever reason, that category wasn’t. Now it is. Once again, the block had absolutely nothing to do with your content, views or political stances. Nothing. All it took was for someone to ask for it to be unblocked and 10 minutes later it was. It is that simple and it is a correctable process.

  • http://www.captainsjournal.com/ Herschel Smith

    For readers, I’ve confirmed Sepodati’s identity by e-mail. Now. I can only say what a smart piece of software you have there. Really. Just sayin …

    As for the Army thing, I am still under the impression that this was related to my reader being at Bagram. FOB Salerno, in Khost is able to get to this web site without it being “unblocked.” If this is indeed an Army thing as opposed to AF (which apparently has a fairly well-known hatred of blogs), then the Army has bigger problems than I thought. There isn’t even consistency in either the software or its application.


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This article is filed under the category(s) Media,Military Blogging and was published March 8th, 2009 by Herschel Smith.

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