The story appears on

Page A10

August 11, 2009

GET this page in PDF

Free for subscribers

View shopping cart

Related News

Home » World

US military notes online reaction to big events

AS the Pentagon warns of the security risks posed by social networking sites, newly released United States government documents show the military also uses these Internet tools to monitor and react to coverage of high-profile events.

The US Air Force tracked the instant messaging service Twitter, video carrier YouTube and various blogs to assess the public backlash to the Air Force One flyover of the Statue of Liberty this spring, according to the documents.

While the attempts at damage control failed - "No positive spin is possible," one PowerPoint chart reads - the episode opens a window into the tactics for operating in a boundless digital news cycle.

This new terrain has slippery slopes for the American military. Facebook, MySpace and other social media sites are popular among service members, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan who want to keep in touch with friends and family. The sites are also valued by military organizations for recruiting or communicating with other federal agencies.

Vulnerable sites

But posting information on them makes it vulnerable to being lost or stolen, according to Pentagon officials. Last Thursday, hackers shut down Twitter for several hours, while Facebook had intermittent access problems - an indication of the shortcomings of these services.

The Marine Corps' computer network blocks users from accessing social media sites, which service officials say expose "information to adversaries" and provide "an easy conduit for information leakage."

That prohibition might extend to other parts of the US military pending a top-level review ordered last month by Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn. In a memo, Lynn said such sites are important tools but more study is needed to understand their threats and benefits.

Air Force officials are already aware of the potential benefits.

According to the Air Force One documents released through the Freedom of Information Act, a unit called the Combat Information Cell at Tyndall Air Force Base in the US state of Florida monitored the public fallout from the April 27 flight over the Statue of Liberty.

The presidential plane took off for New York from Andrews Air Force in the state of Maryland accompanied by two F-16 jet fighters.


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend