I understand that they have the authority to do this. They did it a few years ago, in fact, when the Guardian and the New York Times started publishing Wikileaks stuff. What I don’t understand is why they’d want to do it. Is the value to the Army of blacking out the Guardian greater than the value of the PR they’re handing to Edward Snowden and Glenn Greenwald?

The Army admitted Thursday to not only restricting access to The Guardian news website at the Presidio of Monterey, as reported in Thursday’s Herald, but Armywide…

Gordon Van Vleet, an Arizona-based spokesman for the Army Network Enterprise Technology Command, or NETCOM, said in an email the Army is filtering “some access to press coverage and online content about the NSA leaks.”

He wrote it is routine for the Department of Defense to take preventative “network hygiene” measures to mitigate unauthorized disclosures of classified information…

Presidio employees described how they could access the U.S. site, www.guardiannews.com, but were blocked from articles, such as those about the NSA, that redirected to the British site.

Greenwald, naturally, was accepting high-fives on Twitter upon hearing the news:

Question for Army veterans: How hard would it be for you to get around a blackout of this sort? It’d be hard in the field, I assume, since your access to communications (probably?) runs exclusively through the Army. But if you’re stationed somewhere outside a war zone, this is as simple as pulling up the Guardian on your cell phone under your private data plan, right?

The goal here seems to be to strike a symbolic blow for keeping secrets secret by refusing to allow Army servers to carry stories about Snowden’s leaks, even though the rest of the world has access to them. That information was supposed to be classified, and the Army’s going to formally honor that classification by not lending its own network to the effort to publicize the info. As always with a blackout, though, it risks driving more people to the material by piquing their curiosity; more than that, it plays into the Snowden/Greenwald point about the state’s desperation to hide the fact of its own surveillance. In no real sense can you black out information that’s accessible on most computers in the free world, but you can stage a symbolic yet almost certainly futile blackout inside your own institution. Like I say, is it worth doing that given the PR benefits to the other side? If it is, why hasn’t the rest of the federal government (or the other service branches) imposed a similar blackout? Or have they?

Maybe there’s more to it than just a symbolic blackout. Could be that the Army’s worried about potential leakers within the ranks — and who could blame them after Bradley Manning? — and they don’t want to make it any easier for those people either to be inspired by Snowden or, possibly, to piece something bigger together by combining what they know with what Snowden’s revealed. The problem with that theory is that a potential leaker is the most likely sort of servicemen to seek out info on Snowden. He won’t be stopped by restrictions on the service’s computers. He’ll get it through some other means, so this is no barrier to leakers realistically. What am I missing here?