The U.S. military is banning and blocking employees from visiting The Intercept in an apparent effort to censor news reports that contain leaked government secrets.
According to multiple military sources, a notice has been circulated to units within the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps warning staff that they are prohibited from reading stories published by The Intercept on the grounds that they may contain classified information, and that there is a potential new leaker. The ban appears to apply to all employees—including those with top-secret security clearance—and is aimed at preventing classified information from being viewed on unclassified computer networks, even if it is freely available on the internet.
A military insider subject to the ban said that several employees expressed concerns after being told by commanders that it was “illegal and a violation of national security” to read publicly available news reports on The Intercept.
“Even though I have a top secret security clearance, I am still forbidden to read anything on the website,” said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject. “I find this very disturbing that they are threatening us and telling us what websites and news publishers we are allowed to read or not.”
On Monday, staff within the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps separately confirmed that they could not access The Intercept from work computers. Two Navy sources said that if they tried to view the site they were served with the insignia of the Strategic Command and a warning that they were “attempting to access a blocked website” that had been barred for “operational reasons” by a Department of Defense filtering system.
Earlier this month, after the publication of two Intercept stories revealing classified details about the vast scope of the government’s watchlisting program, Reuters reported that “intelligence officials were preparing a criminal referral” over the leaks.
The ban on The Intercept appears to have come in the aftermath of those stories, representing the latest in a string of U.S. military crackdowns on news websites that have published classified material.
Last year, the Army admitted that it was blocking parts of The Guardian’s website after it published secret documents from former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden. Flanagan, the Marine Corps spokesman, told The Intercept that The Washington Post was also blocked by some military agencies last year after publishing documents on NSA surveillance operations. In 2010, WikiLeaks was subject to similar measures after the publication of leaked State Department diplomatic files.
Also in March, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper forbid most intelligence community employees from discussing “intelligence-related information” with a reporter unless they had specific authorization to do so. “IC employees… must obtain authorization for contacts with the media” on intelligence-related matters, and “must also report… unplanned or unintentional contact with the media on covered matters,” the Intelligence Community Directive stated.