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Grayson, The Guardian, And The Soldiers: Defense Amendment Would End Troop Censorship

This is a story that hasn't been covered yet, as far as we know: Alan Grayson is fighting for the right of US troops in the Middle East to read any online news outlet they want - including the one that keeps breaking new stories about the NSA.

This is a story that hasn't been covered yet, as far as we know: Alan Grayson is fighting for the right of US troops in the Middle East to read any online news outlet they want - including the one that keeps breaking new stories about the NSA.

They’re fighting for freedom, but they can’t read the story that has captivated the world. At least, America’s troops in the Middle East can’t read about the NSA scandal on the British newspaper which broke the story, together with the Washington Post. The Obama Defense Department blocked troops’ access to the Guardian website on July 1.

Just in time for Independence Day.

At first the military claimed that they were only blocking portions of the Guardian site, and that they were only doing it to preserve ‘network hygiene.’  If that isn’t a chilling phrase, what is?  That initial story from Spencer Ackerman and Dan Roberts included statement from the DoD claiming that they were blocking all reports about Edward Snowden and the NSA revelations as a matter of ‘hygiene.’

And yet the Washington Post carried most of the same information about the NSA story. In fact, it broke the story in coordination with the Guardian. Details were quickly picked up by most other news outlets. Neither the Post nor any other newspaper has seen its site blocked by the military.

What’s more, it was quickly discovered that the censorship wasn’t restricted to NSA-related items. The entire Guardian website has been blocked from troops’ eyes.  Why? Is it theGuardian’s tone? Its editorial thrust? Aren't our troops allowed to read what they like and form their own opinions?

What, precisely, is “unhygienic” about the Guardian?

Rep. Alan Grayson has introduced an amendment to the upcoming Defense Appropriations Bill which is impressive in its economy of language. It reads in full: “None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to restrict the access of members of the Armed Forces to publically available online news media during morale, welfare, and recreation periods.”

We would expect Grayson’s amendment to enjoy bipartisan support. National security isn’t threatened by providing our troops with the same other Americans have – especially since they’re citizens and voters, as well as soldiers. Democrats should support Grayson’s amendment because it fits well with their pro-soldier and pro-freedom of speech rhetoric. Republicans should support it because it’s making a potential source of Administration criticism available to our fighting – and voting – men and women.

This is another striking example of the Administration’s willingness to use extra-legal means against information outlets it dislikes, as when it pressured independent corporations like Visa and Mastercard to withhold services from Wikileaks. (Wikileaks had partnered with the New York Times, which faced no such extrajudicial punishment.)  This may be one more instance of the government pushing the bounds of propriety and/or legality to see what it can get away with –

- which so far has been a lot.

As far as we know, the Guardian is alone in receiving this censorship treatment. Coincidentally or not, the Guardian is the only major newspaper covering this story which does not have to make a profit. It is supported instead by a trust.

Coincidence? We report, you decide.

The Grayson Amendment will come up for a vote late this week or early next week. We’ll be following its progress. Some of the troops may be following it too – but not on the Guardian.

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