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Air Force blocks access to sites that covered WikiLeaks

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The US Air Force is barring its personnel from using government computers to view The New York Times and 25 other websites that posted diplomatic memos released by WikiLeaks, according to news reports.

When personnel try to view the banned websites -- which also include The Guardian, Germany's Der Spiegel, Spain's El País and France's Le Monde -- they see a screen that says "Access Denied: Internet usage is logged and monitored," according to The New York Times and other publications. Maj. Toni Tones told CNN that not all of the sites that generate such messages are WikiLeaks related, but couldn't seem to explain what they were or why.

"This is consistent with the direction received in August 2010 that stated Air Force personnel should not access the WikiLeaks website to view or download the classified information," Tones told CNN.

Earlier this month, the White House told federal employees and contractors they were barred from reading classified documents posted to WikiLeaks unless they had the proper security clearance. The rule applies when they're using government machines or their own personal computers.

But so far, other branches of the military haven't followed suit. Spokesmen for the Army, Navy and Marines said they aren't blocking access to websites, largely because of the White House prohibition. A Defense Department spokesman told the NYT: "This is not DoD-directed or DoD-wide."

Lt. Col. Brenda Campbell, a spokeswoman for the Air Force Space Command, which oversees Air Force computer systems, told the paper that only sites posting "full classified documents, not just excerpts, would be blocked" and said "a judgment will be made" when documents appear on a given site.

Tuesday's move by the Air Force is the latest to tar journalistic organizations for covering what they believe to be news. Senator Joe Lieberman has gone one step further, proposing the NYT's coverage of Cablegate should be investigated by the Justice Department. ®

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