I have a friend who sends a note every year in December, pleading with me to pen one upbeat, hopeful piece before the next year rolls around. Mind you, I consider myself an upbeat guy in a downbeat world and, for me, when it comes to pure upbeatness, you couldn’t have beaten this week if you tried. This was when my Oscar came inâ€”or the equivalent on the political Internet anyway. On December 7th, the State Department announced its brave decision to host UNESCO’s World Press Freedom Day in 2011. (“[W]e are concerned about the determination of some governments to censor and silence individuals, and to restrict the free flow of informationâ€¦”) Less than two weeks later, I learned that if you try to go to TomDispatch.com from a State Department computer, you can’t get there. The following message appears instead:
“Access Denied for Security Risk (policy_wikileaks)
“Your requested URL has been blocked to prevent classified information from being downloaded to OpenNet.”
OpenNet is what the State Department calls its unclassified Web system. Maybe it should now consider changing that name as it prepares for World Press Freedom Day. (Small tip to State Department officials: remember that TomDispatch is just as good a read at home as at work!) I’m sure this is all part of the Obama administration’s fabulous sunshine policy, that “new standard of openness” the president embraced on his first day in the Oval Office. It’s certainly part of the U.S. government’s ridiculous attempt to bar its officials, contractors, and anyone else it can reach from the once-secret State Department documents that WikiLeaks is slowly releasing and that everyone else on Earth has access to.
As for me in this holiday season, I couldn’t be happier. Among those sites banned by the State Department, I’m sure in good company and, of course, you’re not likely to be banned if no one’s reading you in the first place. And here’s the holiday miracle: somehow TomDispatch made it onto The List without revealing a single secret document or even hosting one at the site, evidently on the basis of having commented in passing on the WikiLeaks affair.