Tuesday, October 5, 2004

Let’s Hear It For “Military Intelligence”

I know that’s an oxymoron, but the Pentagon just keeps churnin’ ‘em out and someone has to keep score. And you gotta hand it to those military guys, they’ve got a way with timing. Both of these stories in the same day’s newspapers and I hardly know where to begin, with the tragedy or the comedy.


An article in the International Herald Tribune notes that the Pentagon has ordered Internet Service Providers in some twenty- five countries (including Japan, France, Britain and Spain) be denied access to the site of the Federal Voting Assistance Program. Ostensibly, this is to “protect it from hackers.”


If I have this straight, the Pentagon was given responsibility for providing online absentee ballots to both military and civilian citizens living overseas. And, one might note, the national election is less than five weeks away which allows precious little time to find an alternative that will meet deadline requirements. So someone in the chain of command, thinking the web site could be hacked, decided it was a safer bet to disenfranchise Americans living or working in those twent- five countries. Way to go! Why hack, hack, when one hack does it?


Susan Leader, the web manager of the Federal Voting Assistance Program and Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke, a Pentagon spokeswoman, both declined to comment further. Now what the hell does that mean? “declined to comment further.” It’s their business to comment. Each of their jobs are primarily communication responsibilities. A web manager? Web sites are nothing but communication. Krenke is a Pentagon spokeswoman? What kind of ‘spokes’ is it to decline to spoke?


Annalee Newitz didn’t decline to comment. Annalee is with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit group of passionate people, as they describe themselves — lawyers, technologists, volunteers, and visionaries — working to protect your digital rights. She said “It’s extremely ironic that the government is doing nothing to address the security of electronic voting machines, which have been proven vulnerable to hacking, yet they block web sites for expatriate Americans.”


You got that right, Annalee. Comedy or tragedy, you be the judge.


At the same time, busy as they are with blocking voter access, our Pentagon brass is burning the midnight oil to block prostitute access. In a landslide victory for masturbation afficionados, U.S. service members stationed oversees will (if approved) now be subject to courts martial for hanging out with hookers. Aw, c’mon. The courts martial call it “patronizing a prostitute.” Pauline Jelinek, in an AP article, explains that the Defense Department worries that its members will contribute to human trafficking in areas near their overseas bases. Rep. Christopher Smith, a NJ republican said “women and girls are being forced into prostitution for a clientele consisting largely of military service members, government contractors and international peacekeepers.” Smith doesn’t say anything about congressional representatives on fact-finding junkets.


Chris, come over here a minute, let me whisper in your ear. I don’t want to shock you and I know you’ve led a pretty sheltered life, having never actually served in the military, but this ‘patronizing’ stuff has been going on longer than wars. It’s not really an issue you want to get your name associated with, all those Iraq veterans coming home and whatnot.


This same Lt. Col. Ellen Krenke who declined to comment on fucking over the voters was positively voluble on fucking over the soldiers; “If approved, the amendment would make it a military offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to have contact with a prostitute,” spoke the spokeswoman, having finally found her tongue. According to the AP, “expanded evening and weekend education programs, band concerts, late night sports leagues and more chaplain activities” are meant to ease the pain. A band concert, just what every servicemember hopes for to fulfill a weekend pass. But it seems to me there’s no way Rummy’s going to avoid a massive expansion of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” mandate in the U.S. military.


If it didn’t make you want to cry, it would be laughable. Again, you have to be the judge of comedy or tragedy.