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Army blocks Internet library, prompting FOIA request

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  1. Freedom of Information
The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) filed a Freedom of Information Act request today in an attempt to make public…

The Federation of American Scientists (FAS) filed a Freedom of Information Act request today in an attempt to make public the largest online library of U.S. Army manuals and publications – a Web site that was, until last week, open to anyone.

As of Feb. 6, the Reimer Digital Library, has been blocked and requires an Army-provided password for access. The FAS requested a copy of the entire library so that it can post the contents on its Web site, said Steven Aftergood, the director of FAS’ Project on Government Secrecy.

“What’s striking about it is all of the publicly available contents had been specifically approved for public access,” Aftergood said. “These were not records that had been inadvertently disclosed. And, yet the army shut the door and effectively blocked access to these documents. It’s a particularly graphic example of a larger trend in which government records are being removed from the public domain.”

This is just one of many army Web sites that have recently been put behind password-protected firewalls of the Army Knowledge Online (AKO) log-in, which is essentially the “front door” for Army Web sites, said Don Gough, chief of the engineering division of the Army Training Support Center. He said he doesn’t know the reasoning behind the changes or how many specific sites will be affected.

“This is the direction the army is going,” Dough said, “to put all its training and products behind the (AKO) log-in.”

Dough said he doesn’t directly oversee the changes, but that he’s not opposed to making public again the portions of the library that were specifically declared open.

Aftergood, who visits the site nearly every day and had used the library as one of his main resources, plans on submitting weekly record requests of any new additions to the library. He said this will hopefully provide the army with an incentive to reverse its policy change.

“And, if they don’t,” Aftergood said. “We’re prepared to pursue these records through litigation if absolutely necessary and to publish them ourselves.”