Rumsfeld bans camera phones in Iraq
Sydney Morning Herald ; May 24, 2004
Mobile phones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army
installations in Iraq on orders from Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld,
Britain's The Business newspaper reported yeterday.
Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the US Defence Department
believes that some of the damning photos of US soldiers abusing Iraqis at
Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad were taken with camera phones.
"Digital cameras, camcorders and cellphones with cameras have been
prohibited in military compounds in Iraq," it said, adding that a "total
ban throughout the US military" is in the works.
Disturbing new photos of Iraqi prisoner abuse, which the US government
had reportedly tried to keep hidden, were published in Friday's
Washington Post newspaper.
The photos emerged along with details of testimony from inmates at Abu
Ghraib who said they were sexually molested by female soldiers, beaten,
sodomised and forced to eat food from toilets.
It seems many news papers and sites on the web have been reporting this story, although it is factually inaccurate.. here is A Story from Wired News with details and some more background:
Wired News; May 26, 2004
The rapid proliferation of digital cameras, phonecams and wireless gadgets among soldiers and military contractors is giving senior military officials concern, in the wake of images that showed abuse in an Iraqi prison and snapshots that showed rows of coffins of American soldiers.
The Defense Department said it hasn't banned the devices and doesn't plan to -- as the Business Times of London and two wire services have reported. But the Pentagon is telling commanders in the field to strictly monitor the use of consumer wireless technology through Directive 8100.2 -- Use of Commercial Wireless Devices, Services and Technologies in the Department of Defense Global Information Grid -- issued last month.
"We're in the situation today where everyone is using a cell phone, BlackBerry or some sort of wireless device that can be carrying voice, imagery or text -- and we either need that to be highly encrypted, or off of DOD systems altogether," said Department of Defense spokesman Lt. Col. Ken McClellan. "We don't want to be in a situation where anyone with a scanner can figure what we're about to do."
In a nutshell, the directive tells all soldiers, contractors and visitors to Defense Department facilities that they can only carry wireless devices that conform to the military's security standards. These specify that the devices use strong authentication and encryption technologies whenever possible. In addition, the devices cannot be used for storing or transmitting classified information. Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz signed it in April after two years of internal debate.
McClellan said commanders in the field haven't been told to use the directive to stamp out the use of the gadgets in Iraq. Instead, the directive is "general guidance" passed "along to the theater commanders, and they decide how to implement it in their own commands."
While Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld may not have signed a ban on new consumer digital-imaging technologies, he did express clear concern about the unforeseen impact of such technologies during the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on May 7.
"People are running around with digital cameras and taking these unbelievable photographs and passing them off, against the law, to the media, to our surprise, when they had not even arrived in the Pentagon," Rumsfeld said.
According to McClellan, some Defense Department lawyers may be reviewing how the spread of consumer digital-imaging technology among military contractors and enlisted personnel affects the military's obligation to abide by a Geneva Convention article against holding prisoners up to public ridicule. "Lawyers may have looked at that and said, 'It's probably a good idea to get these things out of the prisons.' There's no Pentagon-induced rule in the theater at this time ... but there may or may not be some discussion taking place as to how the directive might be supplemented in Iraq to prevent things we saw at Abu Ghraib."
Regardless, bloggers and media commentators perceive the directive as hand wringing by the administration, worried that someone else will expose another scandal. Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page chided the military's concern and called the devices "Weapons of Mass Photography" in a recent editorial, saying he believed every soldier should have a digital camera.
Blogger and media critic Jeff Jarvis called for the Pentagon to "ban stupidity, don't ban exposing it."
Apart from the debate around digital cameras in the battle zone, one significant item in the directive requires all branches of the military to encrypt unclassified data sent wirelessly by using FIPS 140-2-approved encryption, a tough-to-crack standard.
Other items in the April directive include mandatory implementation of antivirus software on PDAs and smartphones, a move likely to please vendors like McAfee and Symantec, both of which have military supplier contracts. And the directive recommends (but doesn't mandate) that all voice communication be encrypted.
Mizuko Ito, a cultural anthropologist who researches phonecams, culture and law, said that while authorities can -- and probably will -- attempt to restrict the use of handheld digital-imaging devices in specific facilities, the technology is too ubiquitous for any broad attempts at prohibition to be effective.
"The cat's already out of the bag, but what's striking about what we're seeing now is that it's very unlike the top-down, Big Brother surveillance we normally associate with the idea of other people watching you," she said. "This is a bottom-up, 'little brother,' peer-to-peer type of surveillance.
"My hope is that this will ultimately be a positive development, because powerful top-down institutions, like corporations or governments, won't be the only ones controlling the circulation of information."