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New Log-in Notice to Clarify Computer Use Issues

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Nov. 28, 2007 – Defense Department employees soon will see a new notice on their government computer screens informing them that their e-mails are subject to monitoring and that use of the computer means they recognize and consent to that monitoring.

The revised language will appear throughout the department within the next two weeks, an official from the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Networks and Information told American Forces Press Service.

John Grimes, DoD’s chief information officer, signed a policy memo earlier this month mandating the new electronic notice and consent banner on all DoD information systems. Grimes set a Dec. 12 deadline for all Defense Department entities, including the military services, to use the revised wording.

The banner notifies users that their systems may be monitored for “penetration testing, COMSEC (communications security) monitoring, network defense, quality control, and employee misconduct, law enforcement and counterintelligence investigations.”

It also includes a paragraph clarifying that passwords, access cards, encryption and biometric access controls are used to provide security for the benefit of the government – not to provide personal privacy to employees.

The notice also will appear on government BlackBerry devices and other personal digital assistants and personal electronic devices, although the wording will be shorter than on computers.

The new verbiage is designed to clarify the DoD policy in light of a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces decision. The court ruled that the current banner warning, which has been in place for a decade, does not state clearly enough that employees have no right of privacy when using government computer systems.

In that case, a servicemember received notice that she was required to undergo a random urinalysis test. She, in turn, e-mailed several other people, discussing her fear that her drug use would be detected and the steps she had taken to avoid detection, officials in Grimes’ office explained.

Investigators used those e-mails as evidence in a prosecution. The servicemember was convicted and sentenced, but an appellate court set aside the findings and sentence, because the banner did not clearly state that there was no right of privacy in e-mails.

The revised banner will ensure all users of government computer systems understand that there is no right of privacy in e-mails, officials said.

Defense Department officials said monitoring is critical in ensuring government systems aren’t compromised by viruses or hackers, and to identify threats as early as possible.

“In order to protect DoD information systems, DoD needs to be able to monitor all traffic flowing through and across DoD systems,” an official said.

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