Thursday, July 29, 2010

JSF hijinks at DND

Well this sounds like all kinds of badness courtesy of some unknown DND personnel, mucking around with a wikipedia entry on the government's purchase of the new Lockheed Martin joint strike fighters:
Defence Department computers in Ottawa have been used to alter information on a Wikipedia page critical of the Conservative government’s decision to spend billions on a new stealth fighter.

Nine attempts have been made to change the online encyclopedia’s entry on the Joint Strike Fighter, including the removal of any information critical of the Harper government’s plan to spend at least $16-billion on the new aircraft.

Defence Department computers were also used to insert insults, aimed at Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff, into the Wikipedia Joint Strike Fighter page. Mr. Ignatieff has questioned the proposed purchase.

Quotes from news articles outlining opposition to the purchase by University of British Columbia professor Michael Byers, a former NDP candidate, were also removed.

Wikipedia traced the alterations to three computers owned by Defence Research and Development Canada’s Ottawa offices. The online site has labelled the July 20-21 alterations as vandalism.

The attempts to change the web page, made during work hours, stopped when Wikipedia administrators locked down the entry on the Joint Strike Fighter, or JSF. That allowed only recognized editors to work on the page. That particular Wikipedia site is popular, with more than 78,000 page views in the first three weeks of July.
A DND spokesperson is characterizing the alterations tracked to DND computers as "freelancing."
“It sounds to me like someone was freelancing,” said Martin Champoux, DRDC’s manager of public affairs. “This is not behaviour we commonly condone.”
No, I'm sure they don't and will make sure it ceases. Here's one page on the F-35s with a Canada entry and the version of the page that may have been so altered as described above.

The Harper government has entered the online communications world, hiring a firm to monitor online discussion about the seal hunt, as a pilot project. There has been no word, however, on whether any online DND project exists in respect of the JSF.

Clearly what is described above is line crossing that shouldn't be happening. Any user with any degree of sophistication should have known that ham-handed attempts to manage the information would be caught-out. There have been enough incidents over the years of attempted self-interested management on Wikipedia that are quickly found out and corrected. So it's a little surprising in that respect for someone at DND to even attempt this information management.

Not to blow this up too much, because it just might be a few rogues involved but it should be said...DND employees taking shots at a political leader is also something that just shouldn't be happening. A United States General just resigned over such an incident. The military is subject to civilian leadership, no matter the stripe. It would be open to a new government to indeed review that JSF deal and make its own decision down the road.

In the meantime, the military spokesperson confirmed that they don't condone such activity, good enough and let's hope that's the end of it.

Oh, it's a controversial one all right...

Update: Here's a second version of Pugliese's report, more detailed and with additional reaction.

Update II: To be clear, the "good enough" remark above was not to suggest nothing should happen to the hijinks perpetrators. Just that the reporting made it clear that the military is reviewing the issue and what they are doing sounded "good enough" to me.