Army Blocks Public Access to Digital Library

Public access to the Reimer Digital Library, which is the largest online collection of U.S. Army doctrinal publications, has been blocked by the Army, which last week moved the collection behind a password-protected firewall.

But today the Federation of American Scientists filed a Freedom of Information Act request (pdf) asking the Army to provide a copy of the entire unclassified Library so that it could be posted on the FAS web site.

The Army move on February 6 marks the latest step in an ongoing withdrawal of government records from the public domain.

“It was a policy decision to put it behind the AKO [Army Knowledge Online] firewall and to restrict public access,” said Don Gough of the system development division at the Army Training Support Center at Fort Eustis, Virginia, which operates the Reimer Digital Library.

The move came as a surprise since only unclassified and non-sensitive records had ever been made available at the Library site.

Isn’t it true, Secrecy News asked, that the only documents that had been accessible to the public were those that had been specifically… “‘Approved for public release,’ yes,” said Mr. Gough, completing our sentence. “I understand your concern,” he added.

The FAS Freedom of Information Act request is intended to reverse the Army action.

“We hope to restore public access to the Reimer Digital Library by obtaining all of its publicly releasable contents and posting that material on our own website,” the FAS request explained. “Furthermore, in order to preserve the status quo, we expect to file regular FOIA requests for updates to the RDL two or three times a month, so that we may add them to our mirror site.”

“Alternatively, if the Army were to restore the prior level of public access to the RDL, that would fulfill this request and make future requests unnecessary,” the FAS request stated.

Among the many thousands of documents that were formerly available to the public on the Reimer Digital Library, two of the latest additions are these.

“The Modular Force” (pdf), Field Manual Interim FMI 3-0.1, January 2008.

“Chemical, Biological, Radiological, Nuclear, and High Yield Explosives Operational Headquarters” (pdf), Field Manual Interim FMI 3-90.10, January 2008.

No Responses to “Army Blocks Public Access to Digital Library”

  1. N February 13, 2008 at 4:11 PM #

    Hi,

    I just want you to know that by moving the RDL behind AKO, Army has not only restricted access to the public but to everyone else in DoD as well. So… Those working for the AF, Navy, Marines, etc will not be able to access these documents — unless they are able to get an AKO account — which isn’t a given.

  2. Bob G February 13, 2008 at 4:43 PM #

    The lesson here is that no one should assume that any document made available by a federal agency will continue to be available in the future. Any document — no matter what its status is with respect to public availability — can disappear at any time. We should have learned that lesson after 9/11. Anyone with an interest in agency document online should make and maintain a copy somewhere that the agency cannot reach. The only exception that occurs to me would be for documents required to be made public by law. If the RDL is put back online, FAS should nevertheless make a copy and keep it on its own servers in the future.