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Rumsfeld bans phone cameras

London - Cellphones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported on Sunday.

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.

via Smartmobs

The increasing reliance of this administration on secrecy is really disturbing. When your government starts to strip the people of their privacy and civil rights and consistently marches forward with a variety of efforts to hides its own movements, you know you're in real trouble.

I've worked on whistleblower protection bills and thought a lot about the importance of the ability for people to come forward outside of the chain of command. It is an essential protection measure against coverups and corruption. I can understand arguments about why allowing random photos could be bad, but I'm sure the importance of having "eyes on the ground" outside of the "main channel" out-weigh the risks.

UPDATE: There are many media sites and blogs running this story, but they all seem to quote the same source. We still have no corroborating original sources. Please see comments on this entry for more.


This morning, I asked a Defense Department spokesperson whether or not the reports of a phonecam ban were true. This spokesperson said that these reports were technically inaccurate -- that the Pentagon is not issuing a new ban on camera phones per se, but that a Directive 8100.2 was issued on April 14 establishing new restrictions on wireless telecommunications equipment in general. The text of this directive is available online here in PDF format: Link. The intent of this April 14 directive, and how commanders in the field will be expected to enforce it, are matters I'll be reporting on in more detail for the NPR program "Day to Day," later this week.


Are you sure this is a real story and not an Onion-like reprint? I ask because the Daily Farce did a parody of this just the other day, and some of the quotes look familiar. Could be that life is imitating fiction though (wouldn't be the first time an Onion-like story eventually became true).

The Daily Farce

What makes it even harder to tell if this is real or not is that a ban like this has been coming for some time, even before the prison abuse scandal. It started awhile ago with bans on cell phones and cameras in restricted areas, and the Air Force issued a ban on cellphone cameras in restricted areas earlier this year and NSA has had a ban as well (remember the guys who banned the Furby because it talked too much). Some satellite phones were banned during the fighting too as it was thought they could be used to triangulate incoming fire.


The Washington Post

One more thing, I've never heard of a paper in London called "The Business" which is cited in the report you mention.

I think the "The Business" is the new name for what used to be known as "Sunday Business". Not sure when they changed, but you probably still know it as the old name. Don't know if they have a website.

Well, it's definitely a real newspaper. I was looking at it in a newsagent here in Dublin today.

Any corroborative sources would be greatly appreciated.

The Australian Broadcast Corporation is also quoting The Business story.

Another body blow to the forces of goodness in the unspoken unheralded Information wars. From out of the darkness of Industrial age might and cunning, comes a ban on cell phone imagery. Keep the masses in darkness. Raise the tollgates. Burry our culture. The Machiavellian juggernaut roles on, once more comrades to the barricades. What next, the draft.

In a fast moving, fast changing hostile environment, the conservative decision must be rapid adaptation, quick decisions and decisive forward action. The way out of a pickle is through the top not the bottom of the jar. Lets hope enough forward thinking minds can help us embrace the Information Age not strangle it. To the future, lets let the cartels of yesterday die gracefully in bankruptcy. Information is our last great freedom.

The Australian papers that cite this story use the same newswire that the News24 service uses. It should also be noted that News24 (as of this moment) has pulled the story and it no longer appears on the link cited.

A search through reveals only News24 and a few Australian papers (all running the exact same wire feed) have run this story. I'd also like to see independent confirmation from a non-AFP newswire source, but I find it very hard to believe that an order affecting 150,000 soldiers at an individual level (i.e. each one has to be told to put away their camera) is somehow "discovered" by a UK "Business" newspaper and not discussed in any American mainstream paper or national security trade publication.

It might be true, but I'm not jumping to conclusions just yet.

Well, it's strange how these things work. Sometimes the government or the military will put out a story just to see how people will react (moderately important people in places like the Senate and House and UK government, not People Like Us). If people salute when they run the idea up the flagpole, they might try to push the idea further. If it goes down badly, they'll explain it away by saying that it was just something they were considering.

(Perhaps 6 Apart could learn something from this PR tactic.)

What they're suggesting isn't completely unjustified though. Part of the humiliation and degradation of the prisoners was the taking of the photographs. It's not like these photos were being taken by whistleblowers. They were being taken by people who wanted to show off to their friends, and possibly use the pictures to directly humiliate the prisoners.

That said, I don't think they should ban phones as suggested. The benefit is far greater than the downside.

Yahoo, Drudgereport, and the Washington Times (go figure) have all run the story now, BUT they are all just running the original AFP feed. Several bloggers are picking it up as well, but no one has any independent non-AFP source they are citing. They all cite the same article as everyone else.

Of course the Pentagon site has nothing.

Kind of curious now...

Evidently, according to Engadget, this news story is very similar to a story on a fake news site, TheDailyFarce
, which was posted several weeks before the current news story about Rumsfield banning camera phones.

Regardless of the veracity of this story it's interesting that a few weeks ago that war-mongering lunatic Jeff Jarvis was promoting sending digital cameras to Iraq. This was about the time of the Falluja siege. The warbloggers kinda went silent when news of civilian deaths started to filter out from Falluja and elsewhere. And the silence was positively deafening when the prison abuse scandal broke -- funny how the idea of passing cameras to Iraqis didn't seem so hot when the "good ol boys" came out with mud on their face.

The intellectual dishonesty of the right-wingers is amazing. So-called "professors" like Glenn Reynolds who selectively pick their news make me more mad than the average loony. Reynolds recently posted a survey trying to make a point -- but the survey was of Foxnews viewers!

The whole warblogging crowd should be shipped over to Iraq for a few weeks of foot-patrol duty in Falluja or Najaf.

I believe there recently was a story about Internet access for coalition soldiers in Iraq being restricted. That story kind of vaporized as blogging soldiers kept on blogging.

A ban on varieties of digital cameras makes sense security-wise in a military environment. Enforcing such a ban, however...

Relating it to the Abu Ghraib pictures implies a logic that escapes me. If a ban on digital cameras works, I guess a ban on beating up prisoners would work as well.

Which is the point. Rumsfeld et al are trying to hide their future misdeeds. Beating (or worse) prisoners actually is banned, Geneva convention and all that. If the United States ever really cared, they blew that principle to bits quite effectively in the past weeks.

If Rumsfeld, Bush etc were genuinely concerned about the Iraq scandal they'd have stepped down by now.

Instead, we get some half-hearted courts martial of some lowly peons and move back to business as usual.

America may not be waging a war on Muslims, but they're definitely waging a war to break the spirit of a people. Bomb them into submission, treat them badly, break their will to resist any way possible. The prize, of course, is oil. 21st century colonialism/imperialism at its finest.

It's disgusting.

In helping us avoid thought crimes, Camera phone bans are double plus good!

BoingBoing has the complete story (Update):

"This morning, I asked a Defense Department spokesperson whether or not the reports of a phonecam ban were true. This spokesperson said that these reports were technically inaccurate -- that the Pentagon is not issuing a new ban on camera phones per se, but that a Directive 8100.2 was issued on April 14 establishing new restrictions on wireless telecommunications equipment in general."


You guys are blowing this out of proportion. The military is not a democracy and never has been. They've always used censorship and information control as part of their efforts to win wars.

The goal of the military is to be successful in their military endeavors. If they have to hide information in order to be successful, then that is justified, in my opinion. They can handle their own problems internally, and with congressional oversight.

This is not to say that the poor treatment of prisoners is justified. I just think that as a practical matter, you can't win a war when people are publishing photographs of every questionable thing you do. Some are bad, and others are not so bad. Either way, they are more likely to be successful if such things are censored, and only known within the military and special congressional committees. Military action is no joke -- It's very possible that U.S. soldiers could be killed indirectly because of such photographs. That's more important to me than reforming the oversight procedures of the military right now.

Nils, too bad Clinton didn't step down when he lied also. =P

We are talking about the actions of a very few in the larger context of the military. The military is the military. To have photos of who knows what going around the internet, you can't take that kind of risk. Besides giving away troop movements, I don't want other countries knowing our weapon systems, how many troops we have or et al.

Stepping down won't change jack. Wars are brutal.

I agree with Trevor's comments. (above) The thing I find most unsettling is that this new rule is a clear indication that our senior troops feel that our junior troops cannot be trusted to refrain from doing stupid and/or downright evil things with the freedoms they are afforded during war. The senior troops are apparently right.

Count me in with Trevor as well. What is amazing is that camera phones were allowed in the first place.

It is unclear at this time that the ban is working (if it is in fact in effect). We have received several submissions purportedly from the field. Have a look at some of our most recent submissions at:



Wow. Some people actually agreeing with me. ;) hehe.

Mike -- I find it unsettling as well, but I'm not surprised that they feel they can't trust junior troops. I've felt for a long time that there's insufficient discipline of the rank and file in the Army. Just look at how these guys behave in Korea. There are whole prostitution towns serving the base populations, and it's _known_ that these guys are out drinking and debauching like frat boys at spring break all the time. I'm really not surprised that they'd pull some stupid crap like this on prisoners with even the slightest suggestion by other intelligence-related people. That's why they need a clear chain of command, and a good helping of discipline on a daily basis...

But as for the abuse in general, in my opinion, it was amateurish stupid crap that should have been prevented by their superiors, if they were on the ball and had any clue whatsoever of the import of their positions there.

Any resolution to whether the original AFP story (or the original "business newspaper" story) was actually true? Surely someone reading these A-list blogs saw the original, not just the three sentence AFP version spread by Yahoo and Australian media? More skepticism here

Bob, see my update above. I don't think it was accurate. There is a good article in general about this in Wired today.

Wired Article on digicams

It's a legit restriction. The military has for decades (and for obvious reasons that *are not* evil or conspiratorial) banned cameras, tape recorders, and similar things without explicit authorization. Furby was banned because it could, if I remember, record stuff.

Cameraphones are nothing but an extension of the same ban to new tech. It's not a Bush thing.

According to the directive from the DoD, the use of cellular phones has already been prohibited in "sensitive" areas of operation. This information was found in a DoD Directive 8100.4.1.3. which basically bans any device that is able to store, transmit, or process data that they feel is classified. The policy has been in effect for a while but the new stand on it was taken when it was felt that the photos taken were broadcast with a camera phone. It is going to be up to the Heads of the Departments in the DoD to interpet the Directive and enforce it on their respective areas of duty.

As many have alluded to, the "ban" on picture phones is really no more than an emphasis of the long-standing regulations against taking unauthorized photographs in a secure area as applied to new technology. The restrictions on WiFi are also security related, as WiFi technology makes it increasingly easy to access a secure area with minimal collection gear and transmit the data collected to a point that is less controlled or regulated. If you oppose this you might as well oppose tempest requirements.

Yo, this is Zaku, talking to you from one of our many KBR civilian owned Internet Cafe's, right in in good ol' Baghdad Iraq.

I'm not entirely surprised not many other soldiers are blogging here right now. We're just a bunch of frat boys right Trevor? In need of some good old fashioned discipline. Enjoy your Starbucks latte' and let the Army conduct it's own business.

I may be a "junior soldier", whatever that is. But I have to make it clear, that this article is beyond improbable. A ban, on digital media? What kind of farce is this? We get packages from I own a laptop, have two digital cameras and a camcorder. I like to send pictures to my mother of how great this place is. She especially likes the mutant roaches crawling around the buildings. :P

The point is clear, everyone is out to make Rumsfield look like a total prick, which may or not be true. It doesn't matter to me. I've been in Iraq for beyond a year. As part of the First Armored Division, I've been extended 4 possible months here, but our orders clearly state we may be here until September.

The Army will not raid my supply and steal my digital camera. And they won't be taking my pin drive either. And they can't ban us from mostly anything. And that's the saddest part. "Fixing" the chain of command will do nothing. We're human beings, we're men trained to do what most people wouldn't think of doing. Believe me, we'll find way to work around it.

There is no ban on camera phones, or digital cameras in Iraq. At least not in Baghdad anyways. Perhaps a few secretive units, such as some unspoken MP brigades have possibly been gagged. But I somehow doubt that too. I hope that somehow settles it. Do I need to send in a picture to prove it? :D


On a happier note. I just arrived to this Blog site today. :) Thanks to running an expose' on Joi Ito's blog site. I love Japan, hell, my ID comes from a famous giant robot in Japan's famous Anime' "Gundam". And I couldn't resist coming in here to see the kind of people that would follow in the internets great tradition of virtual socialization. :) Thank you for your time. And I wish you all the best...

---PFC "Zaku", 47th FSB 1AD

Hey Zaku! Thanks for the first hand comments. Nice to see you here.

Hey Zaku...

As far as individuals go, there are a ton of high-class and highly disciplined people in the Army. My father went to west point, and I have nothing but the highest respect for the people like him that deserve it. You certainly may be one of those people, and I assume you are.

But I think you know that there's a lot of stupid behavior in the Army too. In my post I was thinking about why the people who made the Iraqi prisoners stick their members in each others' faces, etc, did what they did. I was also thinking about whether there are similar problems elsewhere, and I'm sure you'll agree there are... I just wish there weren't such problems, and I'd like to know how they could be prevented... I want our military to be respected for the ideals they profess, and not dragged down by a few morons. That's my position, plain and simple.

What I'd like to know from you is what happens when people you serve with, or people you've seen, act unprofessionally? Do their peers say something about it? Does anybody ever say "hey, why are you messing with that guy?" if someone harasses an Iraqi for kicks? Do officers ever tell people to try to be modest and respectful when they're out on the town?

I'm sure you have better things to think about than these issues most of the time, but your input would be very educational...


You shouldn't pick on Trevor alone. I was trash talking as well.

About a decade ago, I was enlisted and for part of that time I was a member of a spit and polish ceremonial unit in DC. During training for this unit, serious hazing was rampant. A couple trainees or "boots" contracted serious illnesses due to the training and one guy in another unit than mine died from it. Here's a hanful of the things they had us do:

1. Paint our privates with edge dressing. Edge dressing is a kind of paint used to make the sides of the soles on your dress shoes glisten. It causes a painful chemical burn when applied to the skin.

2. Go outside and run laps behind the training building while carrying M1s (bayonets attached) during a lightning storm.

3. Were forced to submerge our heads in toilets if uniform inspections weren't passed. Criteria for inspection failure or success was never fully explained.

4. Were given "Friday Night Beatings" by senior memebers of the unit. They were impromptu raids on our barracks and they would dispense very harsh beatings all over the body. The face was spared, of course.

After I had passed the training, I was pressured to lie to a JAG officer about a beating I had witnessed earlier.

You seem to be a breed apart. I don't think you are like those jerks, but some like them have ended up in Iraq, I'm sure. Perhaps "fixing" the chain of command won't work, but something is broken. It seems like we had a bunch of E-4s filling the jails so that they could beat intel out of the inmates. Where were the officers and senior enlisted? That's where I'm coming from.

I guess I don't have to tell you to be careful over there. Please be safe and come home soon. I will be sending a big bolt of positive mental energy in your direction.

Thank you for your incredibly educated responces. It does me good to see some fellow soldiers come in, and I will do what I can to give to you what I feel on the subject.

It's hard, it's definately not an easy task in today's Army to instill discipline in soldiers. You must realise, we are soldiers, but also are human. What Hollywood won't show you is the bread and butter soldier who comes in for 3 years and expects a 9 to 5. And gets it.

The Army isn't the Special Forces "gung-ho" style that we've come to expect. A grand majority of us treat rank with respect, but we also treat each other like human beings. Hard to imagine a Private telling a First Sargeant: "Ey First Sargeant, hell of a day huh?" A casual enviroment like this allows for high morale.

I do not need to fear my peers to do my job. And when life is stressful enough as it is, being able to walk among my leaders in stride is a huge relief. And has allowed todays Army to withstand these year long deployments.

I'm sure it's different from unit to unit. Standards in the Army are not absolute, they are controlled by a battalions Chain of Command. Things like guard schedules and work hours are not given to us by high leveled Generals, but the Coronels and Captains that lead a 200-400 member battalion.

What happened in that prison is not totally clear to the public. Believe me, something entirely different must have happened in there. Keep in mind, the soldiers who were caught in those pictures doing those awful acts, were Reservists. Now I do not dislike my reservist comrades, as they help take off the pressure we Active duty soldiers bear. But Reservists live mostly a life of weekend duty. After basic training, and AIT training (Which can be a minimum of a mere 4 months), these soldiers go home. Work civilian jobs, and only wear the uniform for 2-3 days, a month. That's it. It's like a bridge club. Civilians, volunteering SOME of their time, to the integrity and values of being a soldier.

These men and women who did these acts were on their way home. In our minds we believed we would be home by May. But then came the mandatory extention for 3-4 months out here in Iraq, and I believed they weren't exactly of right of mind. Stress, and other factors probably made them believe they were invincible. Soldiers will routinely pull pranks like this.

I've known soldiers from other units that were good friends of certain Iraqui workers, ask them to pose as prisoners as a gag to their friends at home. You would think they'd be horribly offended, But these people are as humorous and easy going as the men and women to your left and right. They joined in on the fun. I've seen random reservists at Victory play dead and lend workers unloaded weapons and have them pose as if THEY were captured. Yes, alot of us may have gone too far and in so many ways, perhaps all of this has been taken out of proportion.

What happened at the prison was wrong, but it should be noted that sometimes the higher ups cannot be there to prevent this sort of thing. The tighter your grip the more they will slip through your fingers. Are we to go back to beating up solders for failing a task? Or disobeying an order? Are we to punish them as well?

As I started this entire statement, it's hard. IS it possible? Oh yes, the United States Army, is composed of professional members who believe in one fight, one team. Because we have a few jokers who are a few weeks away from going home, or ending their contracts, and feel they can afford to tarnish their careers, doesn't make ME, less of a fighter, LESS of an American.

Believe in us as you have, we are like you. Americans who believe in a piece of the pie. We watch Friends like you do. We watch Football. We breathe the American dream. Just because we are soldiers doesn't change that. But I realise, we realise we carry on a tradition that you depend on, because for some reason in life you cannot do it yourself. And you know what...we're fine with that. It's out jobs.

PFC "Zaku", 47th FSB, 1AD Baghdad

Zaku -

Uday, Qusay, and Saddam are gone forever. Consider that fact independent of the political issues surronding it.

You helped to make that possible and I'm very proud of you for it. Thank you so very much.

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TrackBack URL for this entry:, via Joi Ito: Cellphones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported on Sunday. Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the... Read More, via Joi Ito: Cellphones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported on Sunday. Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the... Read More, via Joi Ito: Cellphones fitted with digital cameras have been banned in US army installations in Iraq on orders from Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, The Business newspaper reported on Sunday. Quoting a Pentagon source, the paper said the... Read More

iRaq Schinannigans from Sacrificial Rabbit
May 24, 2004 1:05 AM

Mr Rumsfeld has apparently Banned Camera Phones and is working towards a total ban of all visual and audio/visual recording devices on U.S. military bases. Why? Read More

Crazy if True from Shane Conder's Whateveritis of Nothing
May 24, 2004 3:06 AM

Joi Ito's Web: Rumsfeld bans camera phones in Iraq If this is true, it's absolutely crazy. A complete ban on digital cameras, camcorders, and camera phones? What about standard cameras? And across the entire military? I can't seem to get... Read More

Please don't punish whistle-blower nor ban whistle-blowing. Don't try to cover up mistakes, please try to correct mistakes instead. Via Joi Ito's Web, smartmob: AFP reports that the Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld ordered the ban of cellphones equipp... Read More

BOING BOING -- For several weeks, I've read reports of Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld ordering a ban on camera phones and other mobile imaging devices in US army installations in Iraq. I cannot get confirmation from anybody in the Read More

Non ho trovato altre fonti, ma se fosse vero sarebbe veramente incredibile. Read More

We talked to a person working for a major newspaper for the US West Coast. The person said no one had ever seen the original AFP ticker news. This is only a private hint. At this very moment no one Read More

Rumsfeld bans camera phones in Iraq from Magnetic Production and Reproduction
May 26, 2004 5:49 AM

TITLE: Rumsfeld bans camera phones in Iraq URL: IP: BLOG NAME: Magnetic Production and Reproduction DATE: 05/26/2004 05:49:33 AM Read More

Update to this story: "Rumsfeld, Moblogging Soldiers, Cameraphones, Dumb Media" Edwin Yapp in "It’s not the cellphone, stupid" (The Star, Malaysia):WHO would have believed that the tiny, ubiquitous cellular phone would become one of the greatest enem... Read More