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edition, Sunday, December 16, 2007

WASHINGTON — Defense officials have updated their login warnings to remind troops and civilian employees that nothing they do on a government computer is private.

The new warnings, which were posted for the first time last week, emphasize that government networks are for official purposes only, and any e-mails, files or notes on a defense-owned system are subject to monitoring.

Air Force Maj. Patrick Ryder, a DOD spokesman, said the change was made to ensure all Defense employees were viewing the same reminders when they accessed the department networks. Previous reviews found minor changes and confusion from agency to agency.

“DOD employees should understand that when using DOD information systems they are giving consent to monitoring, and so should have no expectations of privacy,” he said. “The basic policy has been in place for the past 10 years, and the changes seek simply to clarify and standardize the language.”

The new warning specifies that government officials routinely monitor all communications on their network, that at any time they can seize any data stored there, and that “communications occurring on or data stored on this (information system) … are not private.”

The move comes more than a year after court officials ruled the old login warnings did not give the department full legal authority to use information found in random searches in legal proceedings.

In 2006, Marine Lance Cpl. Jennifer Long was convicted of drug use in part because military officials found numerous e-mails to friends from her military address detailing masking agents she used to pass drug tests.

She appealed the conviction, saying the messages were illegally used private property.

The Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces agreed, mandating a retrial because she had “a reasonable expectation of privacy” in her e-mails.

The new warning also states that passwords, access cards and encryption methods are designed for the security of the network, not for the privacy of employees.

And any data stored on the network “may be disclosed for any (government) authorized purpose.”

Ryder said abbreviated versions of the warning will also be displayed on government-owned personal digital assistants.

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