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    Wednesday, August 5, 2009

    Reuters - U.S. military reviews use of Twitter, other sites

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    U.S. military reviews use of Twitter, other sites

    Tuesday, Aug 04, 2009 5:45PM UTC

    By Adam Entous

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon has ordered a review of its use of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, citing concerns that security could be compromised, officials said on Tuesday.

    Many branches of the military use the popular, public-access sites in an effort to connect with young people, as well as to counter the propaganda of the Taliban and al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    William Lynn, the deputy defense secretary, ordered the department-wide review in a memo to military commanders and service branch chiefs.

    "These tools are proving valuable in areas such as recruitment, public affairs, and quality of life for our military personnel, as well as sharing information with allies, coalition partners and military families," Lynn wrote.

    "However, as with any Internet-based capabilities, there are implementation challenges and operational risks that must be understood and mitigated."

    Lynn asked the Pentagon's chief information officer to present a threat assessment as well as policy guidelines "to ensure the responsible and effective use of emerging Internet-based capabilities" to Defense Secretary Robert Gates by the end of August.

    Lynn said a new policy would be developed by the end of September.

    Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said officials would try to strike a balance between benefits and risks arising from the use of social networking.

    "It does highlight the tension between recognizing these as important ways to communicate ... and yet, on the other hand, the very real security concerns that the people that maintain our networks have with respect to using these sites," he said.

    NO DEPARTMENT-WIDE BAN

    Whitman said the risks could be offset through a combination of technology and training.

    The Pentagon has not issued a department-wide ban on the use of social networking sites, but at least some services and departments have starting clamping down.

    The Marine Corps, which has long prohibited its personnel from using the sites on work computers, issued a formal ban on Monday, said Lieutenant Craig Thomas, a spokesman for the Marines.

    The Marines will allow waivers for "operational needs", such as for investigations, the distribution of news releases and for the recruitment of new personnel.

    Marines can use the sites on their own personal computers.

    Defense Secretary Robert Gates, 65, has said that he wants to utilize social networking to help the Pentagon interact with U.S. military members, many of whom are in their early 20s, and young people worldwide.

    The effort has picked up pace in recent months.

    When the U.S. commander in Afghanistan issued new rules for avoiding civilian casualties last month, they were published first on the Facebook page of U.S. forces in the country.

    The Pentagon's Web site, www.defenselink.mil, features a link to its Facebook page and Twitter feed from its public affairs chief.

    But Pentagon experts have been studying possible risks, such as whether posting to Facebook or Twitter from military computers could open a pathway for hackers.

    (Additional reporting by Andrew Gray, editing by Philip Barbara)

    Reuters - Four shot dead at Pennsylvania gym

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    Four shot dead at Pennsylvania gym

    Wednesday, Aug 05, 2009 12:44PM UTC

    By Jonathan Barnes

    BRIDGEVILLE, Pennsylvania (Reuters) - A man walked into a suburban Pittsburgh gym on Tuesday evening and opened fire in a Latin dance class, killing three women before turning his weapon on himself and taking his own life, police said.

    Allegheny County Police Superintendent Charles Moffatt told reporters outside the L.A. Fitness Center gym in Collier Township, about 10 miles south of Pittsburgh, that the gunman entered the gym shortly after 8 p.m. EDT and opened fire in a rampage that left at least 10 people wounded.

    "He did not say anything. He walked into the room as if he knew where he was going and pulled out the guns and began shooting," Moffatt said, adding that police found two guns at the scene.

    Moffatt said the three victims were all women and that there were between 60 and 70 people at the facility at the time of the shooting.

    Early media reports said there were five dead.

    A couple, who said they are members of the gym and were working out, said the gunman was bald and wore a black bandanna. The couple said he walked into a Latin dance class, turned off the lights and opened fire.

    The witnesses said he fired repeatedly for what they said was about 10 seconds, before shooting himself in the head. The witnesses, who declined to give their names and were visibly shaken, said the man used a handgun.

    "I saw (the gunman) with a chunk of his head blown off," the male witness said.

    (Writing by Mark Egan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Vicki Allen)

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