By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON -- The military has warned soldiers not to use official computers to forward a chain email that falsely accuses Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama of being a Muslim who attended a radical Muslim school, saying distribution of the information is a violation of Army regulations and constitutes unlawful political activity.
The memorandum, dated Thursday, came after the discredited claims about Obama's background were sent from an Army computer to what appear to be thousands of Army personnel worldwide.
"Currently there is a Chain Email floating around with the Subject line: 'Who is Barack Obama,' " states the official warning, which was sent to all personnel who work for the Army Medical Command, based in Fort Sam Houston, Tex. "Like virtually all chain emails this one is false."
Further, it adds, distributing the e-mail using military computers is a violation of several Army regulations that state that government communications equipment must be used only for official purposes and that their misuse could be punished under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Moreover, Army personnel were told that the political nature of the e-mail constitutes a violation of separate regulations that explicitly bar the military from engaging in any political activities while on duty, saying "the subject email falls under the realm of prohibited political activity."
One of the relevant regulations states that uniformed or civilian Defense Department employees cannot, among other things, "knowingly solicit or discourage the political activity of any person who has business with DoD; engage in political activity while on duty; and engage in political activity while in any Federal workplace."
A copy of the reprimand, which came from information technology managers at the Army Medical Command, was obtained by the Globe. The author of the message, reached by the Globe today, confirmed its content.
"In this emotion-charged election year expect to see an overabundance of similar chain emails from friends and foes alike in both your personal and government email inboxes," it concludes. "Just keep in mind that the government systems are for official use only."
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