The US Air Force has reacted to the Wikileaks data loss by banning all removable media - USB sticks, writable CDs, writable DVDs, and portable hard drives - under pain of court martial and it now looks as if the rest of the military will follow.

The cause: Bradley Manning is said to have downloaded his vast Wikileaks cache from SIPRNET to a disc disguised as a Lady Gaga music CD, although this is still interesting hearsay we should point out.

“Unauthorized data transfers routinely occur on classified networks using removable media and are a method the insider threat uses to exploit classified information. To mitigate the activity, all Air Force organizations must immediately suspend all SIPRNET data transfer activities on removable media,” reads an order from Maj. Gen. Richard Webber obtained and published by Wired.

Absurdly, that we know this much is thanks to a leak in the form of an email to a magazine. This at least keeps the theme consistent.

The move is not the first ban on such media in the US military. In November 2008, the Department of Defense was reported to have banned USB sticks after the SillyFDC worm was found to be spreading through networks on USB sticks. This ban was rescinded in February this year, shortly before Manning began his data leaking.

In a blog at the time, Navy Department Chief Information Officer Robert Carey reportedly said that the ban had caused a pile of inconvenience for personnel who used them in locations and situations without good networks access. Having used them, banned them, used them, a final ban now appears certain.

It’s hard to see how banning USB drives will be possible in every situation. A far better policy would be to restrict copy access but again that might be problematic. How many soldiers need access and to what? Once again, modern warfare and IT look to be at odds with one another.