Army Webmail Login link.

Army Webmail Login link.

A link to access soldiers’ emails and sign on, called Army Knowledge Online (AKO), was mistakenly placed onto a military website that allows family and friends of soldiers to track the whereabouts and well-being of their loved ones serving in Iraq.

The password-protected Web site is “designed to give family members an easy way to see if a loved one is in Iraq,” a spokesman for Washington-based Military Families United said.

When the link was discovered, it quickly spread through blogs and chat rooms to thousands of Internet users, including family members anxiously waiting for news from their soldier sons and daughters.

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The widespread availability of soldiers’ emails – much of which contains sensitive information, including schedules, patrol routes, and intelligence briefings – prompted the Pentagon to shut down the site while technicians fixed the problem.

Reporters were allowed back on briefly Thursday afternoon before service was again cut.

As of late Thursday, technicians had identified the problem but could not immediately fix it. The spokesman said he did not know how long that would take, but that technicians were aware of the problem and determined to fix it as soon as possible.

The spokesman said he didn’t know if any passwords had been breached, but noted that soldiers typically use common phrases for passwords such as their hometowns or the names of family members.