Wednesday, October 26, 2005

You Aren't Reading This...

The Stars and Stripes has an interesting article about military blogging and OPSEC rules.

Key grafs:
WASHINGTON — Army officials this week issued new warnings to soldiers about posting personal stories from combat zones on the Internet and taking photos at overseas bases, saying those actions could jeopardize troops’ security.

The list of prohibited activities includes taking photos of Defense Department facilities, posting any official Defense Department information and releasing information detailing job responsibilities.

“Whether it is a family Web page or a personal blog, safety and security measures must be strictly observed,” the message said. “Sensitive DOD information must not be divulged to the public at large for national security reasons.”


Army spokesman Paul Boyce said the goal isn’t to prevent soldiers from writing about their time in a combat zone, and said he knew of no discussions considering shutting down blog sites or banning the use of personal cameras.

But Boyce said soldiers need to know that simply taking photos could threaten operational security.

“We’re just re-emphasizing the danger here,” he said. “We have warned soldiers to please be extremely careful of any photography, especially street scenes, because they could be useful to the enemy.”

Boyce said shots of the aftermath of insurgent attacks or roadside bombs are especially dangerous, because insurgents could use them to gauge the effectiveness of their attacks.


Last month, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker released a memo to unit commanders telling them to take the issue more seriously.

“The enemy aggressively ‘reads’ our open source and continues to exploit such information for use against our forces,” he wrote. “Some soldiers continue to post sensitive information to Internet Web sites and blogs. … Such OPSEC violations needlessly place lives at risk and degrade the effectiveness of our operations.”

Comment: Roger, got it. But, I wonder how much of this is about OPSEC and how much is about public relations. One blogger put it like this:

Course, they're attempting to control the flow of information, to control perceptions. There seems to be some other subterfuge, trying to smoke us out, shut us down, but you know what? It's a big-ass Internet... and my grasp of language is disproportionate to my ambition. Bottom line is, basically if you ain't passing out Teddy Bears or soccer balls to war orphans, DOD doesn't want to hear about it.
My take on it isn't quite that extreme, but it makes you wonder. I haven't seen too many of what I would consider OPSEC violations on military blogs. I've seen some good taste violations and some things written that would flat out piss me off if the blogger was in my chain of command. But, I don't think anyone has crossed the line into giving away too much that the enemy could exploit. It is a "big-ass" internet, and there is plenty OSINT (open-source intelligence) for the bad guys to collect. Most of it has nothing to do with bloggers.

I wonder if OPSEC is the Trojan horse that DOD will use to shut down more blogs with "objectionable" (read anti-war/military/administration) content. There have been warnings about this as well.

Unless they clearly cross OPSEC lines or spew genuinely offensive content, I think this would be a huge mistake to start shutting down blogs or making diluting them so they all read like DOD press releases. The American public remains largely disconnect from its armed forces, and military blogging provides unique perspective on what its like to serve in wartime. I'm willing to accept some pissed off E-4 ranting about how bad the Army sucks in order for people like me, MAJ K, and Phil Carter to keep getting our ideas out there...not that my ideas or writings are anywhere near as good as theirs. But hell, CENTCOM public affairs keeps pinging me and other bloggers to post links to them and their information so somebody has to think we're doing okay.

Plus, if we're going to start policing content, then is anyone going to say anything about the extreme political partisanship that is evident on many military blogs? In my (not humble) opinion, some of what my fellow military bloggers have to say about the people that they have sworn to protect is incredibly offensive. When I write, I am mindful of OPSEC and the military ideal of political neutrality. I have a political point of view, but I am very careful in how I share it. (Note: Go ahead and flame me for writing that. But, I wonder what the milbog content would have been like during the racial integration of the military or the civil rights movement. At the time espousing racially biased rhetoric would have been perfectly within social norms, but beyond the pale by today's standards. Think about it.)

I hope that these new policies don't mean the beginning of the end the end for military blogging or force it below the radar. I post under my own name because I take ownership of what I write. There is some risk in this. I accept it. I rather quit blogging than be anonymous or "factory approved".


At October 30, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, here I went on Phil's blog and said I routinely checked you out and got caught in a lie.

It has been a while since I checked you out. This is a terrific post and I'm sorry I didn't tell you about it earlier.

At October 30, 2005, Blogger Kris Alexander said...

Well thanks who ever you are.



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