In response to my post this morning about Wired’s story on the Army’s milblogger crackdown, I received an unauthorized e-mail request from one of our troops:
Who will stand up for the rights of soldiers? Fight for us. We fight for you.
– Anonymous soldier sending an unauthorized email
Reader Robert e-mails:
The crack down isn’t about Operational Security, it’s about preventing Senator Harry Reid from being criticized publicly by soldiers.
Reader Ken agrees:
Saw your article on the crackdown. Although it’s speculation on my part, I think my own vet background provides me enough experience to make the determination that the reasons for this are the armed forces member responses to Harry Reid’s comments and anything said or done by other elected Dems. I’m sure after receiving a slew of criticism that was identified as originating from any service man or woman, they contacted DoD and angrily issued complaints.
Milblogger Dadmanly weighs in big:
The [Army Regulation] not only directs Commanders (BN and above) and OPSEC Managers to ensure that no communications in a public forum or media (to include email) occur without OPSEC review, but directs UCMJ action against military violators and criminal prosecution against anyone else.
Worse than that, as written it also means soldiers need to have their commanders review/censor every single email or IM they want to send. To comply, commanders would have no choice but to forbid their soldiers from using email or IM via the internet, or the Commander would have to go with them to the internet cafe.
Completely impractical, unrealistic, worse by far than prohibitions that are widely ignored, such as gambling. This one can only be complied with by severely curtailing one of the few highly successful MWR initiatives in combat theater — internet cafes.
Some commanders might legitimately interpret the AR to allow them to censor the outgoing personal mail of all soldiers under their command, or to prohibit telephone contact to anyone outside of their command.
The Military is making a terrible mistake with this AR. How many problems are really being caused by the status quo arrangement? What are the real risks, rather than the imagined ones, or the fear of whistle-blowing that may be justified? Then, consider the impact of what’s proposed.
It will severely curtail positive news and voices from within the military. Critics within will STILL have direct lines to the NYT, Washington Post, ABC/CBS/NBC/PBS/NPR, they’ll only end up silencing pro-military and pro-victory voices.
Andi at Andi’s World adds:
I fully understand the need to be careful and cautious. The military has a duty to ensure that potentially sensitive information doesn’t fall into the hands of the wrong people. On the other hand, I question whether those who shape policy that applies to milbloggers fully understand the value and importance of milblogging, particularly combat blogging.
I understand that it takes a while for a big bureaucracy, such as the Department of Defense, to embrace new mediums, and I have been heartened by their efforts, albeit slow, to use blogs, new media and other forms of technology to engage the public, but stories like this one leave many feeling that we’re taking one step forward and two steps back. It’s a difficult balance and it’s going to take some time to get it right. The problem is, of course, that we’re running out of time to get it right.
I’m no conspiracy theorist. I don’t believe the military is looking for ways to silence combat bloggers, but I do fear that they are making it prohibitive for some to blog, which has the effect of silencing voices which need to be heard.
My focus at Andi’s World is almost exclusively on troop/family support, so I can’t imagine that I would be regulated in any manner, but I’ll go read the new guidelines now. If it covers family members, there are a lot of us who should be reading.
At Bill Faith’s Old War Dogs, Vietnam Vet and milblogging poet Russ Vaughan posts a sample letter to send to your congressional rep:
I have just become aware of the military’s new restrictive policy on soldier weblogs (milblogs) with the reason for this policy being given that it is in the interest of operational security. While I am all for the highest degree of vigilance in matters of OPSEC, I feel that the new policy is heavy-handed and counterproductive for the following reasons:
1) Every website created by any service person is readily available for routine scrutiny by military monitoring agencies. At the first sign of misuse, the military has the capability to block the offending site and deal appropriately with its owner.
2) Milblogs are the 21st Century’s letters home from the war, a means of communicating from the combat zone with family and friends that far exceeds the capabilities, in both time and content, of previous wars. They are a definite morale-builder, both with serving troops and the folks back home keeping tabs on their loved ones.
3) Milblogs are tools for training and orientation from those who are there now to those who will be. Such exchanges can be highly beneficial for those deploying to combat for the first time. Such “pearls’ from the trigger-pullers to those yet untested can make the transition much easier and perhaps safer for the new warriors.
4) Under such prohibition, only the dutiful soldiers will be affected. The disgruntled and disobedient will evade this restriction and find ways to use such internet podiums to spew their harsh criticisms. Only one view, that most favorable to the military, will be stifled.
5) Last but not least, those affected by this restriction on freedom of speech are precisely those who are placing their lives on the line to preserve that very freedom. To deny them that right unnecessarily as is now being done with this new policy sends a very wrong message to the world about our true commitment to our Bill of Rights.
If a soldier wants to have a weblog, fine, let him or her do so after first signing a DoD agreement, making him keenly aware of the consequences of OPSEC violations and the and the penalties that attach to them. By signing that agreement he automatically registers with a central registry, maintained by a DoD agency with the responsibility to routinely monitor content of all milblogs owned by active duty personnel.
I’m not asking for official action here, simply a heads-up call from your office to your connections in the Pentagon to suggest they not throw out the baby with the bath water.
101st Airborne Division, Vietnam 65-66
Registered Voter in Your State/District
More blog reax and coverage:
See-Dubya digs into the new Army’s threat matrix, which includes “the media,” and writes:
Maintaining a healthy suspicion of the media doesn’t mean you think Osama is secretly editing the New York Times.** It’s natural not to trust them, especially when you’re in a business like the military which involves keeping a lot of secrets. The military needs to use the media to get its message out, but for a gang that has gleefully compromised so many security secrets, a certain frosty reticence is in order.
It’s just a shame the military doesn’t trust its own members any more than they do the MSM. If cautioned about opsec, milbloggers could be a valuable asset that the army ought to encourage. Instead they’re treating their trusted front-line guys as liabilities, as liabilities, as greenhorns no more cautious or trustworthy than the New York Times. That’s got to hurt morale.
The other irony, of course, is that while all this is going on, the Army Public Affairs people are bending over backwards to get the New York Times to whisper, once in a great while, between the constant drone of defeatism and misery, some of the same things these milbloggers are shouting every day.
Steve Schippert at The Tank notes Blackfive’s prescience on this issue and notes:
This will surely be the Hot Topic at the 2007 MilBlog Conference this Friday and Saturday.
No doubt. If the MSM had brains, they would be covering the event wall-to-wall–you know, the way they cover every last anti-war confab in Washington.
“This is a very big deal, and the Army has blown it, bigtime.”