Skip to comments.US Army Watching Blogs (new unit watching for Operational Security violations on soldier websites)
Posted on 10/18/2006 8:09:54 PM PDT by ajolympian2004
Note: One reason that I wanted "The Blog of War" published was to preserve several excellent military blogger entries from blogs that were either shut down by the military or the author decided to shut down in order to avoid trouble with the military (The Questing Cat, Armor Geddon, Training For Eternity, This Is Your War, A Day in Iraq, etc.). This topic is a difficult one for me to navigate. I hope this post effectively describes what I think about monitoring milblogs.
I just spoke to an *ackk!!!* AP reporter who talked with JP at Milblogging.com and I about the Army's new unit watching for OPSEC (Operational Security) violations on soldiers' blogs and web sites:
...Unofficial blogs often show pictures with sensitive information in the background, including classified documents, entrances to camps or weapons. One Soldier showed his ammo belt, on which the tracer pattern was easily identifiable...
Noah Schactman at Defense Tech (probably one of the smartest guys out there) discusses the unit and possible ramifications of the DOD watchdog mentality on blogs.
...So you would think that the Defense Department would be doing everything it could to encourage positive coverage of the war - to bring stories of brave American troops, risking their lives for Mideast democracy, to the Internet browsers everywhere. But Rumsfeld's penchant for secrecy -- and the military's fear that even the smallest, most innocuous detail about American operations could give insurgents the upper hand - has scuttled this crucial media mission...
I agree. In fact, Andi points out that I "threw a shot across the bow of the DoD" at the first MilBlog conference back in April. I warned the Public Affairs Officers in attendance that cracking down on military blogs (espeically, for minor infractions) would have major negative repercussions. I paid for that shot by being chased down by the PAOs after my panel concluded, and I needed to have Grim (possibly the smartest guy I've ever met) bail me out of "PAO Talking Points Hell" afterward.
I have known of bloggers (one is an author in "The Blog of War") who had their Division Commander approve of what they were doing...only to discover that the Army (DoA) had them listed on a Power Point Presentation about OPSEC violators. Yours truly and "the Donovan" were also listed. This "recognition" effectively killed their blogs which were popular first hand sources of the war experience.
As a former Intel Officer, I agree that there's a need to make sure that blogs aren't violating OPSEC. For instance, if three bloggers are in separate units but witness an event and blog about it, there might not be an OPSEC issue in one blog, BUT if you put the information from all three blogs together, you might be able to piece together Battle Damage Assessment or Order of Battle information. Since the bloggers might be in different chains of command, this might be missed by their 06 commanders who are responsible for blog review. Setting up a group to evaluate this possibility is needed.
However, the watchdog should also realize that coming down on bloggers for some (perceived) OPSEC violations might be a bit ridiculous - especially when there are photos and explicit descriptions of weapon systems and procedures that are publicly available on civilian (ie. FAS) or military/DoD websites.
Warning bloggers of possible violations is a good thing. But mindlessly cracking down on them without considering the consequences to the positive information flow will only create a cadre of negative military bloggers flying under the radar that will become the anti-military poster children for the New York Times and CNN.
And then one of the few alternative sources of information about our military and the war will be gone...
Posted by Blackfive on October 18, 2006 • Permalink
Categories and Tags: Military, Weblogs
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I have to disagree although I do understand why you and others may feel differently.
The problem, as I see it, is that people are put in a position to self police...and not everyone is sharp enough or conscientious enough to do it appropriately.
To draw a parallel, I work in a hospital, and they have to have a dress code. In the absence of a dress code, people simply push the limit and will wear inappropriate clothing. Sad but true. In young people particularly, it is human nature.
And, as everyone knows, there is no real freedom of speech in the Military. It's just the way it is.
Matt and other ,ilbloggers have been focused on getting out the rest of the story (mostly positive) that the liberal media will not cover. If it weren't for milbloggers what "good news" would we ever hear about???
I do agree, it is a problem. I wish the damned media was not so far to the left, but it is.
I get my good news from Sand Rat...:)
Granted, it is not the more unvarnished stuff we see in these blogs, but it is a more accurate representation than CNN or the NYT.
BTW...thanks for discussing this so civilly. It is one of those issues people get really hot about.
The 21st Century version of the Buddy ****ers.
05G. Wonder what they're called now?
The problem we have, though, is that the media isn't getting these stories out there. We need these guys getting the word out.
Daniel Pipes recently wrote a very good editorial that bears on this:
A defunct paradigm that's got to change
"Soldiers, sailors, and airmen once determined the outcome of warfare, but no longer. Today, television producers, columnists, preachers, and politicians have the pivotal role in deciding how well the West fights. This shift has deep implications."
We don't have the television producers and columnists on our side, and need the milbloggers to help fill that gap. Minor opsec issues (tracer patterns in belted ammo? C'mon) shouldn't create a blanket elimination of this mass communications means. Doing this is just absolute foolishness.
This is why I just keep my mouth shut about what goes on in theater. It's just the best policy.
Most soldiers just don't have access to the kind of information that's leaked every day by senior policy makers. The kind that form real OPSEC violations that actually harm our nation's war effort. The few that do are legally responsible for protecting that classified information. As opposed to their civilian counterparts, the military won't just strip their clearance for leaking classified material. They'll send them to Leavenworth.
That said, pretty much every soldier downrange sees fraud, waste and abuse, endures stupid and counterproductive leadership policies, has war stories to share that might be a little off color, or basically has firsthand information that the military would find embarassing.
So, this whole OPSEC concern is a total smokescreen. Only a small number of blogs make true OPSEC violations. It's the 'toeing the party line' violations that are being policed.
However, I can understand the OPSEC issue. One time, at MACV Hq in Saigon, I took a picture of a lovely young Vietnamese woman in her ao dai. Unfortunately, there was a classified map on the wall behind her, showing troop dispositions. I was very properly chastised, and was lucky I didn't have my film and camera confiscated. It's easy to make a mistake like that.
Unfortunately, it's easier to block everything than to educate people what not to put in their blogs, and to review them to make sure that the rules are being observed.
First things first, the Drive By leftwing media will look at these blogs for any sign of criticism towards higher ups, policy, or other conditions, even if the soldier in question intends no harm. The media will then say "Soldiers are against the war, look at this blog" even if the soldier in question was only questioning tactics or some other small thing. Also, the Drive By leftist media can spin any positive statement about the war by an active duty soldier as the soldier being ordered to make the statement. That damages the military and the administration.
Second...The enemy does look at these blogs.
Third... Soldiers, from what I have heard, are supposed to stay out of politics when on duty. The only statement they are supposed to make is to vote. Blogs are usually politically charged. Also see Point 1 as to why this applies.