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Army "Big Brother" Unit Targets Bloggers
Bloggers: "Big Brother is not watching you, but 10 members of a Virginia National Guard unit might be," according to the Army. The Manassas-based Guardsmen are on a one-year assignment to clamp down on both "official and unofficial Army Web sites for operational security violations."...
..."So much for military blogging," said one officer, deployed in Iraq, when the ruling came down. Not that the officer -- an active blogger back in the States -- was doing much public writing while on the front lines. "The Army's guidance on OPSEC [operational security] has been broad and ambiguous enough to chill my speech," he wrote to me. "Discretion is clearly the better part of valor where OPSEC rules are concerned, because the sensitivity of any particular detail is in the eye of the beholder."
...As of today, May 5th, 2006, I am officially shutting down my blog... There are certin [sic] commands out there that do NOT want me to blog... they have been trying very hard to find out who I am and shut me down... I really don't want to end my military career over a blog - it has gotten THAT bad!...
...In an age when so many troops have access to the Internet -- and "open source intelligence" is becoming so critical -- it's only natural that military higher-ups have grown concerned about what's posted online. But OPSEC isn't the only dimension to the counter-terror fight. This is, as the cliche goes, a battle of hearts and minds, after all. That battle largely takes place in the press, broadly defined. And, as Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld observed earlier this year, "our enemies have skillfully adapted to fighting wars in today's media age, but... our country has not adapted." Just the other day, the New York Times shrieked about Iraqi insurgents using YouTube to spread fear.
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.
E-MAILS AND BLOGS ELIMINATE DELAYS, BUT CAN WORSEN WORRIES
Iraq and Afghanistan are very far away for most Americans. Yet in hundreds of military blogs it's possible to read the experiences, thoughts, fears and hopes of the men and women serving there.
``Technology has made this a new war,'' writes ``Molly Pitcher'' (molly... pitcher.blogspot.com), an Army wife. ``I think the recent `Doonesbury' series on e-mail and spouses is pretty on target. . . . The communications technology can be a mixed blessing. When you hear from your loved one every day and then suddenly not for 48 hours, you begin to picture all sorts of horrors.''
Technology isn't just changing how we fight wars. It's allowing those who fight to speak directly to those who wait at home, unfiltered by a journalist, general or politician. GI Joe and GI Jane can speak for themselves. And we're all better off because of it.
Another Milblogger Bows Out
"Dave" has been in and out of the military since 1981. Now, he's getting ready to deploy to Iraq. So he decided to start a blog, as "a place... to share [his] thoughts, feelings, and observations, before, during, and after the Army Reserve is done with [him]." He managed to put up a couple of entries -- and pictures of his cats, Stinky Pooh and Buddy Badger."
But Dave has pulled the plug on his blog, just six weeks after he started it. Why? "Today we had a briefing on Blogs 'do's and don't' for the Army," he writes. "It appears to be very subjective as to what is and isn't allowed, so to keep from violating some Army reg, policy, or wish of the commander, I will have this as my last post." Then Dave linked to Defense Tech's post from last week, on the Army's "Big Brother" unit.
Now, Dave clearly wasn't going to be a model spokesperson for the military. He laughed at the Army's new slogan. And he wrote darkly about how the service "turned me from a career soldier loving the Army to someone that couldn't wait to get out just that quick."
But still. This is someone who plunged back into military life, long after he was out. Someone who wrote of his desire to be "an outstanding soldier, a mentor, a leader, someone who cared enough to make a difference." Isn't that exactly who the Army wants telling its story? And isn't Dave's online retreat exactly what friends of the military, like Andi and Blackfive, have been warning about?