The Army Times just published another article about MilBlogging. This time, it's in reference to the policy requiring all MilBloggers in Iraq to register. For those who haven't read the policy, John Donovan at Argghhh! has a post about it and a copy of the actual policy for your reading, as well.
Bloggers in Iraq must register sites
By Joseph R. Chenelly
Times staff writer
Commanders want to know who is blogging from Iraq, and a new rule says soldiers have to ‘fess up.
A policy for all service members under command of Multi-National Corps-Iraq states that anyone who owns, maintains or posts to a Web site or Web log must formally notify his chain of command.
All service members who fall under MNC-I must register their sites or blogs or risk facing punitive action, under the policy signed in April by Lt. Gen. John R. Vines, MNC-I commander.
The new rules have had an effect on some military bloggers. At least a few have shut down, saying they’d rather stop blogging than reveal their full identity.
"I could keep going but under these circumstances, it would be a lie," wrote a soldier blogger who goes by Red2Alpha on www.thisisyourwar.blogspot.com, suggesting the soldier wouldn’t be able to post his true feelings if he had to tell his higher ups about his blog.
Although policy states that soldiers don’t have to submit each post for review before it goes online, the rules require commanders to regularly review each site maintained by a soldier under their charge....
"Registering would eliminate my anonymity and thus my candor," one blogger who doesn’t want to be identified wrote from Iraq to Army Times. "I would be tactful and continue to maintain [operational security], regardless, but constantly wondering if my chain of command is reading my words and misinterpreting them would ruin the whole experience and affect my writing."
This blogger said he will stop posting immediately to avoid violating the policy.
Another soldier, who goes by "Six" on his blog, www.watchyoursix.blogspot.com, isn’t in Iraq yet. But he is slated to deploy soon. He plans to keep blogging, but not register.
"I’m taking a risk by doing it, but I don’t think that I can be objective if the Army knows who I am and can censor me at any time," he wrote in an e-mail exchange. "I work hard to make sure that I don’t compromise operational security, but I know the Army won’t trust me to make that judgment."
The policy lists information that is prohibited from being posted, including classified and casualty info, along with accounts of incidents still being investigated.
According to the new rules, major subordinate commands are responsible for maintaining and providing their division with a list of soldier bloggers in their command.
The final point on the policy states"this is a punitive policy. Service members in violation to [sic] this policy may be subject to adverse action or punishment under the UCMJ."
It is unclear how well MNC-I will be able to police the regulation.
"That depends on how many resources the [MNC-I] has to throw at the issue," said the blogger behind www.blackfive.net. This blogger goes only by his first name, Matt. "For example, the policy calls for MSC commanders to review blogs every quarter for appropriate (or nonappropriate) content. That seems like a long time to wait between reviews when you’re dealing with information that’s immediately accessible.
"I think that for major violations, like in the case of releasing casualty names before the family can be notified, they will be obvious and (probably) immediately known."
The policy is dated April 6, but the news that it was in effect didn’t spread through the blogosphere until Capt. Phillip Carter, a reservist who is an attorney in his civilian life, saw it on www.companycomand.com, an Army-run site for officers.
Carter, who blogs at www.inteldump.com, sent an electronic version of the policy to several prominent military bloggers and, as is typical of the blogosphere, the news quickly spread.
"The policy is a good first step," Carter said in a phone interview. "It sets a standard everyone can use to determine what they can and cannot do."
It also gives commanders something to refer to when setting unit policies, Carter said.
The rules instantly became a hot topic among military bloggers.
A service member who goes only by Greyhawk, who runs www.mudvillegazette.com, called the policy fair. He wrote in an e-mail that the rules are "less restrictive than they could have been. Looks to me like the Army (at some level) knows blogging soldiers can have an enormous positive impact. This is the same DoD that went to great lengths to have as many embedded reporters as possible during the Iraq war. In my humble opinion, the milbloggers succeed where that concept fails."
The policy does not apply to soldiers outside Iraq. But several bloggers said the Defense Department should set a similar policy for all service members.
"All good soldiers crave appropriate guidance to avoid problems," said Sgt. 1st Class Thomas Nichols, author of www.gojackarmy.blogspot.com. "The Cold War is over, so the old rules of ‘don’t tell nobody nothing’ is no longer appropriate, especially these days when we are trying to be an example to new democracies."
And one final quote from me that didn't make the article that I think would be agreed to by most MilBloggers:
Do you believe this set of rules will help make things a bit more uniform for mil-bloggers across Iraq?
In the sense that we're a diverse group of people with diverse opinions, I hope not. But in order to keep Soldiers from having to guess at what is or is not "bloggable" this will definitely help. Whether or not they agree with it, it's always better to know where you stand with your Commanders.