The END of Military Blogging
Wednesday, May 02, 2007
The most excellent Noah Shachtman of Wired's Danger Room has a great article with lots of milblogger reaction to the new OPSEC regulations that will end military blogging as we know it. Yes, that's right - the end of soldier blogging from the war zones.
Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death
Noah Shachtman Email 05.02.07 | 2:00 AM
The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops' online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.
Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result...
Next, be sure to read Major Elizabeth Robbins award winning paper about military blogs "Muddy Boots" - which General Petraeus praised. It is pure genius and I'm glad Noah linked to it. I believe that Major Robbins is or is on the way to somewhere dangerous.
The Bottom-Line to the this bad piece of regulation: The soldiers who will attempt to fly under the radar and post negative items about the military, mission, and commanders will continue to do so under the new regs. The soldiers who've been playing ball the last few years, the vast, VAST, majority will be reduced. In my mind, this reg will accomplish the exact opposite of its intent. The good guys are restricted and the bad continue on...
Operational Security is of paramount importance. But we are losing the Information War on all fronts. Fanatic-like adherence to OPSEC will do us little good if we lose the few honest voices that tell the truth about The Long War.
Instead, the US Army should adopt Major Robbins recommendations, allow for unit bloggers, and restrict bloggers with the same rules as the military gives embed reporters (with UCMJ exceptions). Maybe, then, we can start winning some battles on the information front.
Update: Steve Schippert sends this link to a video by Brad Levinson of the first panel of the 2006 MilBlog Conference. At the very end, I make a prediction that I've been praying would never happen.
"If the Army restricts bloggers, all you will have are pissed-off dissident bloggers who are willing to take a risk...every Article-15 schlep will be blogging and all of the guys in this room who are trying to get the stories out, will not. That'll be the end."
Update 2: Wired also has an interview posted with the creator of the new regulation. And treating reporters as Al Qaeda moles.
Update 3: Reader Paul asks if I'll continue to post messages and emails from my friends in the war zone. For my answer, see below.
Update 4: John, a US Army Reserve Officer in Iraq, writes:
If the mil thinks they can keep this reservist from blogs, KMFA
Update 5: General Casey is not the most Public Affairs minded General ever. Can't say much else on a PG13 blog.
Update 6: Just did an interview with Wavelength (Tech Radio) about this issue. The link is to the raw interview (mp3 file). The edited version will hopefully include Noah Shachtman and will be on Public Radio across the country.
Update 7 05-03-07: Army releases announcement (I'll post when there's an official link) which essentially is stepping back from the stricter language of the regulation. This is a smart and welcome change, although it will not change, nor republish, the regulation.
Here is my response from the comments:
The Army is stepping back on this. This wasn't an overblown reaction to the reg. The reg was poorly written. The Wired article accurately reflected the changes in the regulation. And now, General Officers are on the move to prevent it from doing damage. The Army is doing the right thing here. This announcement is a welcome change...however, the "announcement" does not reside within the reg, and therefore, commanders, when consulting the regulations, won't know about it unless it's disseminated widely (like, say, at a milblog conference).
Outside of Special Ops, I highly doubt that many commanders would ever take a liberal interpretation of any regulation, let alone a regulation pertaining to OPERATIONAL SECURITY?!
Taking a different tact than what the reg dictates is a substantial opportunity for demotion or a stay with all expenses paid at ol' Ft. Leavenworth.