May 3, 2007

Milbloggers Safe? (Bumped)

Yesterday, Wired reported on new Army operational-security regulations that would have meant an end, for all practical purposes, to milblogging from the front lines. Today, the Washington Times' Jon Ward asked Tony Snow about the new OpSec regulations, and the White House says the change is "overreported". Here's the video, and a transcript of the key portion:

Q: A follow-up, a second question would be, the Pentagon has required all military bloggers to seek approval for their blogging and their -- I think also their e-mail. Some bloggers and military and conservative commentators have said the government is shutting down --

MR. SNOW: Well, that's -- from what we -- from what we understand, that is being overreported a little bit in the following sense.

First, I'm not sure that that is operational, that request. No. 2, to the extent that they have asked -- and I would refer you to the Pentagon for full comment on this, but my understanding is that they're concerned about matters of operational security -- certainly people giving their opinions about what's going on -- as long as they do not disclose information that is going to jeopardize operations ongoing or in the future or in some way give away information that will make it easier for the enemy to kill Americans or Iraqis, and that's normal in a time of war. There is always censorship in a time of war mainly to protect the people who are doing the fighting, similarly with e-mails, but there is no wholesale shutdown.

Again, I'm just giving you what I know, and I would encourage you to talk to the Pentagon for further detail. But my understanding is there's no wholesale shutting down of blogs or of e-mail. But on the other hand, there is sensitivity to the fact that you have to be careful when you're doing these things not jeopardize yourself, your colleagues, the operations, the Iraqis and the overall mission.

I think the point is more that the regulations would make blogging in a real-time sense impossible. Whether that's by design or an accident of ignorance would be hard to determine. The OpSec regulations require a "supervisor" approve all blogposts and e-mails before publication -- which would probably mean a long delay, in most cases. That's the essential problem.

UPDATE AND BUMP: The Army has issued a clarification on this order:

• In no way will every blog post/update a Soldier makes on his or her blog need to be monitored or first approved by an immediate supervisor and Operations Security (OPSEC) officer. After receiving guidance and awareness training from the appointed OPSEC officer, that Soldier blogger is entrusted to practice OPSEC when posting in a public forum.

• Army Regulation 350-1, “Operations Security,” was updated April 17, 2007 – but the wording and policies on blogging remain the same from the July 2005 guidance first put out by the U.S. Army in Iraq for battlefield blogging. Since not every post/update in a public forum can be monitored, this regulation places trust in the Soldier, Civilian Employee, Family Member and contractor that they will use proper judgment to ensure OPSEC.
o Much of the information contained in the 2007 version of AR 530-1 already was included in the 2005 version of AR 530-1. For example, Soldiers have been required since 2005 to report to their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer about their wishes to publish military-related content in public forums.
o Army Regulation 530-1 simply lays out measures to help ensure operations security issues are not published in public forums (i.e., blogs) by Army personnel.

• Soldiers do not have to seek permission from a supervisor to send personal E-mails. Personal E-mails are considered private communication. However, AR 530-1 does mention if someone later posts an E-mail in a public forum containing information sensitive to OPSEC considerations, an issue may then arise.

What does this mean? It means that bloggers will get trained in OpSec rules and regulations, and then allowed to police their own conduct. The key word here is "trust". The Army got this right today.

Now, the question is whether Wired got it wrong in the first place.


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Comments (6)

Posted by Retread [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 2:28 PM

Idle question: Do they (military censors) still read snail mail from those deployed before forwarding it? I've had a few letters from military members stationed in Iraq and/or Afghanistan and there was no indication it had been looked at.

Posted by Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 3:53 PM

It sounds like someone paid attention to the letter Russ Vaughn had me post at Old War Dogs yesterday (not impossible since Michelle Malkin picked it up.) I'll add the good news to my follow-up post: The END of Military Blogging? -- Day 2.

Retread, I hate to defend anyone anal-retentive enough to have tried a stunt like they tried but I think the assumption is snail mail is too old to be dangerous by the time it gets back to The World.

Posted by Fight4TheRight [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 3:58 PM


If there was influence in a change in position by Mr. Vaughn's letter, I'd appreciate your thanking him for writing it.

At the same time, I'm starting to wonder if Wired isn't also in charge of identifying dead Iraqi Al Qaeda members.

/sarc off

Posted by Bill Faith [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 4:17 PM

Fight4TheRight, I momentarily misinterpreted your "/sarc off" to apply to both paragraphs of your comment, then I reread the comment you left at my place yesterday.  Seriously, I don't know how much influence Russ's letter might have had; Old War Dogs only got about 500 hits yesterday but a whole lot more people than that read it on Michelle's site and I'm not the least bit upset that she posted the whole thing (which my email to her said was OK) instead of doing a "read the rest here" link that not everyone would have followed.

Posted by Fight4TheRight [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 4:38 PM

Bill, sorry about the /sarc off - I certainly didn't mean that to apply to Mr. Vaughn's letter - I am a firm believer of the power of the pen/keyboard and people do listen when others pick up on a cause.

I read Mr. Vaughn's sample letter to Congressmen/Senators and it was terrific. Considering all that has been happening with the Iraqi War in the past 3 months, I'm thinking that I'm on a first name basis with my Congressmen and Congresswomen! LOL

Posted by Socrates [TypeKey Profile Page] | May 3, 2007 10:24 PM

Hey, this is a relief. And no pointy fingers, but it sounds like Wired did misinterpret a bit.

It surprised me to see the military doing an about face on fighting on the information front, and I hoped it was something like this.

It's also good to give everyone an OpSec class before turning them loose blogging, but I think that doesn't go far enough. Every fighter ought also to be trained as an embedded reporter. When the technology is available to record or transmit battle action on video, there would be an incredible supply of battlefield information, something unthinkable a generation ago.

Similarly, there would be a massive number of information warriors, whether between battles or laid up in a hospital in Germany but still doing their part. Those back in CONUS would be especially effective information fighters.

The days are gone when we can leave the information warfare to the specialists. Everyone has to fight.