Bye-bye Milbloggers Posted by: Dale Franks
on Monday, October 23, 2006
Some of the most interesting writing about the Global War on terror has come from the people fighting it: the soldiers, sailors, Marines, and airmen who are part of the Milblogging community. But, as Jules Crittenden notes in the Boston Herald, the military is about to shut down that avenue of communication.
Now, the military has assigned a National Guard unit to monitor the Internet for possible violations of operational security - OPSEC, as they call it. No one is suggesting significant violations have occurred, and soldiers were already required to have their commanders’ approval to blog, and to submit to periodic review. A mechanism to ensure soldiers are doing their duty makes sense, but overzealous officers will find violations, real or imagined, and punish soldiers.
The new rules also say commanders in the field must approve in advance anything that goes onto a public Web site. So much for trusting soldiers to observe OPSEC, much as civilian reporters have been trusted to do under liberal embedding rules.
So, now a Milblogger not only requires permission to start a blog, and be subject to formal periodic review, a National guard unit will be constantly monitoring for OPSEC violations, and Milbloggers will need prior approval for every post.
Needless to say, this will make any kind of regular blogging a near impossibility. Expect most of the Milbloggers to just...fade away. The only "milblogging" that will still go on will be from ex-career military people, like McQ and I, and frankly, we don't have all that much firsthand information to impart about what's currently happening.
Even worse, this is just part of the military's execrable performance in fighting the information war. As Michael Yon points out, the military's mania for control of information has become practically censorship. At the moment, for instance, there are nine—count 'em, nine—embedded reported among the 150,000 troops in Iraq. It's as if the military is terrified of information getting to the public.
But, you know who isn't terrified? Our enemies. They are absolutely keen to push information into our public media. And, in an environment where reporters are looking for something—anything—to fill the maw of the 24-hour news cycle, and the military doles out information like they're doling out vials of their own blood, the reporters are taking whatever information they can get.
Now, you can blame the "liberal media" for serving as the mouthpieces of terrorists, but, in fairness, you must recognize that the DoD must shoulder a good portion of the blame by shutting down the information flow of our side's news.
You can't win the information war by refusing to fight it.
"... there are nine—count ’em, nine—embedded reported among the 150,000 troops in Iraq"
Is that because the government limits the number, or because news organizations do not wish to do it? It’s hard to believe our beloved mainstream media(well-known for its pro-military, pro-administration zealotry) would not complain loudly and frequently if they were denied access, even if they did not wish to use it. Or is it just one or two Ernie Pyle wannabees who have had their feelings hurt?
Ummm, probably not, Roci. Bureaucrats like these are parasites, plain and simple. Stuff like this just ends up making more and more intelligent people less interested in going into the military. The pay isn’t great, the work is dangerous and you are increasingly having the constitutional rights of an antebellum slave.
Yeah, sign me up for some of that in peacetime (I’ll call it war when I see Congress formally, unequivocably declaring it).
"But, I suspect their best sources are still the NY Times and CNN."
If there are only 9 embedded reporters, and none of them are from NY Times or CNN, where do they get all this information that is so useful to Al Queda et al.?
"What a huge waste of resources to have employees searching the web for freindly blogs."
Why? Isn’t it possible some of these blogs are disclosing, intentionally or not, information they shouldn’t be disclosing? I rather doubt that each and every blogger has the experience or training to know the possible intelligence value of what they put on the net. Intelligence agencies do not rely only on spies. They also spend lots of resources collecting information in the public domain; they read and monitor newspapers, television news, and even the internet.
I mostly agree with the military’s need to maintain OPSEC by monitoring milblogs.
What I don’t agree with is the "submit for approval" bit.
IMNSHO, what should be done is simple: Every milblogger must submit his URL to whatever unit it is that is going to monitor these things.
A set of guidelines should be published - like, "Don’t show exterior photos of bases which would allow the enemy to determine the layout or location of any specific function or person." "Don’t discuss recent ops unless you are absolutely sure that no followups are planned or needed." etc.
If the monotoring agency finds violations of any of those specific guidelines, the offender and his CO should be notified. Punishment will be determined by the CO, ranging from "don’t do it again" to "shut the damned thing down", right up to a general CM.
Violations of a more subtle nature should result in two things - a revision of the guidelines (automatically dissemintated to the bloggers) and a notice to the blog of what he did, and why it’s a problem.
They aren’t interested in compromising OPSEC - in most cases, it’s their ass, too. Give them accountability and responsiblity and they’ll respond. This isn’t your father’s draftee army.
How about a simpler requirement: if you are going to discuss anything that you have done in an intelligence or combat role you have to have it sent to your commanding officer or this unit first. No exceptions. Why should the military be any different from any other employer? You can’t talk about proprietary information without approval.