Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death
Lt. Adam Tiffen (Left), Author of Military Blog, The Replacements
First Lt. Jeffrey D. Barnett: Award Winning Iraq Soldier-Blogger
At the same time as the issue of internet freedom erupted in the Digg censoring incident, Wired Magazine has revealed that the U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mal messages without prior approval.
From today’s issue of Wired Magazine:
“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.
The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.
“This is the final nail in the coffin for combat blogging,” said retired paratrooper Matthew Burden, editor of The Blog of War anthology. “No more military bloggers writing about their experiences in the combat zone. This is the best PR the military has — it’s most honest voice out of the war zone. And it’s being silenced.”
Army Regulation 530–1: Operations Security (OPSEC) (.pdf) restricts more than just blogs, however. Previous editions of the rules asked Army personnel to “consult with their immediate supervisor” before posting a document “that might contain sensitive and/or critical information in a public forum.” The new version, in contrast, requires “an OPSEC review prior to publishing” anything — from “web log (blog) postings” to comments on internet message boards, from resumes to letters home.
Failure to do so, the document adds, could result in a court-martial, or “administrative, disciplinary, contractual, or criminal action.”
You can read more here: Link.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) had filed a lawsuit against the Department of Defense in February, “demanding expedited information on how the Army monitors soldiers’ blogs,” according to an announcement from the digital rights group. Here is a PDF copy of the EFF complaint about the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell: Link. Noah Shachtman at Defensetech has been diligently covering this story, long before anyone else was aware of it. He provides more on this legal battle here: Link.
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