When the US Army released its new Operational Security regulations in April, a deeply engrained tension between military security and public information was on full display. According to the new regulations, Army personnel should not 'publicly reference, disseminate, or publish' information in emails, letters, or blogs without checking with a superior first. 'Taken at face value,' writes Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists blog Secrecy News, this 'would spell the end of military blogging and would severely curtail military participation in public life.'
Noah Shachtman of Wired News first uncovered the new regulations on May 2, and since then, Shachtman and Aftergood have unearthed a variety of Operational Security (OPSEC) documents that expose the rift between the military and the press. One particularly telling document presented different 'categories of threat' to security -- foreign and domestic, traditional and nontraditional. Among the nontraditional threats listed were al-Qaida, drug cartels, and, surprisingly, the 'media,' (including blogs).
The Army has tried to control the leaked documents by silencing Aftergood. Soon after these documents came to light, Aftergood received an email from the Army informing him that the OPSEC documents were posted 'illegally,' and that 'there are only five Official Army Publications Sites. You are not one of them.' Aftergood has responded by posting the Army's email on his site, along with his response: 'Our publications are not illegal nor in violation of any applicable regulation.'
Many in the Armed Forces have begun to argue that the new regulations on soldiers end up hurting the reputation of the services more than it helps. Shachtman quotes Maj. Elizabeth Robbins saying, 'To silence the most credible voices -- those at the spear's edge -- and to disallow them this function [of blogging] is to handicap ourselves on a vital, very real battlefield.' It also handicaps those off the battlefield, for whom these blogs have served a vital source of information in a war hampered by government hedging and limited journalist access.
Go there >> Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death
Go there too >> Army Clamps Down with New OPSEC Policy
And there >> From Self-Censorship to Official Censorship
Related links from the Utne Reader archive:
Comments? Story tips? Write a letter to the editor
Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne Reader