Silencing Soldiers

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
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

Go there too >>
Army Clamps Down with New OPSEC Policy

And there >>
From Self-Censorship to Official Censorship

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