For the last couple of weeks, Defense Tech has been looking into the increasingly hostile atmosphere that soldier- journalists -- milbloggers -- have been facing. Now, a bunch of bigger outlets have picked up on the story -- and advanced it several steps.Stars & Stripes:
The [Army's] August order [about blogs] specifically states that soldiers may not create or update their blogs during duty hours, and the sites must not 'contain information on military activities that is not available to the general public.'That includes 'comments on daily military activities and operations, unit morale, results of operations, status of equipment, and other information that may be beneficial to adversaries.'If soldiers are found violating those rules, both the servicemembers and their commanding officers are notified... leadership can decide what punishment, if any, the soldiers should face...Noah Shachtman, editor of defensetech.org, said... "The fact that soldiers want to write about their experiences is something that should be embraced by the Army... Theyre not looking to bad-mouth the military. Theyre looking to talk proudly about their experiences."AP:
"We are not a law enforcement or intelligence agency. Nor are we political correctness enforcers," Lt. Col. Stephen Warnock, [head of the Virginia National Guard "Big Brother" website-monitoring unit] said. "We are simply trying to identify harmful Internet content and make the authors aware of the possible misuse of the information by groups who may want to damage United States interests."Some bloggers say the guidelines are too ambiguous - a sentiment that has led others to pre-emptively shut down or alter their blogs."It's impossible to determine when something crosses the line from not a violation to a violation. It's like trying to define what pornography is or bad taste in music," said Spc. Jason Hartley, 32, who says he was demoted from sergeant and fined for reposting a blog he created while deployed to Iraq with the New York Army National Guard.According to Hartley, the Army had forced him to stop the blog even before the oversight operation existed, citing pictures he had posted of Iraqi detainees and discussions of how he loaded a weapon and the route his unit took to get to Iraq.Wired News' Xeni Jardin (who has the best story of the lot):
Blackfive's [Matt] Burden says soldiers are receiving mixed messages: some receive approval from their immediate commanders, only later to be rebuked by more senior officials. Burden says his site and another milblog, Armor Geddon, were once featured in an internal Army PowerPoint presentation which described both as serious operational security risks."That kind of message from the administration of the Army sends a chilling signal to a young soldier who was told by his commander that it was okay to do what he was doing," Burden told Wired News.He and fellow milbloggers gathered this year in April for a first ever MilBlog Conference in Washington, DC. They plan to reconvene in May, 2007. Debate over how to address authorities' OPSEC concerns without creating a "chilling effect" among bloggers was a heated topic at the 2006 gathering."My advice would be to bring together active duty, reserve and veteran bloggers to take a look at this issue in a way that would help the military," Burden says, "There's a lot of positive information coming from these 1,200 or so military blogs, and if it's not positive, it's giving people a better understanding of what it's like to be a soldier or the family of a soldier fighting this war."Active duty milblogger John Noonan co-edits OPFOR (military slang for "opposing force") and posts on such topics as "foreign policy, wargaming, grand strategy and hippy bashing."Noonan is among those who believe the current flap is partly the result of a generation gap between younger, tech-savvy recruits for whom life online is second nature and older, more senior military officials who don't get the net and are accustomed to the military's long-established history of carefully monitoring release of information from the battlefield."They don't want to lose the traditional control they've had over information released from the battlefield to the American people," Noonan said. "It's counterintuitive for military guys who are used to total control over what information is released and what isn't, to all of a sudden having zero control."Xeni also filed a story for NPR's Day to Day, which should air this afternoon.UPDATE 3:01 PM: The NPR segment is up now.UPDATE 10/31/06 4:20 PM: ABC News weighs in here, with some pretty bruising commentary from Blackfive. Note to self: Do not piss this guy off.