May 10, 2007

Super FOB IO

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, 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."

You can check out the whole story here. Read a quick interview with the regulations' author here. And take a look at how the new rules turn reporters into the equivalent of foreign spies here.

There are a whole bunch of interesting discussions on about the Army's crackdown on blogs. But the strategic minds at the Small Wars Council have the deepest discussion of the lot.
Here's a sample:

This sounds alot more like a Super FOB [Forward Operating Base] IO [Information Operations] strategy. We'll build these walls around us and communicate only on approved internal lines of communication with internal approval of approved internal discussions so that we can ensure we are discussing approved questions with approved solutions which we will then disseminate at approved CTC and publications. The latency will be huge! The timeliness of useful information which can be placed in the correct context so that it can be applied will be largely neutralized. But we will be safe.

OK - this may not have been the intent - but that may not matter if someone does not clarify the directive - remember perceptions are reality.

I'd argue that while the enemy is prosecuting a very effective IO campaign and use of the Internet, we are tightening the chastity belt for fear of misuse. There probably has been some screw ups - but how do you measure the subjective value vs. risk? We are a quantitative bunch at heart facing a foe who is willing to be subjective. Are we fighting the fight we have or wishing for the one we'd like? Is developing a real information warfare capability vs a better bank vault beyond us? I know people who sit on information for total fear they will be held accountable for its release - they are largely inn effective, but they are safe. They are not concerned about the mission any where near as much as they are self preservation and will often use it as an excuse for lethargic behavior.

While the risks must be known and mitigated / minimized, don't assume the enemy will operate under any restrictions. How much terrain does a defensive position control - only what it can see and reach - and these days that is very limited given that the key terrain is Human.

-Violent Rehash Of Danger Room Excerpts


Effwit said...

Steve Aftergood posted a copy of the new regs on his site, and got a warning from the Army.

From my inbox:

On May 2, Steven Aftergood told Wired News that new Army regulations requiring soldiers to "clear content" in personal blogs and e-mails with a superior officer were "outrageous." Aftergood, an expert on government secrecy for the Federation of American Scientists, then posted a copy of the new regulations document on his website, Secrecy News. Two days later, he received an e-mail from Cheryl Clark of the U.S. Army Publications Directorate telling him, "You have Army Publications hosted on your website illegally, there are only 5 Official Army Publications Sites. You are not one of them, you can link to our publications, but you cannot host them. ... Please remove this publication immediately or further action will be taken." Aftergood responded with his own e-mail, informing the Army that he would not comply with their request. "You indicate that we have posted Army documents 'illegally.' That is not true. The posted documents are 'works of the United States Government under 17 U.S.C 101. Such items cannot be copyrighted, as explained in 17 U.S.C. 105," wrote Aftergood. "Nor to my knowledge is there any other law that would prohibit posting of such documents on a public or private web site."

Meatball One said...

Brains make for (meat)balls