Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Pentagon Shutting Down Some Blogs, Raising Red Flags Among Soldiers

The Pentagon is shutting down soldiers' blogs that it says reveal too much information. In some cases, it is fining or demoting soldiers who fail to follow military guidelines substantially tightened last year.

But some soldiers are saying the military's real goal is to silence or sanitize blogs that reveal the truth about daily life fighting the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

"The ones that stay up are completely patriotic and innocuous, and they're fine if you want to read the flag-waving and how everything's peachy keen in Iraq," New York Army National Guard Spc. Jason Christopher Hartley, who was demoted from sergeant and fined because of information on his blog, told Newsday.

Jon Peede, director of Operation Homecoming -- a National Endowment for the Arts program that is creating a collection of soldiers' blogs, letters and essays -- told the newspaper that the effect of shutting down some soldiers' blogs is that overall, such blogs are becoming less compelling.

There's less of the informal, often coarse language that gave a feeling of authenticity and attracted thousands of readers both in and out of the military, he said.


Coincidentally, the Newsday article came out just as a new Military Times poll was released. The poll, conducted in November and December, finds support for President Bush and for the war in Iraq has slipped in the last year among members of the military’s professional core. Approval for Bush's Iraq policy fell to 54%, down from 63% a year ago.

The drops in support seen in the Military Times Poll are “real drops, but I see them as reflecting the tone of the country,” David Segal, a military sociologist at the University of Maryland, told the publication.

Is Bush Administration policy creating fodder for the very milibloggers being shut down?


The military's reasoning is "loose lips sink ships." It makes you wonder why the Pentagon ever allowed soldier blogs to exist in the first place.

It took nearly two years for the Air Force, Army, Marines, and Navy to adopt stricter guidelines, and to create special security squads to monitor the blogs. Could the military have been so naive as to think that soldiers would only write information unrelated to troop location or activity?

"When you put your blog out there, you cannot forget that not only the good guys, but the bad guys are accessing it," Marine Capt. Don Caetano told Newsday. He spun the stricter military guidelines, saying, "The limitations on blogging basically mean, 'Don't make it easy for them. Don't readily give up information,'" that would endanger U.S. troops.

But soldiers question whether Al Qaeda is actually wading through hundreds of blogs in the hope of getting information which by default is past tense -- informal references to troops moved, shots fired, battles fought.

Some also wonder whether the military is going overboard in what it censors. One blog was cited for posting photos of an Abrams tank pierced by a rocket-propelled grenade; the military said the photos could show Iraqi insurgents where to aim.


In past wars, the U.S. military didn't have to deal with blogs -- or e-mail, text messaging or videophones, which are not apparently subject to the same monitoring. But it did have to deal with hand-written letters, and diaries, which could have been intercepted.

Could you imagine what might have been of some famous wartime letters, had the current policy been in effect? Consider this Civil War-era letter from a corporal in the 5th Iowa Infantry, which describes troop movements. Or would we have ever seen photographs such as this (or does it give away information on where enemy soldiers were killed?) or this (or does it show where U.S. troops are heading?)

Entire books have been filled with letters from soldiers, and no doubt, some of those letters revealed information that the military would have deemed sensitive.

As a nation, we have learned much about our soldiers from unofficial sources -- from Revolutionary War letters to the Abu Ghraib prison photos. It's not always what the miltary wants us to see.

No doubt the military works under rules that the average American does not. But while the military worries about what messages are being sent by its soldiers' blogs, it should also consider what message it sends when it turns to censorship.


Blogger don dzikowski said...

It appears the U.S. Military/Bush Administration is using the excuse of Al Quada (again) to plug the soldier's blogs.
That's all this administration has to offer is FEAR.
I don't think news of the blog censorship and the U.S. Military survey surfacing at the same time is purely coincidental.
Obvious to even a half-wit, yet oblivious to conservatives, the Bush Administration continues to gloss over its' own War Of Terror. The administration will stop at nothing including propaganda and censorship to persist in the coverup the Bush Administration CREATED the insurgency the U.S. Military is fighting.
This will go down as one of the biggest military fiascos in history, right after Waterloo and (for the Union forces) the Battle of Shiloh and Vietnam.
I predict that now that the December election is over and violence continues unabated in Iraq, Bush popularity numbers will again plop into the thirties, especially now with the revealations of the illegal spying program.
Here we find another non-brilliant coverup. It is nonsense to suggest leaking the info on the warrantless spying threatens U.S. security because Al Quada already knows the U.S. spies on it.
Another Bushie smokescreen, this time to hide the fact the spying probably targets political enemies of the right.

And the talk of Impeachment is getting louder: http://www.thenation.com/blogs/edcut?bid=7&pid=45006

1:54 PM  
Anonymous ash said...

"Some blogs," huh. The title says it all. Who decides what's kosher and what isn't? How many strikes before you're out?

And Don, you've hit the target again. In politics and crime, NEVER trust the word "coincidence."

2:51 PM  
Blogger Ditto said...

These efforts to control and manipulate this information may be a good indication of the over-riding trepidation felt by our ruling class. It seems to go way beyond limiting operational info.

While my military daughter was in Iraq arena (immediately before and during the first months of the war) she ran a webpage thru which we communicated frequently. Despite my repeated inquiry into what she was seeing and experiencing she provided no real information in that format. We were frustrated but understood. She was given strict do's and don'ts by her CO's about what could be said. That sounds only fair and prudent in a time of war.

When she arrived back in the States I asked her for more details but beyond a few anecdotal incidents she would not give many specifics. She has said that they were required to sign a non-disclosure agreement that prohibits her (and her unit comrades) from talking about anything for (I think) 3 years.

I'm not sure if it was only her group or ALL American soldiers (her operational specialty was sensitive, the decontamination of soldiers and equipment exposed to WMD's - public info BTW). She has said that there are facts of which very few people stateside are aware of, that the MSM has never mentioned.

Does anyone know if this non-disclosure agreement is standard practice for returning soldiers? If so imagine the truths that may begin to spill forth within the next few years.

Upon her return she enrolled in a great university and is now majoring in Political Science and started a new student/veterans Democrat organization. Before experiencing war she had no interest in such things and would rather watch the Cartoon Network than CNN.

The arrogant actions and attitudes of our leaders over the last 5 years have shaken my faith in this great country to the point I literally feel sick and ashamed. Then I speak with her, listen to her ideas, goals and aspirations, and my faith in America is again renewed.

7:01 PM  

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