Patterico's Pontifications

5/2/2007

Concerns of a Clampdown on Milblogs: Overblown? (UPDATE: Probably Not)

Filed under: General,War — Patterico @ 5:50 pm

This Washington Post article suggests that the military is not conducting a draconian crackdown on milblogs, notwithstanding some previous fretting to the contrary. According to military sources, oldiers are not required to clear each post with a superior, as some had reported. Rather, they must register new blogs and inform superiors, so they can be counseled not to disclose classified or sensitive information:

Army Maj. Ray M. Ceralde, who worked on the new regulations, said Wednesday the intention of the 2007 rule is not to have soldiers clear every public posting with commanders.

“Not only is that impractical, but we are trusting the soldiers to protect critical information,” he said.

He said there is no effort to block soldiers from setting up or posting comments to blogs. “We’re not looking for them to seek approval each time a blog entry is posted,” Ceralde said.

The rules, he said, do not affect personal, private e-mails that soldiers send. “Soldiers have a right to private communications with their families,” he said.

Instead, Ceralde said, soldiers are expected to consult or clear with commanders when they start a blog, in part so they can be warned about information they cannot publish.

If true, this does not seem like an undue restriction, given the importance of protecting such information.

UPDATE: Note: as I say, the concerns are overblown if the military’s clarification of its purpose is true. Glenn Reynolds suspects it’s not, and that the military may simply be covering its posterior with the comments in the Post. The more I read, the more I think Glenn may be right. First, commenter Rick Wilcox cites language in comments that seems inconsistent with the intent stated by Maj. Ceralde:

g. Consult with their immediate supervisor and their OPSEC Officer for an OPSEC review prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum.

(1) This includes, but is not limited to letters, resumes, articles for publication, electronic mail (e-mail), Web site postings, web log (blog) postings, discussion in Internet information forums, discussion in Internet message boards or other forms of dissemination or documentation.

But what about enforcement? Well, Maj. Ceralde is not as clear in a Wired article about blogs being free of the need to consult before posting:

Despite the absolutist language, the guidelines’ author, Major Ray Ceralde, said there is some leeway in enforcement of the rules. “It is not practical to check all communication, especially private communication,” he noted in an e-mail. “Some units may require that soldiers register their blog with the unit for identification purposes with occasional spot checks after an initial review. Other units may require a review before every posting.”

I see. So you’re not looking to make them do that — but any commander who doesn’t want to get in trouble for making rules too lax may require that.

OK, maybe the concerns weren’t overblown after all.

UPDATE x2: I think the only way to know for sure is to see how this plays out with our favorite milblogs. I’ll keep an eye on the situation.

UPDATE: Army Lawyer is not too pessimistic.

21 Responses to “Concerns of a Clampdown on Milblogs: Overblown? (UPDATE: Probably Not)”

  1. While Maj. Ceralde states that the intent is not to regulate each and every public posting, my concern springs from this wording:

    g. Consult with their immediate supervisor and their OPSEC Officer for an OPSEC review prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum.
    (1) This includes, but is not limited to letters, resumes, articles for publication, electronic mail (e-mail), Web site postings, web log (blog) postings, discussion in Internet information forums, discussion in Internet message boards or
    other forms of dissemination or documentation.

    Maybe it’s just bad phrasing, but that wording would indicate to the lay observer that each and every blog post has to be run through OPSEC.

    Rick Wilcox (71646f)

  2. My daughters blog evaporated at the last round of “clarification” the Army did in relation to blogs.

    Look at the list of potential violations of OpSec…

    If ordering pizza is a potential violation of OpSec…then everything is a violation of OpSec…they are trying to make the Army invisible..

    It is not the rule that you need to consult first that is the problem…it is the list of things that are violations of Opsec.

    Soldier's Dad (da6ece)

  3. The author of the dirrective clarified it a bit, the explanation being posted on Badgers Forward:

    The regulation says that a Soldier or other U.S. Army personnel must consult with their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer prior to posting information in a public forum. However, this is where unit commander or organization leadership specifies in orders, policies, or directives how this will be done. Some units may require that Soldiers register their blog with the unit for identification purposes with occasional spot checks after an initial review. Other units may require a review before every posting.

    I would take that to mean that officers can just spot check, and trust a standing blog to behave…

    There’s discression, and I suspect folks like Badger 6 and Teflon Don will be allowed to post still.

    I hope so. I check their blogs several times a day to make sure I see new posts as soon as they pop up…

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  4. in my 20+ years in the Army (Guard & Reserve) i never met a commander who didn’t take the most restrictive definition of a reg when asked about it.

    they do this simply because everyone above them does the same thing, and it’s all out of fear.
    fear that they won’t get the next promotion because something went wrong.

    it’s the same reason the answer to almost any request for something new & different is “no”.

    this AR will be no different, if allowed to remain unchanged. it’s further proof the army hasn’t the vaugest clue about information warfare.

    redc1c4,
    i’m not cynical, i’m experienced. %-)

    redc1c4 (d1cba2)

  5. I’m not nearly as concerned with the blogs as I am about the E-Mail. There are some things you don’t want your “immediate supervisor” to know. People talk and your immediate supervisor is generally not much senior to you and sometimes has the same group of freinds. If your boss knows you are having familly problems you can bet their wife knows and therefore many of your wifes freinds know. The only way to avoid problems is to make your personal email as bland as a military regulation.

    Bernie (f7f209)

  6. I’m sure any of us who’ve watched all those old WW II war movies have seen the gags they used to run about a relative receiving mail from a loved one in the service that had been censored to the point there was nothing left to read.

    This is nothing new and, in a way, not surprising. The good news is that modern (post-modern?) communications makes it difficult to really censor what people have to say. We should all be grateful for the liberty. The bad news is that there are still some circumstance and some information that needs to be censored, heck, kept secret, and members of the military should know that.

    This reg may be too restrictive and affect blogs and emails that are really to the military and individual’s benefit, but it’s not particularly hard to understand.

    Strick (2a3c0e)

  7. I don’t think the Army quite knows what it wants, other than to ensure bloggers are cautious and civil regarding Iraqi culture. Some YouTube soldier videos blatantly mock it.

    Army Maj. Ray M. Ceralde, who worked on the new regulations, said Wednesday the intention of the 2007 rule is not to have Soldiers clear every public posting with commanders.

    “Not only is that impractical, but we are trusting the Soldiers to protect critical information,” he said.

    He said there is no effort to block Soldiers from setting up or posting comments to blogs. “We’re not looking for them to seek approval each time a blog entry is posted,” Ceralde said.

    The rules, he said, do not affect personal, private e-mails that Soldiers send. “Soldiers have a right to private communications with their families,” he said.

    http://www.military.com/NewsContent/0,13319,134461,00.html

    steve (6830b3)

  8. Isn’t this an Army Regulation which only applies to that service? Not ‘the military.’

    craig mclaughlin (303e29)

  9. MAJ Ceralde states:
    The rules, he said, do not affect personal, private e-mails that Soldiers send. “Soldiers have a right to private communications with their families,” he said.

    But that’s contrary to what he wrote in the AR. The AR states that Commander’s may indeed screen or otherwise issue directives regarding private communication. Such communications are specifically mentioned as ebing “in scope” for concern and possible review and/or other command response to the regulation as written.

    That the good Major thinks that that won’t happen is irrelevant. If he thought that, he shoudl have included language to that effect in the Reg.

    Dadmanly (51e570)

  10. Dad,

    While 2-1g(1) states that the reg applies to email, 2-1g applies to information posted in PUBLIC fora.

    Not all email can be considered a posting to a public forum, I don’t think. MAJ Ceralde’s comments confirm that.

    And given the natural reaction of “you can’t mean ALL email/information/etc, can you?”–clarification would come from the proponent as indicated by the author’s intent.

    Army Lawyer (0de2e7)

  11. Just saw on QandO that the position has apparently been changed, and no current blogs will be shut down…

    Scott Jacobs (feb2f7)

  12. I’m finding it increasing difficult to control my temper when things like this happen.

    Thanks for introducing a rare note of sanity into this discussion Patterico.

    Cassandra (57b9d6)

  13. CJR

    It looks like it’s official: the United States Army thinks that American reporters are a threat to national security. Thanks to some great sleuthing by Wired’s “Danger Room” blogger Noah Shachtman, the Army’s new operational security guidelines (OPSEC) hit the Web in a big way yesterday, and the implications they have for reporters — who are grouped in with drug cartels and Al Qaeda as security threats to be beaten back — are staggering.

    Make no mistake, this is a very big deal, and every American citizen, not just reporters and soldiers, needs to understand the implications of the Army’s strict new policy, because it directly affects how citizens receive information about their armed forces: information that it has every right to get.

    Shachtman reproduces a slide from the new “OPSEC in the Blogosphere,” document, which lists and ranks “Categories of Threat.” Under “traditional domestic threats” we find hackers and militia groups, while “non-traditional” threats include drug cartels, and — yes — the media. Just to put that into some perspective, the foreign “non-traditional threats” are listed as warlords, and Al Qaeda. In other words, the Army has figuratively and literally put the media in the same box as Al Qaeda, warlords, and drug cartels.

    AF (d700ef)

  14. I’m amused AF… Since I just said that the policy does no such thing, and has been excessively clarified to the point that the earlier announcement has been nullified.

    But, since it’s all you know, I suppose I’ll have to link it for you, and I’ll quote it. I do it because I care…

    Fact Sheet

    Army Operations Security: Soldier Blogging Unchanged

    Summary:

    o America’s Army respects every Soldier’s First Amendment rights while also adhering to Operations Security (OPSEC) considerations to ensure their safety on the battlefield.

    o Soldiers and Army family members agree that safety of our
    Soldiers are of utmost importance.

    o Soldiers, Civilians, contractors and Family Members all play an integral role in maintaining Operations Security, just as in previous wars.

    Details:

    * In no way will every blog post/update a Soldier makes on his or her blog need to be monitored or first approved by an immediate supervisor and Operations Security (OPSEC) officer. After receiving guidance and awareness training from the appointed OPSEC officer, that Soldier blogger is entrusted to practice OPSEC when posting in a public forum.

    * Army Regulation 350-1, “Operations Security,” was updated April 17, 2007 – but the wording and policies on blogging remain the same from the July 2005 guidance first put out by the U.S. Army in Iraq for battlefield blogging. Since not every post/update in a public forum can be monitored, this regulation places trust in the Soldier, Civilian Employee, Family Member and contractor that they will use proper judgment to ensure OPSEC.

    o Much of the information contained in the 2007 version of AR 530-1 already was included in the 2005 version of AR 530-1. For example, Soldiers have been required since 2005 to report to their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer about their wishes to publish military-related content in public forums.

    o Army Regulation 530-1 simply lays out measures to help ensure operations security issues are not published in public forums (i.e., blogs) by Army personnel.

    * Soldiers do not have to seek permission from a supervisor to send personal E-mails. Personal E-mails are considered private communication. However, AR 530-1 does mention if someone later posts an E-mail in a public forum containing information sensitive to OPSEC considerations, an issue may then arise.

    * Soldiers may also have a blog without needing to consult with their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer if the following conditions are met:

    1.The blog’s topic is not military-related (i.e., Sgt. Doe publishes a blog about his favorite basketball team).

    2.The Soldier doesn’t represent or act on behalf of the Army in any way.

    3.The Soldier doesn’t use government equipment when on his or her personal blog.

    * Army Family Members are not mandated by commanders to practice OPSEC. Commanders cannot order military Family Members to adhere to OPSEC. AR 530-1 simply says Family Members need to be aware of OPSEC to help safeguard potentially critical and sensitive information. This helps to ensure Soldiers’ safety, technologies and present and future operations will not be compromised.

    * Just as in 2005 and 2006, a Soldier should inform his or her OPSEC officer and immediate supervisor when establishing a blog for two primary reasons:

    1. To provide the command situational awareness.

    2. To allow the OPSEC officer an opportunity to explain to the Soldier matters to be aware of when posting military-related content in a public, global forum.

    * Soldier who already has a military-related blog that has not yet consulted with his or her immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer should do so.

    A bit of commentray plus a useful link or two can be found in the McQ post at QandO.net.

    Scott Jacobs (a1de9d)

  15. You don’t read Scott. That’s all it amounts to.

    AF (d700ef)

  16. AF, I’d say when the media publish classified details of how snipers can find the vulnerabilities in Marine body armor, the military is justified in viewing them as a threat. They have both broken the law and published information that gets American troops killed.

    Of course I can easily understand where you support that kind of groundbreaking journalism. As a Marine wife however, you’ll forgive me if I don’t agree.

    Cassandra (57b9d6)

  17. Ummmm… AF? How does

    Make no mistake, this is a very big deal, and every American citizen, not just reporters and soldiers, needs to understand the implications of the Army’s strict new policy, because it directly affects how citizens receive information about their armed forces: information that it has every right to get

    amount to

    In no way will every blog post/update a Soldier makes on his or her blog need to be monitored or first approved by an immediate supervisor and Operations Security (OPSEC) officer. After receiving guidance and awareness training from the appointed OPSEC officer, that Soldier blogger is entrusted to practice OPSEC when posting in a public forum.

    They are almost 100% different!! Yours suggests (not in so many words, but for once be honest with yourself) that never again shall the free words of those brave men and women be heard unless they do as Bushco commands. Mine suggests that after making sure their CO knows about the blog (being it already existing or just starting) and getting a short lesson in “How to not post anything that could get you or your buddies killed” they get to keep on a-postin’.

    Though I’m sure those soldiers who are violating OpSec left and right or violating the UCMJ all OVER the place will get their blogs shut down, that’s as it should be. Don’t – as a soldier – slam a member of the Legislature or Exec branch (though Reid deserves LOTS of contempt, you don’t say it out loud damnit), don’t talk about things that you ought-not talk about (detailed layouts of bases, weaknesses in armor, the like).

    Those are the only bloggers who should worry (and frankly, it’ll be at most a 30-day rip, half pay, confinement to station if that much because VERY little actually gets those cool trials, most all is handled by a senior officer because it’s trivial), and those are likely the bloggers who won’t inform those who should be informed about said blog.

    THAT is what will end up screwing them, frankly…

    But, I suppose that’s why you lot are worried, isn’t it… Those are the blogs you go to for “proof” of how badly things are going, how horrible things “are”. Where will you go when the spiteful, ignorant blogs are shut down and all you have left are the ones who aren’t distorting it all to seem like something closer toe Sen Reid’s outlook?

    Oh, and someone should tell CJR that just because you are in the same catagory, you aren’t the same level. “Influenza” and “Avian influenza” are in the same catagory, but I’m pretty sure that few doctors put them on the same level…

    Scott Jacobs (e3904e)

  18. I spent 12 years on active duty in and another couple in the reserves and I have to agree with redic4. This regulation will be interpreted in the most stringent way possible. That doesn’t mean it will be enforced across the board, but mark my words as soon as someone posts something their commander takes offense to this regulation will be rolled out and NJP will follow. I have seen it happen to many times. The example I remember best is when Third FSSG issued a zero tolerance order on insufficient funds checks. A friend of mines wife left him while we were deployed to Korea and returned to California and filed for divorce. She then proceeded to empty the bank account and run up all the credit cards and bounced a couple hundred dollars in checks. He was taken to mast reduced in pay one grade and fined 1/2 of 3 months pay and restricted for 14 days. The day after his mast the command recieved notice that his wife had bounced another set of checks and they took him back to mast reduced him in rate again and fined him again. At the same time when he tried to close the joint checking account the bank (First National bank of Fort Sam Houston) informed him that he couldn’t without his commands approval, which they refused to give because he and his wife were not divorced and he was responsible for her support. I doubt the CG of III MAF intended his order to be interpreted in that way, but there you go an order was promulgated and it was carried out. I have no doubt the same thing will happen here.

    chad (582404)

  19. sorr that should have read when I was with 3rd FSSG and III MAF issued a zero tolerance order. Just to clear up any confusion :-)

    chad (582404)

  20. What matters is not what a person says a bit of writing means, what matters is what the writing says. If it says that you shall do A when B occurs, then you will do A when B occurs. No exceptions and to discretion. The regulation quite clearly says that A shall happen should B occur, and there is no provision for any alternate course of action. That is how the regulation shall be interpreted, and that is how it shall be enforced.

    In short, the major is a liar and a bigot. What he said is patently untrue, and shows that he has a low opinion of civilians in general, and journalists in particular. He lied knowing he was lying, and expecting us to accept his lie without thought. Maj. Ray M. Ceralde can’t be trusted to tell you where sunlight comes from.

    Regultions are not interpreted, regulations are enforced. The clearer the language and the more forceful the language, the greater the chance the regulation will be enforced as written. The regulation in question is very clearly, and very forcefully written. It will be enforced as written, and not as Major Ceralde says it will be. And I doubt me not that the Major damn well knows this. Thus he is a liar.

    Alan Kellogg (a749ac)

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