Military Crackdown on Blogging?

Update added below fold.

I haven't had time to read the entire 79 pages of the Army's new OPSEC guidelines, which apparently cover uniformed personnel as well as civilian contractors and family members, however I have read this piece and it is cause for concern if some of Noah's characterizations are correct.

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. [...]

Army Regulations 530--1: Operations Security (OPSEC) restricts more than just blogs, however. Previous editions of the rules asked Army personnel to "consult with their immediate supervisor" before posting a document "that might contain sensitive and/or critical information in a public forum." The new version, in contrast, requires "an OPSEC review prior to publishing" anything -- from "web log (blog) postings" to comments on internet message boards, from resumes to letters home

As Jeff says:

But with the regulations drawn so tightly, "many commanders will feel like they have no choice but to forbid their soldiers from blogging -- or even using e-mail," said Jeff Nuding, who won the bronze star for his service in Iraq. "If I'm a commander, and think that any slip-up gets me screwed, I'm making it easy: No blogs," added Nuding, writer of the "pro-victory" Dadmanly site. "I think this means the end of my blogging."

Exactly. Forget about screw ups for a moment, what commander has time to approve every blog post before it's published? Not many, I would argue.

Let's face it, we're not good at information warfare, to say the least. Information supplied by official Department of Defense channels is often viewed as pure propaganda and therefore discounted by many. To a certain extent, I can understand that sentiment. However, boots on the ground are good at information warfare and their honest, first-hand accounts are priceless and important in many ways, especially in a historical sense. As Matt points out:

"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."

I've touched on this topic before. I fully understand the need to be careful and cautious. The military has a duty to ensure that potentially sensitive information doesn't fall into the hands of the wrong people. On the other hand, I question whether those who shape policy that applies to milbloggers fully understand the value and importance of milblogging, particularly combat blogging.

I understand that it takes a while for a big bureaucracy, such as the Department of Defense, to embrace new mediums, and I have been heartened by their efforts, albeit slow, to use blogs, new media and other forms of technology to engage the public, but stories like this one leave many feeling that we're taking one step forward and two steps back. It's a difficult balance and it's going to take some time to get it right. The problem is, of course, that we're running out of time to get it right.

I'm no conspiracy theorist. I don't believe the military is looking for ways to silence combat bloggers, but I do fear that they are making it prohibitive for some to blog, which has the effect of silencing voices which need to be heard.

My focus at Andi's World is almost exclusively on troop/family support, so I can't imagine that I would be regulated in any manner, but I'll go read the new guidelines now. If it covers family members, there are a lot of us who should be reading.

Cross-posted at Andi's World.

Editor's Note: Andi is the wife of an Army officer (currently deployed). She spends her free time at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, where she is an ambassador for Sew Much Comfort, an all-volunteer organization which makes special adaptive clothing for amputee patients, burn victims and soldiers with other severe injuries.

UPDATE (Ken Shepherd |17:12 EDT)

Some other blogs covering this story:

A fuller list of blogs can be accessed on Technorati here.

Update (Matthew Sheffield | 19:17) Be sure and check out Mudville Gazette where this issue is being extensively covered.