White House: New mil­i­tary blog­ger pol­icy no big deal

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jon Ward

The White House on May 3 said that a new Pen­tagon pol­icy re­strict­ing blogs and e-mail com­mu­ni­ca­tions by ac­tive-duty U.S. mil­i­tary will not close down what many have called the best source of good news out of Iraq.

“My un­der­stand­ing is there’s no whole­sale shut­ting down of blogs or of e-mail,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow, who added that con­cerns about the pol­icy were be­ing “over­re­ported.”

“On the other hand, there is sen­si­tiv­ity to the fact that you have to be care­ful when you’re do­ing th­ese things not jeop­ar­dize your­self, your col­leagues, the op­er­a­tions, the Iraqis and the over­all mis­sion,” Mr. Snow said.

Mean­while, the Pen­tagon on May 3 clar­i­fied its pol­icy, em­pha­siz­ing that ac­tive-duty U.S. sol­diers blog­ging from Iraq and Afghanistan — com­monly known as “mil­blog­gers” — will not be re­quired to check with an of­fi­cer ev­ery time they write.

“In no way will ev­ery blog post/up­date a sol­dier makes on his or her blog need to be moni- tored or first ap­proved,” said a fact sheet is­sued by Jack Holt, chief of new me­dia op­er­a­tions at the Pen­tagon.

Mr. Holt’s fact sheet ex­plained that ev­ery time a sol­dier starts up a blog, he or she will be re­quired to no­tify a se­nior of­fi­cer and re­ceive train­ing about what in­for- ma­tion should not be dis­closed.

Protest erupted on mil­i­tary and con­ser­va­tive blogs last week af­ter a piece pub­lished May 2 on Wired mag­a­zine’s Web site, which fo­cused on two para­graphs in a 79page doc­u­ment on op­er­a­tional se­cu­rity — Army reg­u­la­tion 530-1 — is­sued April 19.

The reg­u­la­tion states that all Army per­son­nel and con­trac­tors must “con­sult with their im­me­di­ate su­per­vi­sor and their [op­er­a­tions se­cu­rity] of­fi­cer for an OPSEC re­view prior to pub­lish­ing or post­ing in­for­ma­tion in a pub­lic fo­rum.”

The reg­u­la­tion specif­i­cally in­cludes blogs as well as e-mail.

The same day that news broke of the Pen­tagon’s new pol­icy, Pres­i­dent Bush praised blogs for help­ing dis­sem­i­nate in­for­ma­tion from Iraq, dur­ing a ques­tion-and-an­swer pe­riod that fol­lowed a speech to a con­trac­tors group.

“Peo­ple get their news all dif­fer­ent kinds of ways,” Mr. Bush said in an­swer to a ques­tioner who ex- pressed dis­sat­is­fac­tion with main­stream press out­lets. “In­for­ma­tion is mov­ing — you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it’s also mov­ing through the bl­o­go­sphere and through the In­ter­nets.”

The Wired ar­ti­cle said the new reg­u­la­tion “could mean the end of mil­i­tary blogs.” Some of the most pop­u­lar blogs writ­ten by ex-mil­i­tary per­son­nel, and blogs that fo­cus on the mil­i­tary, agreed.

“Op­er­a­tional Se­cu­rity is of paramount im­por­tance. But we are los­ing the In­for­ma­tion War on all fronts. Fa­natic-like ad­her­ence to OPSEC will do us lit­tle good if we lose the few hon­est voices that tell the truth about The Long War,” wrote Matthew C. Bur­den, a for­mer para­trooper and Army of­fi­cer who ed­its the group blog Black­Five.net.

Ed Mor­ris­sey, at Cap­tain­sQuar­ters­Blog.com, wrote that the new pol­icy would be “so re­stric­tive as to have the prac­ti­cal ef­fect of elim­i­nat­ing ac­tive-duty mil­blog­gers, and si­lenc­ing the voices from the front who have most ac­tively pro­moted the war ef­fort.”

Af­ter the Pen­tagon re­lease on May 3, Mr. Bur­den said the clar­i­fi­ca­tion was “a good thing,” but that he would still work to dis­trib­ute the clar­i­fi­ca­tion to all the mil­blog­gers who come to his at­ten­tion.

The in­ci­dent, Mr. Bur­den said, re­vealed a larger story of “two fac­tions within the Army at the se­nior level.”

“One is a group of gen­er­als that would like to see more con­trol over the sol­diers. I think it freaks out a lot of gen­er­als that sol­diers can just send out pic­tures and posts over the In­ter­net,” Mr. Bur­den said. “Then there’s a group of gen­er­als who un­der­stand the value of the Web, and how it might help them win some bat­tles in the in­for­ma­tion war.”

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