Military's New Media Policy: About Half Smart

There’s plenty of outrage circulating about the military’s new policy which is going require official approval of everything military bloggers publish. I concur. In the name of operational security–though a worthy name that is–a great PR/ hearts-and-minds tool is being thrown out to rust.

Blackfive links to this Danger Room interview with the “Army’s Info-Cop”, the major responsible for drafting these new regulations. There may be an end run for a few lucky milbloggers with understanding CO’s:

Q: If a soldier has to consult his supervisor or an OPSEC officer every time he wants e-mail home or put up a blog posting, doesn’t that effectively kill the practice? What supervisor is going to have the time to check all of that material?

[A:]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.

But that’s half the story. The dumb part. The other part–the better part–is a crackdown on the media. Danger Room’s Noah Schachtman also links to this .pdf of an army presentation on media relations*. It makes some good points about how details taken from milblogs could compromise operational security, but it also offers this threat matrix–note the lower right hand item:

Evil Doers!

Eric Boehlert’s delusions notwithstanding, I don’t quite put the media–most of them–among such nefarious company. But they are not invested in maintaining operational security the same way military bloggers are. And they are interested in breaking stories that the military doesn’t want broken. The worst of them are so politicized against the war that they may try, unconcsciously or consciously, to undermine the war effort. And of course, some may be outright spies.

So I don’t share Schachtman’s outrage at the directive that soldiers should write a report about members of the media who try to solicit critical information. Writing a report about the incident doesn’t prejudice the free press in any way. But it may, over the long run, help to identify leaks and snoops of a more sinister cast.

Maintaining a healthy suspicion of the media doesn’t mean you think Osama is secretly editing the New York Times.** It’s natural not to trust them, especially when you’re in a business like the military which involves keeping a lot of secrets. The military needs to use the media to get its message out, but for a gang that has gleefully compromised so many security secrets, a certain frosty reticence is in order.

It’s just a shame the military doesn’t trust its own members any more than they do the MSM. If cautioned about opsec, milbloggers could be a valuable asset that the army ought to encourage. Instead they’re treating their trusted front-line guys as liabilities, as lightweights, as greenhorns no more cautious or trustworthy than the New York Times. That’s got to hurt morale.

The other irony, of course, is that while all this is going on, the Army Public Affairs people are bending over backwards to get the New York Times to whisper, once in a great while, between the constant drone of defeatism and misery, some of the same things these milbloggers are shouting every day.

P.S.: PRCalDude in the comments notes that ” By this logic, they’d ban emails also.” They nearly have. E-mails come within the purview of the new regulations:

“…private e-mail message to Family Members is not considered posting information in a public forum, but U.S. Army personnel are informed that unclassified e-mails can be intercepted and that they shouldn’t write anything that they wouldn’t say on an unsecure phone. “

But what about e-mails to non-capitalized non-family members?

*Which is funny, if you read his interview, because the slideshow is marked “FOUO”-For Official Use Only. It’s the kind of stuff the policy was meant to prevent from leaking out to the media.

**I understand Zawahiri handles most of the day to day stuff now.