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Army Squeezes Soldier Blogs, Maybe to Death


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I just found this posted on National Review Online by Greg Pollowitz, a NRO writer. Claims it was emailed to him by a friend on Capitol Hill. If anyone out there can confirm that this is a legitimate US Army policy statement, I'd appreciate it:

 

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.

 

* A 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.

 

* Commands have the authority to enact local regulations in

addition to what AR 530-1 stipulates on this topic.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Military Defends MySpace Ban (Updated Yet Again)

 

By Noah Shachtman May 18, 2007

 

Danger Room/Wired Blogs

 

The Defense Department isn't trying to "muzzle" troops by banning YouTube and MySpace on their networks, a top military information technology officer tells DANGER ROOM. Rear Admiral Elizabeth Hight, Deputy Commander of Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations, says that the decision to block access to social networking, video-sharing, and other "recreational" sites is purely at attempt to "preserve military bandwidth for operational missions."

 

Not that the 11 blocked sites are clogging networks all that much today, she adds. But YouTube, MySpace, and the like "could present a potential problem," at some point in the future. So the military wanted to "get ahead of the problem before it became a problem."

 

The Admiral won't say, however -- despite repeated questions during a Thursday conference call -- exactly how much bandwidth the sites were absorbing before they were blocked. She notes only that they were these were the 11 Internet sites taking up the most network traffic on military networks. And that checking these sites for viruses and malware before they hit Defense Department computers was also a significant concern. Other sites -- including popular blogging sites, like wordpress and blogspot -- could be blocked in the future, if they appear to present network issues.

 

The decision to block YouTube and MySpace sparked controversy earlier this week -- especially coming after a new set of Army regulations on operations security, or OPSEC, which put severe restrictions on soldiers' blogging and e-mail. Top generals have called the now-banned sites a "significant operational security challenge"; there's no telling, after all, what sensitive information troops might disclose in those videos or MySpace blog posts. But the Admiral claims that "OPSEC played absolutely no part in the decision" to restrict access to the sites.

 

Troops will still be able to engage in their "recreational hobbies" by going to YouTube and MySpace, she says. They just can't do it on official Defense Department computers.

 

Military officials who were using the video and social-networking sites -- Multi-National Force-Iraq has its own YouTube channel, for example -- will be able to request a waiver that allows them to continue to do so. Individual troops, working on their own to spread the word about operations in Iraq or Afghanistan, say, may not be as lucky.

 

When asked whether these Internet-enabled troops are a valuable part of the information war against insurgents and Islamic extremists, Admiral Hight replies, "That's a great public affairs question. And I'm not a public affairs officer."

 

 

UPDATE: Rep. Ed Markey, who chairs the the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet, is not impressed with the Admiral's response.

 

“I still have not heard a sound defense of this decision by the Pentagon,” Rep. Markey says in a statement. “I'm also not convinced that a lack of available bandwidth is what is really driving this decision, since countless other sites, such as gaming sites that take up considerable bandwidth, have not been blocked.”

 

 

UPDATE 2: Check out the bizarre interchange, after the jump, between Admiral Hight and a Military Times reporter. Is it possible that this top information technology officer has never heard of VPNs?

 

 

UPDATE 3: "YouTube's co-founders are challenging the Pentagon's assertion that soldiers overseas were sapping too much bandwidth by watching online videos."

 

 

UPDATE 4: "What the Admiral didn’t answer, in my mind, was the bigger strategic question of ," writes Steve Field. "Beyond this connectivity providing a morale boost for troops, it also has significant benefit in helping to tell the military story."

 

Here's that odd interchange:

 

Q Bill McMichael, Military Times papers. You can do a quick Google search and find all sorts of work-arounds that promise users -- that can get through fire walls and task filters and so forth and so on. These are pretty widely available, just by searching for them. Why not block those as well? Because it would appear as though they would be available and possibly could be accessed through DOD or dot mil computers.

 

ADM. HIGHT: Are you talking about websites that offer that advice?

 

Q Yes, ma'am.

 

ADM. HIGHT: What we did was, as we did our trending analysis, we simply looked at those websites that -- at websites that have the highest volume of information flow between the DOD networks and the Internet. And so, quite frankly, we are much more -- my organization is much more interested in the network services and network security than it is content. So folks who deal with content would be those who are really looking at websites to avoid information flow from, not the network security issue --

 

Q (Off mike) -- from these websites you can get a hold of computer software that would allow you to -- it's called work-arounds.

 

ADM. HIGHT: Yes. Well, in that case, let me say that the DOD network touches the Internet in a very limited number of places. And it's in those very limited number of access points that we control that information flow.

 

Q I'm sorry.

 

I'm not quite getting the answer I'm looking for here. These things allow you to go through the dot mil computers and use -- once you get to that site, you're still using the same amount of bandwidth. So what happens --

 

ADM. HIGHT: The -- well, maybe -- I'm sorry. Perhaps I don't understand the question. And we could take that one offline, and I could get back to you on that.

 

Q Vis-a-vis this software that you can use to access -- to get around firewalls, to get through filters from possibly a DOD computer, and then -- someplace like YouTube -- and then you're using just as much bandwidth.

 

ADM. HIGHT: Right. But these are not -- this is not a software -- I'd like to answer that one offline and get some technical guys to make sure that I understand the question. So if I could do that, that would be great.

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"Our enemies are adaptive, technologically sophisticated, and truly understand the importance of the information battlespace," (Army spokesman) Tallman continued. "Sadly, they will use that space to promulgate and disseminate untrue propaganda."

 

 

Pentagon says terrorists hacked Dr. Laura's son's MySpace page

 

 

I realise that different individuals have a variety of skill levels with english, but somehow the qoutes in the article attributed to them don't sound like terrorists to me.

Edited by irregularmedic
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Troops downrange should have access to all internet sites allowed by DOD policy (No porn or gambling).

 

However, some fat ass sitting behind a desk in USAREUR or CONUS should only be allowed access to work related sites.

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The OPSEC issues with personal modern communications IS a genuine nightmare. A 3 second single text message from a sailor can give the exact co ordinance of the ship at sea or at least the timing of the upcoming air strike. The problem with the bloggs is that even if specific intelligence is not blogged, it is discussed. Further the morale and the "way of war" of a nation can be ascertained by an enemy by the tone of the bloggs.

 

Sometime between 1975 and 1980 the entire method of dealing with N. Ireland changed. It was not discussed in parliament, there were no press conferences, no bloggs, not even the soldiers were told of it specifically. The new N. Ireland policy was a twilight war to be fought by intelligence and various forms of Special Forces using the Green Army and RUC as targets to draw out the various paramilitaries, to outmaneuver them through interception (e.g. an apparent accidental Checkpoint that aborts the terrorist mission) an arrest or an ambush. Terrorists that were unable to terrorize lost credibility among their constituents. Together with a secret and later overt political dialogue and political compromise that nasty running sewer has been largely shut down. This could have been blown by over publicity and soldier bloggs etc. True such technology has been available to soldiers in N. Ireland for the last few years, but by that time the stealthy offensive was well on its way.

 

I think The US seems quite incapable of keeping a secret for 5 minutes. The increase in troop numbers in Iraq should have been kept completely secret and yet both advocates and opponents of the war debated it to death even before the increase even took place. No way to run a war.

 

While the new army regulations seem entirely reasonable to me, I also think they are unenforceable. I have no great ideas about what to do with this problem, but it is a BIG problem. However I would say that to show the soldiers a good example the politicians and senior officers should not be holding press conferences every 5 minutes.

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Troops downrange should have access to all internet sites allowed by DOD policy (No porn or gambling).

 

However, some fat ass sitting behind a desk in USAREUR or CONUS should only be allowed access to work related sites.

 

Yeah, can't have kids getting shot at looking at pics of nekkid ladies. <_<

 

 

Kinda like the Congressmen who forced the US Army to shut down its field brothels it was loaned from the French Army during WWI. These boys are supposed to be busy getting shelled, gassed, eviscerated and maimed, can't have them getting a leg over before their cojones are blown off by a German mine. <_<

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