Saturday, March 12, 2005
General Bitching

Hero is in the Army. I love the Army. He loves the Army.

The previous was kind of like a disclaimer, except mostly false. It is so much more complex than seeing how the Army--as a whole--works, and saying "I like it" or "I don't." What I'm particularly angered about today is the article in the Army Times about blogging. I understand about operation security, but come on! I mean is the following a violation of operation security, or a harmless post that simply tells a story about what happened?

Spc. Nick Cademartori offered just that, posting to his blog, The Questing Cat, throughout a yearlong tour in Iraq with the 1st Infantry Division.
“Dozens of houses raided, no arrests, only one weapon confiscated — same old story, ‘holding it for a friend’ — which led to that house being trashed for a more thorough search,” he wrote, describing a mission he conducted in January.
“No permanent harm done, especially for how terrified the family
was at being caught in the wrong, but it still will take a day to clean up and the daughters will probably curse me under their breath as they pick through the pile of their stuff I made in the middle of their room.”
Well it's more than operation security! Read on:

.....Within seconds of posting, that text is available to every Internet user everywhere.
But that speed — and the uncontrollability — are raising concerns and eyebrows among the brass.

A question of security

Operational security is a natural worry for all combatants, said Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, public affairs officer for Task Force Olympia in Iraq.
“In WWII it was a written diary and only compromised if physically taken from soldiers,” he said. “Now, it is near real-time and accessible to all, including the enemy.”
The Army is still trying to come to grips with this communication medium. The service didn’t have policies regulating e-mail and Internet usage when it first became accessible to soldiers, and it doesn’t have policies specifically tailored to blogging, said Lt. Col. Pamela L. Hart, a spokeswoman for the Army’s Personnel and Human
Resources division.
Existing regulations address operational security and government computer usage issues, but blogging raises issues less black and
white than divulging convoy routes or unit capabilities.
A commander has “the authority and duty to avert danger to his unit’s and troops’ morale, welfare and discipline,” said a DefenseDepartment spokesman after speaking with Pentagon lawyers. The Defense Department and the Army both put the responsibility of setting and enforcing rules for blogging on unit and post commanders, said Capt. Chris Karns, a spokesman for U.S. Central Command, which
overseas operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So actually, under the heading 'A question of security' they were actually writing about a question of how much more they can possibly limit freedom of speech and call it any other excuse. Hell, I wouldn't want any 'civilians' to know the real story about what was going on if I was in charge and made a bad choice. And, it lowers morale, right? Right?

Please also take a second to notice that the article points out that the army "didn't have policies regulating e-mail and Internet usage when it first became accessible to soldiers" In other words they do now, and if you search around a little you will be able to find out that "policies" consist of someone reading what you write and giving you permission before you email it.

Lt. Col. Steve Boylan, a spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, said blogging is allowed in Iraq “so long as authors do not disrupt discipline in their units, make statements on behalf of commanders or the Army as a whole or reveal operational details that could aid attackers.”
“Sometimes a blog might contain subtle nuances from which you can put together a complete picture of our operations, which insurgents can use to attack us,” Boylan said. “We definitely don’t want to impinge upon somebody’s free speech. We’re out here defending
that. But it can cross a line.”

That guy has put reasonable limitations on blogging. Below is more of the article so you can judge for yourself.

Matt of Blackfive said that as of early January, some 40 soldiers had contacted him claiming they had been told by their command to stop blogging.
Several military blogs from Mosul, Iraq, vanished from the Internet soon after the Dec. 21 suicide bombing at the dining facility in Forward Operating Base Marez in Mosul. One that went offline had been run by Maj. Michael Cohen, a doctor working in the FOB’s emergency room.
“No one had any idea what was about to take place,” Cohen wrote about the attack in his blog. “We asked one of the newly arrived soldiers how many people were injured, and he said, ‘A lot. There
are bodies everywhere.’ ... As I stepped outside, I couldn’t believe what was going on.”
A few days later, Cohen posted a final entry on his blog, 67th Combat Support Hospital Docs.
“Levels above me have ordered, yes ORDERED, me to shut down this Web site. They cite that the information contained in these pages violates several Army regulations,” he wrote, adding that he disagreed
with the move.
While Cohen stopped writing when told, another soldier lost
rank and pay when he blogged against his commander’s wishes.

Ok, it's one thing to say "you can blog, but you can't say this, that, or anything about those." It's another to say "You can't tell anyone anyting, ever." Or that's how I feel. Read on:

Spc. Jason Hartley of the New York National Guard called his
blog Just Another Soldier and wrote bluntly about everything, from
conditions on the base to his comrades’ high jinks.
When his company commander found out about the site, according to Hartley, the captain wanted it taken offline. Hartley wrote in an e-mail exchange that he agreed “as a favor” to his first sergeant and platoon commander.
However, Hartley continued to write from the Sunni Triangle. He didn’t post online, but e-mailed a list of some 1,200 people who asked to be allowed to continue reading his reflections.
With about two months left in his deployment, seven months after removing his site from the Web, he put his blog back online, including all of those e-mails.
It took less than two weeks for his commander to discover this.
“He flipped out,” Hartley said. “He told me that I had betrayed his trust in the way I portrayed the company. He took it very personally.”
Hartley’s company commander, Capt. Vincent Heintz, declined to be
interviewed for this article, but Hartley said Heintz told him the battalion S-2 had conducted an investigation and concluded that he had compromised operational security and violated the Geneva Conventions for posting photos of detainees. He was also told that he was guilty of conduct unbecoming a noncommissioned officer.

Buzzell, of the blog My War, had a run in with the brass, as well.
Initially, he blogged anonymously, using CBFTW as a pseudonym. He wrote about harrowing moments on raids, getting mortared on a regular basis and life in the first Stryker brigade. Media outlets started quoting his posts, and it didn’t take long for his command to figure out who CBFTW was. He was taken off missions for five days and told to stop blogging while an investigation was conducted.
“I was stuck in my room while the rest of the platoon was out there stopping insurgents from dropping mortars on civilians,” he said. “I realized then that blogging should never interfere with the soldier’s primary job.”
Buzzell was told he could begin posting again on the condition that he
let someone in his chain of command read it first. Instead of submitting his work to review, he stopped posting his words altogether. He began only posting things that he came across on the
Internet or were e-mailed to him.
On Sept. 28, he posted his last entry until he was discharged from active duty in December.
Buzzell won’t comment on why he stopped posting but recommends that other military bloggers “don’t post e-mails from members of the Dead Kennedys — the Army is not a big fan.”
Buzzell does not see his situation as a First Amendment issue, stating
he understands that service members’ freedom of speech is restricted because of the unique nature of a soldier’s job.

The article goes on to other issues, which you can find and read if you want, but I stop here. I agree that maybe some blogs aren't appropriate for the time and the place, especially if it's a violation of any rules or regulations.

I also believe that freedom of speech is extremely important for all Americans, even those in combat. When you are thousands of miles away from your civilian-family and friends and possibly feeling a bit depressed, writing to real people who can respond to your thoughts and stories is a great way to know your still part of the "real world". It's also a great way to find support. On the other side it is great for us 'civilians' to see what's going on through the eyes of the person who is going through it. It's a good way to enable us to show our support to the people who sacrifice so much to protect America and all its freedoms.

I'd write more, or even revise what I wrote to make it a little more entertaining, or at least reader-friendly, but I cannot. I am too sad and angry right now.

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