Noah Shachtman reported Wednesday at Wired News that new Army regulations would severely restrict soldiers’ ability to maintain web logs and send personal email, requiring them to clear every single post with a commanding officer. The Army says that’s just not true and that nothing has changed for soldiers on the ground.
Army Regulation 530-1, (PDF) updated last month, seems to say that soldiers must have each individual blog post or personal email message reviewed for operational security (OPSEC) reasons, prompting many milbloggers to say that they’ll have to quit blogging.
Army personnel must “consult with their immediate supervisor and their OPSEC Officer for an OPSEC review prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum,” according to the new regulation. “This includes, but is not limited to letters, resumes, articles for publication, electronic mail (e-mail), Web site postings, Web log (blog) postings, discussion in Internet information forums, discussion in Internet message boards or other forms of dissemination or documentation.”
But an Army fact sheet about the new regulation sent to Homeland Stupidity says that that’s not the case. Soldiers wishing to maintain a military blog would simply have to declare the blog to their command and go through OPSEC training.
“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,” the fact sheet reads. “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.”
Soldiers who blog about non-military topics would not have to declare their blogs or go through OPSEC training.
In addition, personal email would not need to be cleared in advance.
“Soldiers do not have to seek permission from a supervisor to send personal E-mails,” the fact sheet reads. “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.”
The fact sheet also says that family members could not be “mandated by commanders to practice OPSEC,” but that they should be aware of OPSEC issues so that they can “help safeguard potentially critical and sensitive information.”
The fact sheet I received, which doesn’t seem to be online, is reproduced in full below.
Army Operations Security: Soldier Blogging Unchanged
- 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.
- Soldiers and Army family members agree that safety of our Soldiers are of utmost importance.
- Soldiers, Civilians, contractors and Family Members all play an integral role in maintaining Operations Security, just as in previous wars.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- The blog’s topic is not military-related (i.e., Sgt. Doe publishes a blog about his favorite basketball team).
- The Soldier doesn’t represent or act on behalf of the Army in any way.
- 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:
- To provide the command situational awareness.
- 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.
I’m not in the military and never have been. But while the soldiers are over there, I’ll be over here doing what I can to protect their rights.