U.S. Army May Restrict Soldiers' Blogs Many U.S. soldiers in Iraq are publishing "milblogs" about daily life in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, Defense Department officials say those blogs could aid the enemy. They've come out with a new directive that might restrict what military bloggers can put on the Internet.

U.S. Army May Restrict Soldiers' Blogs

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/10046006/10046007" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.


And I'm Alex Cohen.

In a few minutes, why so many cold cases or crime investigations long thought to be unsolvable are suddenly being reopened?

Professor TOM MAURIELLO (University of Maryland): If you really look at what has changed in the last 10, 15 years, for us to believe all of a sudden that we want to look a case that are five, 10 years old - and it's DNA.

COHEN: First, bloggers who focus on military matters. They're known as milbloggers. They've been up in arms lately over new Army regulations about blogs published by active duty troops. Some of them fear the new rules could end up silencing first-person Web journals published from combat zones.

Here's DAY TO DAY tech correspondent Xeni Jardin.

XENI JARDIN: The uproar in milblogging circles is over regulation issued April 19th, updating earlier language about operational security or OPSEC and blogs. It says all Army personnel must quote "consult with their immediate supervisor and their OPSEC officer for an OPSEC review prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum."

That applies to email, blogs, message boards and other forms of digital communication. This is a hot topic over the weekend when milbloggers gathered in Arlington, Virginia for a second annual Milblogging Conference. In a taped message played during the event, President Bush thanked military bloggers for their contributions.

President GEORGE W. BUSH: The fact that military bloggers are also an important voice of the cause of freedom. You understand our nation is fighting a war on terror in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on many other points.

JARDIN: President Bush's taped upbeat message to the milbloggers felt to some like a contradiction with the actual regulations. Adding to that confusion was a follow-up press release from the Army. It appeared after the regulations were widely criticized online.

The underlying message was that the regulations were intended as guidelines and may not be strictly enforced. Paul Boyce is a public affairs specialist with the Army.

Mr. PAUL BOYCE (Public Affairs Specialist, U.S. Army): This is very much an honor system. We trust you to do the right thing because remember you as a soldier have a vested interest in this. You don't want to get yourself killed or others killed.

JARDIN: Wired News defense technology reporter Noah Shachtman says that stance and the Army's follow-up statement indicating restrictions might not be strictly enforced.

Mr. NOAH SHACHTMAN (Reporter, Wired News Defense Technology): It could be considered a comfort, except that those regulations are the equivalent of an order. Those regulations are the force of law whereas this press release doesn't have a force of anything.

JARDIN: Shachtman participated in the Milblogging Conference this weekend, along with Matthew Burden, author of "The Blog of War" and founder of the blog Blackfive.net. Burden says he and others in military blogging circles believe the ambiguity will likely cause problems.

Mr. MATTHEW BURDEN (Author, "The Blog of War"; Founder, Blackfive.net): Because here is what's going to happen. Commanders in Iraq are going to have a question about operational security and they're going to pull out the regulation and open it up and it's going to say, soldiers need to get a permission before they post not permission before they blog it all.

Now, as the public affairs officers' interpretation of the regulation is, that now they could go through a class, probably an hour-long briefing, and then be able to publish their blogs but that's not within black and white in regulation.

JARDIN: And some believe the new regulations are redundant because ample operational security guidelines are already in place. John Noonan, an active duty member of the Air Force who co-edits the blog, OPFOR.com, also attended the milbloggers' event.

He believes milblogs have never harmed the troops in the five years the war has been conducted. In fact, they've helped the American public better understand the everyday realities soldiers face.

Mr. JOHN NOONAN (Co-editor, OPFOR.com): Because the soldiers over there are professionals, they understand OPSEC, they understand what they can and can't write, and as a result, we'd had a great track record.

JARDIN: Noonan and others are now talking about several ways to solve what they see as the Army's milblogging dilemma. Some advocate rewriting and republishing the new Army regulations. But others say even if that can't happen, the Army and bloggers should work together to promote the more permissive interpretation to commanders in the field or focused on the very real business of running a war and may not be aware of the details of running a blog. Matthew Burden.

Mr. BURDEN: I think, at first much like the media, you know, probably Army Public Affairs didn't take bloggers very seriously. And I think now they are.

JARDIN: For NPR News, I'm Xeni Jardin.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Xeni's reports are available as a Podcast. To find out how to subscribe, go to our Web site npr.org/xeni and that is spelled Xeni.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.