Army to be trained on new Internet rules
May 6, 2007
CAMP RED CLOUD, South Korea — Army personnel in South Korea will receive new security training that could change the way they use the Internet.
The Army’s new operational security regulation requires soldiers, Army civilians and contractors to consult with their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer for a review before using information in a public forum.
“This includes, but it not limited to letters, resumes, articles for publication, electronic mail, Web site postings, discussion in Internet information forums, discussion in Internet message boards or other forms of dissemination or documentation,” according to the regulation.
Additional training will come from the 8th Army level, although specifics on what it will include are yet to be detailed, spokesman Maj. Jerome Pionk said.
“Eighth Army respects soldiers’ usage of blogs and other Web-based mediums and will balance the operational needs and guidance of the new regs with those of commanders here in Korea,” Pionk said.
New regulations on Web usage are primarily aimed at keeping sensitive information in Iraq off public Web sites, Pionk added.
“For those here in Korea, this regulation will have a minimal amount of impact and would integrate with current OPSEC training and policies,” he said.
The new policy has concerned military bloggers worldwide since Wired News and others began reporting on it during the past week.
An Army spokesman has since posted a response to accusations that the Army is going too far.
“It is not the regulation’s intent for every blog entry to be approved by an immediate supervisor and operations security officer,” wrote Army spokesman Paul Boyce on Wired News’ “Danger Room” blog.
But Army personnel must consult with an immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer when establishing blogs so they are aware of concerns, he wrote.
Personal e-mails don’t need approval by a superior officer unless they contain sensitive information posted in a public forum, Boyce added.
Bloggers speak outThe new regulation gives commanders authority to determine how they will protect information. Bloggers are worried some commanders will go too far.
“Does that mean if I blog about some GI getting drunk and making an ass of himself, the army can ‘unofficially’ retaliate and ask me to shut down the blog, or worse, take action against me?” wrote a South Korea blogger affiliated with the military who requested anonymity.
“Right now I’m waiting to see if this will be mainly enforced in the war zones, or if the Army is going to try to silence all the bloggers associated with the military,” he wrote in his message to Stars and Stripes.
The blog “An Army Lawyer,” run by a writer who says he is an active-duty military lawyer, says the threat of the regulation to military blogs has been overstated. However, commanders have always had authority to clamp down on Web posting, he wrote.
“Commanders are as varied as snowflakes. Will some lean too far forward and say ‘no blogs’? Yes. But they could have done that before,” he said.
The anonymous soldier known as “GI Korea,” who writes a popular blog at rokdrop.com, says he only writes about open source information and deletes comments that may compromise operational security.
He says a new Army-issued fact sheet posted on several blogs Friday clears up some of the confusion.
“I would be very surprised if a bunch of milblogs are shut down due to this (regulation),” he wrote Stripes via e-mail. “The Army just wants more emphasis on OPSEC and appear to have written a poorly worded regulation to make that point that they are backtracking from now.”
What soldiers say about rule’s enforcement
Army soldiers and civilians are saying they understand the need for operational security in respect to military movements, tactics and other sensitive information. However, some are concerned that commanders will overreach, restricting blogs and online posting that do not pose a threat:
“I just came from Iraq and Afghanistan and I saw things on blogs that definitely shouldn’t be there like burnt out humvees, destroyed M1 tanks and damage from mortar attacks. Those can give the enemy an idea of our weaknesses. I personally think it’s good for force protection. But I don’t like big brother keeping control of peoples’ personal freedoms.”
— Damon Miller, Defense contractor and Army Reserve sergeant
“I feel like if it’s not pertaining to the military or damaging its reputation then it’s none of their business what I put online. Next they’re going to issue walkie-talkies for us to carry around (so they can listen to what we’re doing).”
— Pvt. Yasmene Toscano, 532nd Military Intelligence Battalion, Yongsan Garrison
“With all that commanders have on their plate, they don’t have time to censor. It’s going to get to the point where there’s going to be a gag order … don’t put anything about work online.”
— Sgt. Christopher Baldaramos, 1st Battalion, 68th Medical Detachment, Camp Stanley
“I think there does need to be some control on the blogs. It’s making our jobs harder because a lot of what is in the blogs feeds into negative press coverage, especially when a soldier is perceived as speaking for the Army. As any American, I chafe against any curtailment of freedom of speech, but as a soldier sometimes you sacrifice your freedoms for the greater good.”
— Sgt. 1st Class Sean Whelan, 109th Mobile Public Affairs Detachment, Pennsylvania National Guard (in Seoul on temporary duty)
“When you get into situations where you have a lot of things going on all over the world (a regulation’s) interpretation gets twisted on the way down and overreacted to. I think Army regulations in black and white are far stricter than what’s actually adhered to. When new standards are established they are always extreme. Revisions usually follow.”
— Chief Warrant Officer Kenny Thompson, Commander-in-Chief Blackhawk (USFK Gen. B.B. Bell’s helicopter pilot)
— Compiled by Jimmy Norris and Erik Slavin