Readers of the D-Ring know that I have been known to lavish praise on Shachtman. He is probably my favorite milblogger.
But you got it wrong, this time, Noah. You chased the story that you wanted to write, not the one that was there.
Today, I had a phone conversation with Maj. Ray Ceralde, the officer interviewed by Noah for the article.
The apocalyptic first line of the article reads as follows:
The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned.
Maj. Ceralde said that this is categorically untrue. Personal e-mails are not subject to the regulation, the policy only applies to public statements made online. With regard to blogs, the new policy does not order soldiers to stop posting; rather, it requires the Soldier to consult with his immediate supervisor and his OPSEC officer, and only if that blog is being published in a public forum (i.e., not behind a firewall or other private settings).
The goal of the policy, Ceralde said, is to strike a balance between the free expression by Soldiers and the protection of the Soldier and his or her unit. It is not, he said, meant to silence and hinder speech.
Having been inside the Pentagon, I believe him. The military brass might not understand new media, and might be a bit afraid of it, but their knee-jerk response is not to squash it. Blackfive even notes that GEN Patraeus has praised the “Muddy Boots Milbogger” solution.
To Noah’s credit, he did find a major flaw in the implementation of the new policy, namely that it wasn’t accessible on AKO by spouses and contractors. While Ceralde claimed that anyone with an AKO account should be able to see it, a D-Ring source with a spouse AKO account sent me the following screenshot of her browser when trying to access the new regulation on AKO:
MAJ Ceralde, if this policy impacts spouses and contractors, it MUST be accessible to them as well.
In the words of the spouse:
Family members must have access to this policy, especially if they are overseas and command-sponsored. Spouses cannot be punished under UCMJ but if they are command-sponsored, the Army can take away that sponsorship which means the active-duty member loses housing allowance or family housing and the extra “with family” allowances often assigned to COLA.
This isn’t easy folks. Balancing OPSEC with milblogging isn’t simple stuff. But both sides should be able to prevail.
Throwing your hands in the air and yelling that the sky is falling may make for a good story, but it doesn’t help the lives military leadership and the Soldiers who follow their orders any easier.
Lets keep our eye on the ball and work on creating a balance, rather than a riot.