Thursday, June 30, 2005

Bloggers in Iraq -- Developing

In the July 4, 2005 issue of the Army Times, on page 25, we find an article by Joseph Chenelly, “Bloggers in Iraq Must Register Sites.”

(Article is available to subscribers only – I’ve got a hardcopy. The link will take you to the cover and the headline.)

My student who is an Iraqi veteran brought it to my attention. He’s as uneasy about the new rule the article is reporting as I am.

Here’s the nut grafs:

A policy for all service members under command of Multi-National Corps Iraq states that anyone who owns, maintains, or posts to a Web site or Web log must formally notify his chain of command.

“All service members who fall under MNC-1 must register their sites or blogs or risk facing punitive action, under the policy signed in April by Lt. Gen. John Vines, MNC-1 commanders.”


Although policy states that soldiers don’t have to submit each post for review before it goes online, the rules require commanders to regularly review each site maintained by a soldier under their charge.


[T]he policy calls for MSC commanders to review blogs every quarter for appropriate (or nonappropriate) content.

Some bloggers, such as Red2Alpha, at, have already decided to quit rather than keep blogging under such circumstances. Others plan to continue to blog – anonymously – and risk the consequences. (Six at is one of these.)

Some will likely keep blogging and register their blogs, as they are required to do.

"The final point on the policy states that this is a punitive policy. Service members in violation to [sic] this policy may be subject to adverse action or punishment under the UCMJ."

What effect will this policy have on those blogs?

My student and I discussed the policy at length. Yes, there are some good reasons to want to police blogs – that names of casualties have been getting out before family members have been notified, for instance, is one outstanding reason, one no one could argue with. There are also security issues, obviously.

But, as one blogger quoted in the article notes, bloggers serve a purpose that cannot be met by embedded reporters – or, at least, that is not being met by embedded reporters. And trying to put a leash on military bloggers, which it looks to me and to the vet is what is up here, is a bad idea.

A blog is, in fact, as I read back there long ago on blogspots, a little First Amendment Machine.

And yes, when a citizen joins the military, that citizen does give up some of his or her rights.

But he or she does it in order to defend our rights. (Some folks seem to be forgetting that bit.)

We are not better protected by being kept ignorant of what is happening in Iraq.

The Free Press, such as it is, is not doing its job. The bloggers, military and otherwise, have stepped in. This move by the military to abrogate free speech on the part of military bloggers, may be put forth simply a way to shut a leak in security -- but, as the vet points out, if the military command were actually worried about that, they would be checking these blogs more often than once every three months. Checking blogs every quarter isn't going to stop many security leaks, and it's not like the military (the CIA, the NSA) doesn't have the resources to check them more often -- or, you know, in fact, to find out who is running these blogs WITHOUT having the bloggers self-disclose.

What this strikes me and my student/vet as, in fact and in effect, is simply another attempt, by Bushco, to quell free speech: to stifle dissent: to hide what can’t be hidden.

Frankly, they should give it up.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The historical parallel which you should address is the censoring of v-mail during WWII. Heller did a passage on it in Catch22, which you could probably use.

Of course, the military is not interested in suppressing free speech for the hell of it. What they are concerned with is operational security, and means and methods.

You can bet that the enemy reads every military blog everyday. So when Sergeant Jennings posts a story about what his unit did today, and the enemy reads the blog, this is known as operational intelligence. Soldiers in WWII were prohibited from keeping diaries for the same reason, not because Franklin Roosevelt was against diarists.

Delgar's brother