Army's new regulations may restrict soldiers' blogs (NPR Xeni Tech)

For today's edition of the NPR program "Day to Day," I filed a report on new US Army regulations for military bloggers. I first heard about the new regulations from Noah Shachtman (post 1 | post 2), who weighs in for the NPR segment. I also spoke with milbloggers Matthew Burden (author of "The Blog of War," and editor, and John Noonan (active duty Air Force member, and co-editor of

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"U.S. Army May Restrict Soldiers' Blogs" Link to archived audio (Real/Win). Here's an MP3 Link. Or, listen to this report as an MP3 in the "Xeni Tech" podcast (subscribe via iTunes here). NPR "Xeni Tech" archives here.

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Snip from radio transcript:

Some fear the new rules could end up silencing first-person web journals published from combat zones. The uproar circles around an Army regulation issued April 19 which updates earlier language about operational security (or "OPSEC") and blogs.

Paragraph 2-1g says 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."

The regulation applies to e-mail, blogs, message board, and other forms of digital communication.

The new orders were a hot topic over the past weekend, when milbloggers gathered in Arlington, Va., for the second annual Milblog Conference.

In a taped message played during the event , President Bush thanked military bloggers for their contributions; but the president's upbeat message felt to some like a contradiction with the actual regulations.

Adding to that confusion was a follow-up press release from the Army that 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.

"This is very much an honor system," said Paul Boyce, a public affairs specialist with the Army. "You as a soldier have a vested interest in operational security, because you don't want to get yourself killed, or others killed."

"No one wants a chilling effect for milblogs," says Boyce, "But we also don't want the ultimate chilling effect of death."

Wired News defense technology reporter Noah Shachtman says the Army's more recent statements could be considered a comfort, but that "those regulations are the equivalent of a military order – they have the force of law. The press release doesn't have the force of anything."

Shachtman says, "Even though these regulations apply to family, contractors, and others, these folks couldn't actually read the regulations at first, because they were only available behind a password-protected, semi-secret network firewall."

Link to full transcript, and related material online. (Image borrowed from Wired News.)

Reader comment: Brad Levinson says,

I wanted to share with you a documentary that I produced last year at the first milblogger conference.

While I'm on the other side of the issue, I was struck by how vitally important the practice is -- both psychologically for the soldiers and their friends and family, and culturally -- media-wise, and blogging-wise. It's all very fascinating.

I've uploaded the video onto YouTube, and I'm hoping that it's one of those things that spreads. I hate to see any kind of blogging practice become limited.

Video Link.