Under fire, soldiers kill blogs: Pentagon milblog crackdown

Snip from a report I filed for Wired News:

Some of the web's more popular "milblogs" — blogs maintained by present or former active duty military personnel — are going quiet following a renewed push by U.S. military officials to scan sites for security risks.

Ten members of a Virginia National Guard unit have been tasked with reviewing both official and unofficial Army websites for potential operational security, or OPSEC, violations. Under the direction of the Army's Web Risk Assessment Cell (AWRAC), the reviewers look for text, photos or videos that may give away sensitive information.

"Loose lips sink ships. That's been around since World War I, and hasn't changed in years," said Lt. Col. Stephen Warnock, team leader and battalion commander of the Manassas-based unit that works with contractors from the tech company CA.

Milblogs offer one of the last direct witnesses to the Iraq war from the point of view of front line soldiers — a sharp reversal from three years ago, when the U.S.-led invasion was among the most closely-watched military attacks in history. According to Editor and Publisher, the number of reporters embedded in military units has dropped from 770 at the height of the conflict to just nine today.

The recent U.S. pressure on milbloggers, reported by Wired contributing editor Noah Shachtman in his Defense Tech blog, highlights the security risks of blogging by active duty military personel — including those in Iraq with access to e-mail and the internet.

Link to full text. I'm filing a radio report for the NPR News program Day to Day, and it will air tomorrow, Monday, Oct. 30.

IMAGE: Cav Tanker, shown here, and brother Mike Gulf are 19K M1A2 tankers in the US Army and contributors to the popular milblog Tanker Brothers (image courtesy tankerbrothers.com).

Noah Shachtman has been doing a yeoman's job covering the situation on Defensetech since it surfaced (1 | 2 | 3), and he first pointed me to the story. He, in turn, cited this Army News Service report as one of the earliest sources of news about the Pentagon's current crackdown on milblogs. (Thanks also to Leo Shane, a reporter with Stars and Stripes.)

In related news, Link to this AP item: "The U.S. military's indefinite detention of an Associated Press photographer in
Iraq, without charges, is an outrage and should be seen as such by the journalistic community, AP editors said Friday." The story involves a shooter named Bilal Hussein, an Iraqi national, who has been held since April.