04 May 2007

AR 530-1 changes and why I will keep blogging.

On 19 April, 2007, the United States Army released a now version of AR 530-1, Operational Security which became effective one day later, 20 April. The regulation is marked "For Official Use Only" which means that as this blog is a public forum, technically I am not supposed to quote from it.

It was, however, released to the press in its entirety. Someone up in Washington is smoking way the hell too much crack. The contradiction between the Army's institutional culture of obsessive secrecy and the open nature of the 21st century American society is obvious. All information is out there if you know where to look.

By the second of May, there was an article in Wired magazine.

Reading paragraph 2-1g (quoted in full or in part in many of the articles I will link to--you can read it for yourself in the above-linked copy of the regulation) one way sounds as if ALL communication, including blogs has been banned by this regulation. This is the interpretation put upon it by a large number of folks out there. Captain's Quarters has taken this stance.

Dadmanly posted a fairly alarmist interpretation of the regulation, and has since posted a "fact sheet" passed to the internet community by the Army. Frankly, as the "fact sheet" has no regulatory authority, I have no interest in it.

Blackfive has an interesting story on the subject, with updates. In this, he makes a couple excellent points:

"The soldiers who will attempt to fly under the radar and post negative items about the military, mission, and commanders will continue to do so under the new regs. The soldiers who've been playing ball the last few years, the vast, VAST, majority will be reduced. In my mind, this reg will accomplish the exact opposite of its intent. The good guys are restricted and the bad continue on...

"Operational Security is of paramount importance. But we are losing the Information War on all fronts. Fanatic-like adherence to OPSEC will do us little good if we lose the few honest voices that tell the truth about The Long War."

There is an interview with the author of the regulation floating around.

"The regulation says that a Soldier or other U.S. Army personnel must consult with their immediate supervisor and OPSEC officer prior to posting information in a public forum. However, this is where unit commander or organization leadership specifies in orders, policies, or directives how this will be done. Some units may require that Soldiers register their blog with the unit for identification purposes with occasional spot checks after an initial review. Other units may require a review before every posting. A private e-mail message to Family Members is not considered posting information in a public forum, but U.S. Army personnel are informed that unclassified e-mails can be intercepted and that they shouldn’t write anything that they wouldn’t say on an unsecure phone. While it is not practical to check all communication, especially private communication, the U.S. Army trusts that Soldiers and U.S. Army personnel will do the right things to maintain proper security when they understand their role in it."

More relaxed interpretations are provided by An Army Lawyer and Maj (ret) Donovan at Castle Argghh!.

So, with a huge hat tip to the Army Lawyer (probably the next entry in my blogroll when I get around to updating it), here's my take:

Paragraph 2-1 has 10 sub-paragraphs. All ten of them refer to "critical and sensitive information". In 9 of those, the term 'critical and sensitive information' is used explicitly. In the 10th, subparagraph g (the so-called "blogger clause"), the term is left off. Piss-poor wording, IMHO. But that's the nature of regulations. In a 76 page regulation, there are going to be some wording screw-ups. Sub-sub paragraph 2-1g(2) does use the term 'critical and sensitive information.'

Let's assume for a moment that the phrase 'information' was really meant, not 'critical and sensitive information'. I, and all 500,000+ Active Duty Soldiers, as well as all mobilized Reserve Component Soldiers, would be required to consult with their company commander before publishing:

Letters to the Editor (local paper, Stars and Stripes, Army Times, National publications).

Articles for professional magazines (officers get this more than junior enlisted, but hey, whatever).

Posts to Dungeons and Dragons on-line forums.

Emails sent to email lists for the fantasy football league.

Etc., etc., etc.

That's clearly ridiculous. No one could enforce such a regulation. No commander without serious mental problems would interpret this regulation in this manner.

It is quite clear to me that the Army's Public Affairs Office was not included in this regulation. The Public Affairs branch is supporting Milblogging--I have been contacted by an NCO in Centcom's PA shop and I now receive regular email news releases--which, when I get around to writing about Iraq again, will be useful in providing point-by-point rebuttals of the anti-victory crowd's favorite talking points. This is not to say that this blog is endorsed by or a spokesperson for the United States Army, CENTCOM, or anyone else in the world, simply that the PAO in the Army is aware of and supportive to at least some forms of milblogging.

One additional fact is that the regulation specifically makes it a responsibility of the commander of a unit to establish an OPSEC policy to include guidelines to enforce the problematic paragraph. In other words, if there is not an explicit set of guidelines for "consulting" with the commander prior to putting information out in a public setting, then it is not on the Soldier to create those guidelines, it is on the commander. The term "critical and sensitive information" is defined by two elements:

The classification of the material in question, and

Whether or not that information is an indicator of Essential Elements of Friendly Information.

I don't blog critical and sensitive information. If something is classified, I don't discuss it, refer to it, or hint at my awareness of it. That is already a Federal criminal offense for civilians, and a court-martial offense for Soldiers. If something is a part of EEFI, I don't talk about it either. I don't discuss Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures. I don't talk about mission timing or planned operations, or how we react to IED strikes, or where the latest mortar rounds impacted, other than in the most general of terms.

I go one step further, in that I don't air dirty laundry on the damn internet. This is a public forum. While I am operating in my capacity as a citizen of the United States of America, not in my official capacity as a Non-commissioned Officer in the United States Army, I still abide by Articles 89, 91 and 134.

Any person subject to this chapter who behaves with disrespect toward his superior commissioned officer shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
Any warrant officer or enlisted member who--
(1) strikes or assaults a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer, while that officer is in the execution of his office;
(2) willfully disobeys the lawful order of a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer; or
(3) treats with contempt or is disrespectful in language or deportment toward a warrant officer, noncommissioned officer, or petty officer while that officer is in the execution of his office;
shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.
Though not specifically mentioned in this chapter, all disorders and neglects to the prejudice of good order and discipline in the armed forces, all conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces, and crimes and offenses not capital, of which persons subject to this chapter may be guilty, shall be taken cognizance of by a general, special or summary court-martial, according to the nature and degree of the offense, and shall be punished at the discretion of that court.
Now, as a professional, I accept restrictions on my personal conduct and speech. While I might gripe and complain to my wife, or a fellow NCO, or to certain other folks, I will not (generally) do so in public. I might have griped a little in the past, but I really don't believe in airing serious dirty laundry. That's conduct of a nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces. No-go.

Here is what I intend.

If my new unit has a Blog policy and briefs me upon it, I will comply with that policy provided that the policy is in keeping with law and regulation.

If my new unit does not have a Blog policy, I will not alter my blogging in any way.

I will not post information that constitutes an OPSEC violation. I won't discuss whether or not my vehicle is broke, or when we are getting on an airplane to deploy to Iraq, or what part of Iraq we are going to. I will try to illuminate the positive aspects of our operations without revealing any technical or tactical details which would help any smelly goatherder kill me or my buddies. If I dislike or feel contempt for any elements of my chain of command, I will not express those feelings on the blog in such a way as violate Articles 89 or 91.

I will not hide what I am doing on this website.

I will not bring it to my chain of command's attention unnecessarily either.

I will be loyal to those with whom I serve; seniors, peers, and subordinates alike. I will exercise initiative by taking appropriate action in the absence of orders. I will not compromise my integrity, nor my moral courage. I will not forget, nor will I allow my comrades to forget that we are professionals, Noncommissioned Officers, leaders!


Blogger J said...

IT sounds to me the Army is working for NBC, ABC, CBS, CNN, TIME MAGAZINE, WA POST ETC.....JIM DIEHL USN 65-71 Belize, Cen Am

6:20 PM  
Blogger Bud said...

Keep blogging. The reason I didn't re-enlist was because of too many stupid regulations. I still support all the troops and the veterans.

6:51 AM  
Blogger Stan68ar said...

Well said - DOD and the Army in particular is missing the use of a current technolgy and losing the information war as we speak. I am a Reired Army soldier with a blog and even I feel pressure to lay down the pen when considering the sabre rattling rhetoric poinsed in the AR for mil-bloggers...

Lets hope someone with a more dynamic view of the power of the soldier's voice gets the regulation defined to expressly permit its open venue for soldier voices to reach the public at large.

12:01 AM  
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