Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Censored

Tuesday, 10/31/06
2100

On Sunday, an article ran in the Stars & Stripes newspaper about how military authorities are looking closely at internet postings by service members, including blogs. They mainly concentrate on official sites, but also look at blogs when they pop up on the radar.


http://www.stripes.com/article.asp?section=104&article=40129&archive=true

The main concern is operations security – they naturally don’t want people giving away information that would be potentially useful to the enemy. They don’t prohibit blogging, because it has positive effects of keeping people on the home front informed and giving them insight into what’s happening here. But they want to make sure that the information that’s posted isn’t so specific that that it could be used to plan attacks on U.S. forces.

The article appeared on Sunday, and today I popped up on their radar. A message came through my chain of command identifying my blog and alerting them to the potential of OPSEC violations. (Even though I don’t have anything but my first name in there, I have been very specific about my duty position so it wasn’t any problem for them to find me).

I’ve been aware since I started this that OPSEC was a concern, and have been being careful not to identify anything specific that could relate to our operations. Nonetheless, there were a few things that crossed the line. I was concerned that they might want me to take it down completely, but they were very reasonable and fair about it. While the article mentioned some concerns that soldiers were being unduly pressured to remove blogs or to excessively self-censor, that was not my experience at all. But it’s quite clear that I have to be very careful what I put up here.

I went back through my previous postings since I’ve been here with a critical eye, and edited out some information that probably would best have been left out in the first place, and will have to make sure I’m vigilant in the future.

While in civilian life I’d seriously resent and resist efforts at censorship, in this context it’s a good thing. We all are concerned about security, and nobody wants to provide the bad guys with information that would help them. When you look at the censorship exercised in previous wars, we actually have quite a lot of freedom. In WWII, I wouldn’t even have been able to say exactly where I was, much less give any detail about what I was doing. Back then people received letters from soldiers overseas that were full of cutouts where censors had removed sensitive information. And I don’t imagine they could send photos, either. (I’ve been as careful as I could about not posting photos of anything militarily significant – it probably hardly looks like a military base from most of my pictures). Anything you can see here, the enemy can see, too, so that’s why there aren’t any pictures of the cool stuff I see every day.

So it was an interesting day, but it turned out alright. It’s entirely possible that the military may eventually change its policy on blogs, and of course I’d have to comply. But for now I can continue to post my experiences and keep you in touch with what I’m doing. (If this disappears suddenly one day, don't worry - I'm still here, but the policy changed. Email me and we'll communicate in a less publicly visible way).

Even before this, I was already thinking that my blog was likely to start to get boring before long (assuming that it isn’t already!) Up until now everything has been new and different for me, but now as I tackle my job in earnest I am starting to settle into something of a routine, and will probably have less to write about. But I still hope to be able to find things that will be of interest, and to keep my sense of humor and perspective intact by writing about them to the extent that I can.

Speaking of which, this is probably a good place to write about something I’ve noticed quite often since I got here, and have intended to write about when I had a chance.

For security reasons, I am not allowed to take a camera inside the place where I work. I’ve often wished I could, because I’d love to take photos of the wall decorations there. All over the facility, the workspaces and walls are decorated with letters and drawings sent by kids to the soldiers here. They are nearly all individually handmade and so each is unique, but there are some common characteristics that many of them share.

They are mostly made of construction paper and drawn with crayons. There are lots of pictures of American flags, soldiers, churches, eagles, and other patriotic images, along with pictures of people, houses, trees, and other ordinary things. The messages say things like “Thank you soldiers”, “Go Military”, “Win the battle”, “We love you”, etc etc. If you take the time to look at them, it’s enough to choke you up every time you walk down the hall.

One in particular caught my eye the other day – it was from a group of Girl Scouts. They had asked people during their cookie sale if they’d like to donate cookies to the troops in the Middle East, and had gotten a large response. Their letter included a picture of the girls in their uniforms standing proudly by their big pile of cookie boxes before sending them off. I could hardly look at it without my eyes tearing up. :-)

So if anybody back there thinks the people over here don’t appreciate the support they get from home, they are sadly mistaken. The outside of our buildings and vehicles are necessarily bare and utilitarian. But inside are many, many treasured reminders of home and loved ones, and they are posted for everyone to share.

Speaking of home and loved ones, Happy Halloween! This is the first time in several years that I won’t be making my crockpot full of hot buttered rum for the parents of trick or treaters (and for myself!). It hardly seems like Fall. One Sergeant Major had a bunch of leaves spread out on her desk that someone had pressed and sent to her. That and the scattering of paper pumpkins and bats here and there are about the only things to remind you of the changing season (although today I did actually feel a few drops of rain for a minute or so on the way back from lunch).

Well, I guess I’ll go out trick or treating now, before all the candy’s gone… ;-)

3 Comments:

At 18:32, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In regards to censored:

You did give your first & last name & mailing address on the "Life of Riley" page

 
At 08:36, Blogger Brad said...

You're totally right! I forgot about that.

 
At 12:07, Anonymous Sigma9r said...

Brad, this is all wrong! I guess they're trying to be real funny guys. Yeah, they can keep their brother soldiers laughing all night with that humor! We're over here "fighting" (boredom) for our rights and the Flick's taking them away just as fast! I was prepped for this by a member of my Guard unit who was here a year ago but the web is hallowed ground! My chain has "ordered" me, I don't think they can but they're Active Duty, to down a page I had on MySpace. It was just an effort to, as you, show pics and stuff to the wife and family. I only had 1 pic on the site but I had to take it down!
Gotta love C-Flick!

 

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