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Troops warned on posting sensitive material on Web

- The Washington Times - Monday, August 29, 2005

The U.S. Army is warning soldiers that posting photos on their Web logs may inadvertently reveal "vulnerabilities and tactics" and "needlessly place lives at risk."

Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker circulated a memo to all Army personnel last week, saying that "we must do a better job" at operational security -- "OPSEC" in military parlance.

"Some soldiers continue to post sensitive information" on the Internet, and especially on their Web logs or online diaries, wrote Gen. Schoomaker, giving as examples "photos depicting weapon system vulnerabilities and tactics, techniques and procedures.

"Such OPSEC violations needlessly place lives at risk and degrade the effectiveness of our operations," he wrote.

Gen. Schoomaker promised that amendments to Army regulations would be promulgated within a month, and that officers would have access to new training materials on the issue by Friday.

In the meantime, he ordered Army staff at the Pentagon to "track and report, on a quarterly basis, (such) OPSEC violations."

"Get the word out and focus on this issue now," he said.

A copy of the memo was posted on the Web by Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists, who edits the e-newsletter Secrecy News.

Soldiers serving in Iraq already have to register their blogs, as the popular online diaries are called, and are forbidden from revealing classified data, naming casualties until after their families have been informed, or writing about incidents that are being investigated.

The Army intelligence officer who blogs as Blackfive wrote on his site that he had seen little in the way of descriptions of tactics "that could not be found in an Army manual from an Army-Navy surplus store."

"Military bloggers must now be very, very aware that one mistake might, at best, get all of the MilBloggers shut down, and, at worst, cost lives," Blackfive concluded, using the shorthand terminology for military online diary keepers.

A note from Gen. Schoomaker's deputy, Gen. Richard Cody, circulated with the memo spells out how even seemingly innocuous material can assist the enemy.

The note says Iraqi insurgents and foreign jihadists are using pictures -- of roadside bomb strikes, firefights, injured or dead U.S. soldiers or enemies, and destroyed or damaged vehicles and other equipment -- "as propaganda and terrorist training tools."

"The enemy is actively searching the unclassified (computer) networks for information, especially sensitive photos, in order to obtain targeting data, weapons system vulnerabilities and (tactics, techniques and procedures) for use against the Coalition," he wrote.