- The Washington Times - Friday, May 4, 2007

The White House yesterday said that a new Pentagon policy restricting blogs and e-mail communications by active-duty U.S. military will not close down what many have called the best source of good news out of Iraq.

“My understanding is there’s no wholesale shutting down of blogs or of e-mail,” said White House spokesman Tony Snow, who added that concerns about the policy were being “overreported.”

“On the other hand, there is sensitivity to the fact that you have to be careful when you’re doing these things not jeopardize yourself, your colleagues, the operations, the Iraqis and the overall mission,” Mr. Snow said.

Meanwhile, the Pentagon yesterday clarified its policy, emphasizing that active-duty U.S. soldiers blogging from Iraq and Afghanistan — commonly known as “milbloggers” — will not be required to check with an officer every time they write.

“In no way will every blog post/update a soldier makes on his or her blog need to be monitored or first approved,” said a fact sheet issued by Jack Holt, chief of new media operations at the Pentagon.

Mr. Holt’s fact sheet explained that every time a soldier starts up a blog, he or she will be required to notify a senior officer and receive training about what information should not be disclosed.

Protest erupted on military and conservative blogs this week after a piece published Wednesday on Wired magazine’s Web site, which focused on two paragraphs in a 79-page document on operational security — Army regulation 530-1 — issued April 19.

The regulation states that all Army personnel and contractors must “consult with their immediate supervisor and their [operations security] officer for an OPSEC review prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum.”

The regulation specifically includes blogs as well as e-mail.

The same day that news broke of the Pentagon’s new policy, President Bush praised blogs for helping disseminate information from Iraq, during a question-and-answer period that followed a speech to a contractors group.

“People get their news all different kinds of ways,” Mr. Bush said in answer to a questioner who expressed dissatisfaction with mainstream press outlets. “Information is moving — you know, nightly news is one way, of course, but it’s also moving through the blogosphere and through the Internets.”

The Wired article said the new regulation “could mean the end of military blogs.” Some of the most popular blogs written by ex-military personnel, and blogs that focus on the military, agreed.

“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,” wrote Matthew C. Burden, a former paratrooper and Army officer who edits the group blog BlackFive.net.

Ed Morrissey, at Captains QuartersBlog.com, wrote that the new policy would be “so restrictive as to have the practical effect of eliminating active-duty milbloggers, and silencing the voices from the front who have most actively promoted the war effort.”

After the Pentagon release yesterday, Mr. Burden said the clarification was “a good thing,” but that he would still work to distribute the clarification to all the milbloggers who come to his attention.

The incident, Mr. Burden said, revealed a larger story of “two factions within the Army at the senior level.”

“One is a group of generals that would like to see more control over the soldiers. I think it freaks out a lot of generals that soldiers can just send out pictures and posts over the Internet,” Mr. Burden said. “Then there’s a group of generals who understand the value of the Web, and how it might help them win some battles in the information war.”

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