By Allen Wolfe
The Department of Defense (DOD) recently banned access to specific websites, including MySpace.com and YouTube.com, online blogs, and other media-transferring websites. The ban, Army Regulation 530-1, only restricts access on DOD-owned computers. This ban mostly affects soldiers on smaller bases; soldiers on large bases can subscribe to private Internet providers the DOD do not have jurisdiction over.
The Operations Security (OPSEC) has created a new regulation that bans more than just online blogs, which have become very popular with soldiers in the last couple of years.
The old version of the regulation mandated a soldier to consult his or her immediate supervisor before uploading/downloading pictures or videos; the new regulation requires OPSEC review prior to the publication or exchange of any media.
This new policy supposedly seeks to regulate bandwidth use on DOD computers. In a memo, General B.B. Bell, commander of U.S. forces in Korea, stated the apparent reason for the new regulations.
“This recreational traffic [on particular websites and online blogs] impacts our official DOD network and bandwidth ability,” he wrote in the memo.
In an e-mail interview with a captain in the U.S. Army who wished to remain anonymous, the captain agreed the reason for the ban was a matter of safety for the soldiers.
“[The Army is] taking more precautionary measures, and they need to, to ensure information that is vital to security and the safety of U.S. soldiers is protected,” the captain wrote.
“I believe that the main reason is operational security,” she continued. She does not deny the right of people to think and express themselves, but she feels “it must be regulated” at times, especially when it “directly impacted the safety of our soldiers, and the success of our operations.”
According to Noah Shachtman, a reporter for WIRED News, an online news network, bandwidth ability has nothing to do with online blogging.
“There is no reason for anyone to be claiming that blogs are a bandwidth problem,” Shachtman said. The DOD is “concerned that folks will take a sentence from one blog, two paragraphs from another, a picture from a third blog and somehow piece it together,” possibly in an incriminating fashion, he said.
Online blogs are a big part of soldiers’ lives overseas and domestically. Blogs allow soldiers to vent about their hard days and allow family, friends and curious onlookers a glimpse into the life of soldiers.
The blogs are not the only way to contact family members, but they are crucial to the morale of soldiers, Shachtman explained in a personal anecdote.
“I met a soldier that was working on an online blog while injured in Iraq and when he eventually lost the use of his hands, the soldier became very suicidal and unresponsive to medical help,” Shachtman said. “For some soldiers it is very crucial to their mental health and for others it does not matter so much.”
Every soldier in the military knows there is an understanding that “certain restrictions come with [enlisting],” the captain explained.
“That’s what you signed up for,” agreed an unnamed UC Santa Cruz student, who is also a cadet in the Air Force. The cadet spoke of having privileges, instead of rights, in the military.
The cadet said, “If they want to give you the luxury of even e-mail, you better be grateful for that, because they can snatch that away from you too.”