Operations Security is a briefing the Troops get annually. Most that have been in the Military for more than 2 years can probably quote the salient points before they walk in. The points are rather simple:
1) The enemy can assemble a big picture from multiple pieces of innocuous information.
2) The press is in the business of reporting information.
3) Don't tell others things that can be put together to make the big picture.
Blogs can make the gathering of information a lot easier, but they don't need to. It is one reason why the command has been so concerned about the unbridled information the Troops might tell the world and at the same time why the Troops were so slow to embrace the world of Blogging. The "original" milblogs were designed to make the Military look bad and to undermine the Mission.
Youtube was first embraced by one who had been kicked out of Basic Training, yet claimed to have participated in atrocities with the elite Rangers in Iraq.
Like so many, this publication arose out of disgust that the podium was hogged by the minority that either purposely distorted or completely misunderstood the Mission, the Military, and the Troops. It brought the editor to a point of searching for a way to educate and inform, without endangering Our
But providing information, the very mission of Public Affairs, in which I'm untrained, is diametrically opposed to OPSEC, unless great caution is undertaken. The journalist is not the friend of the Soldier, but cannot be treated as an enemy. It's an uneasy relationship in which the media is constantly trying to prove how important, informative, and intelligent they are, without consideration (often) of the danger they put the Troops in.
Troops are told to "be honest" and "to talk only about what they know" when dealing with the media. Don't speculate and don't lie. The Troops have a natural desire to say "no comment" and walk away. And anyone that has actually been on the wrong end of a camera and then watched the results has a healthy respect for how their words can be twisted.
Weblogs and News Publications by Veterans & Troops developed out of frustration with the media and organizations like Code Pink & the IVAW. A lesson learned out of Viet Nam and applied in a timely manner during OEF was that the vocal minority cannot be given a monopoly on the microphone. Our Viet Nam era brothers were the first to stand up and speak against protestors of propaganda. They had seen the path before and felt the sting.
People like Matt Burden stood up and expressed the outrage at the media which simultaneously demanded protection, free press, and turned their backs on the very men which provided it.
The Troops watched the nightly news as they searched for and came close to finding OBL, while the self-important journalists explained exactly how we were getting so close. OBL was also listening. It became harder to find him.
Journalists began pointing out the flaws in airport security, seaport security, and border security. They weren't concerned with the holes in the system for sake of better security, but for the sake of better ratings. If they were concerned for our safety, they would have quietly told the managers and heads of security where the holes were, instead of broadcasting to our enemies how to commit the next act of terrorism. I could only imagine the guilt I would feel, if information I provided was used by the enemy, but the personalities involved seemed immune from humility, from patriotism, and from any potential feelings of guilt.
Under the banner of "objectivity," they subjectively parroted the enemy's message and acted more effectively as intelligence agents than even the KGB could have hoped to assemble.
But the frontline Troops understand the importance of OPSEC. They've been there. Their very lives are the ones on the line and they have a vested interest in ensuring their words aren't used against them. It is more likely to be well-meaning loved ones that publish something they shouldn't. A Soldier may feel safe in telling a trusted friend or relative their doubts of a security program, their address, or some other detail. But, consider before you post such information. If in doubt (and you probably should be), ask the Soldier if they mind their picture, name, and information being posted.
The line I use is this: if the information is already posted in official government channels, then its accepted for publication by the Troops, or at least the military. It's already out there. If its a private communication, ie. email or picture I take, I ask before I post, period. That's why my pictures rarely have faces or names, while the pictures with details I repost are usually from DoD sites. I don't want my mug posted on the net and I won't post the faces of those I've worked with.
If you run a site, whether a news publication or a blog, think before you post, please. If you are posting the failures of security, the only routes to and from a base, the daily schedule of patrols or a base, think about how you would use that information if you were the enemy. If the enemy can use the information, consider the possibility of putting it in an email to the command rather than in a blog to the world.
If you've recently come across the one way that good guys are taking out the bad guys, consider how you would react if you were the enemy and found it. Consider the reason I attribute to OBL still being on the loose; the media alerting him to how we were getting so close. Think about what you would do if you suddenly found out how thieves were effectively breaking into houses of your neighborhood. Consider if its more important for you to be perceived as intelligent and a great strategist, or if its more important to you that our Troops continue to attain success.
It does feel good when it feels that you've positively effected policy of a big organization, but sometimes our roles in such things are smaller than we realize. An example of that is the NYTimes articles of a little over a year ago that slandered Our Troops and Our Veterans by means of misportrayal. A Number of people in my online community spoke out against it, strongly. Little did I know, at that time, that numerous others were speaking as loudly and boldly as were we. We played a part, but not the sole part and for a time the NYTimes backed off our Troops.