Paranoia strikes deep—into your life it will creep. Buffalo Springfield, 1967
The U.S. Army now classifies the media as a threat – along with Al Qaeda, warlords and drug cartels. The classification is part of an Army slideshow, which you can download on-line at http://www.fas.org/irp/agency/army/opsec-blog.pdf.
There’s a man with a gun over there, telling me that I’ve got to beware.
Besides the media, soldiers and their families are apparently security threats. A 79-page order, issued April 19, warns about breaches of operations security—OPSEC in the military jargon—by soldiers writing e-mails home and blogging about their experiences in Iraq. Soldiers must clear e-mails and blog posts with their commanding officers before sending them (paragraph 2-1g). Failure to comply with OPSEC “may be punished as violations of a lawful order” under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ). And those “not subject to the UCMJ who fail to protect critical and sensitive information from unauthorized disclosure may be subject to administrative, disciplinary, contractual, or criminal action.”
There’s something happening here, and what it is ain’t exactly clear.
Disclosure of “sensitive and critical information” violates OPSEC. What is “sensitive and critical” info? Giving an explanation, Maj. Ray Ceralde, the Army OPSEC program manager, explained that increased numbers of parked cars in a Pentagon lot and increased Pentagon pizza orders on January 16, 1991 could have signaled the next day’s beginning of Operation Desert Storm. That meant these facts were “sensitive and critical information.” (There’s some speculation that the whole pizza/parking lot story is an urban legend—but what do the facts matter, when security is at stake?) Some “critical and sensitive” information is specifically listed, and its disclosure prohibited, by the order, including photos of “Improvised Explosive Device (IED) strikes, battle scenes, casualties, destroyed or damaged equipment, personnel killed in action (KIA), both friendly and adversary…”
Though the 79-page order provides several descriptions of “sensitive” and “critical” information that may not be communicated, none of them provide much guidance to the soldiers, civilian employees, family members, or media who are the targets of the OPSEC order. In a neat Catch-22, the order itself is classified as “For Official Use Only (FOUO)”, and paragraph 1-6e says that FOUO information is “sensitive.” That means the order itself is “for official Government use only” and may not be distributed or circulated. (If you are not afraid of prosecution, you can download Army Regulation 530-1 at http://blog.wired.com/defense/files/army_reg_530_1_updated.)
Bottom line: virtually any information of any kind could become part of a complicated puzzle that could aid the enemy. Virtually any soldier, civilian employee or contractor could be prosecuted for communicating the wrong information. The only way to be sure you are not breaking the rules is to keep your mouth shut and tell no one back home what is actually going on.
That means no pleas for body armor. (E-mails in 2004 broke open the story of unprotected U.S. soldiers.) No scandals about unarmored Humvees (2004-2007). No reporting on torture of prisoners (Abu Ghraib). No truth-telling to families about death-by-friendly-fire (Pat Tillman). No whistle-blowing on a squad that rapes a fourteen-year-old girl and murders her whole family (Mahmudiya). No leaks about massacres (Haditha).
Remember: the media is the enemy. War is Peace. Slavery is Freedom. Ignorance is Strength.