A new U.S. Army regulation (pdf) on Operations Security (OPSEC) would sharply restrict the ability of soldiers to participate in public life without supervision and authorization from superior officers.
The regulation also encourages Army personnel to view attempts by unauthorized persons to gather restricted information as an act of subversion against the United States.
“All Department of the Army personnel and DoD contractors will… consider handling attempts by unauthorized personnel to solicit critical information or sensitive information as a Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the U.S. Army (SAEDA) incident,” the regulation states (at section 2-1).
“Sensitive” information is defined here (at section 1-5(c)(3)(e)) to include not just vital details of military operations and technologies but also documents marked “For Official Use Only” (FOUO) that may be exempt from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.
It follows that inquisitive members of the press or the public who actively pursue such FOUO records may be deemed enemies of the United States.
In what seems to be a serious conceptual muddle, the new regulation conflates OPSEC, which is supposed to be a defense against adversaries of the United States, with FOIA restrictions, which regulate public access to government information. As a result, it appears that OPSEC procedures are now to be used to control access to predecisional documents, copyrighted or proprietary material, and other FOIA-exempt records.
A copy of the new regulation, dated April 19 and itself marked For Official Use Only, was obtained by Wired News and is posted here.
Taken at face value, the regulation would spell the end of military blogging and would severely curtail military participation in public life. It imposes a non-discretionary pre-publication review requirement, stating that “all Department of the Army personnel… will… consult with their immediate supervisor… prior to publishing or posting information in a public forum.” (sec. 2-1).
It was reported by Noah Shachtman in “New Army Rules Could Kill G.I. Blogs (Maybe E-mail, Too),” Danger Room, May 2.
The terms of the Army regulation are so expansive as to create innumerable new opportunities for violations and infractions. Just this week, for example, the Army’s own 1st Information Operations Command ironically posted a briefing on “OPSEC in the Blogosphere” (pdf) marked For Official Use Only.
(Thanks, again, to Entropic Memes.)
Update: The Army issued a fact sheet (pdf) that appears to retreat significantly from the provisions of the new Regulation. See Army to Bloggers: We Won’t Bust You. Promise. by Noah Shachtman in Danger Room, and Army clarifies blogging policy by Jason Miller, Federal Computer Week.