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Soldiers Lose The War For Their Freedom of Speech

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Soldiers serving in Iraq have been banned from sending out clips and images of the war. The very freedoms they are fighting for - are denied to them. In August of this year, the Department of Defense (DoD)'s web site announced the following "Effective immediately, no information may be placed on websites that are readily accessible to the public unless it has been reviewed for security concerns and approved in accordance with Deputy Secretary of Defense Memorandum web site policies and procedures." The Manassas based Virginia National Guard unit have chosen a mere 10 people to report information, blogs, videos, and photos on all sites created or utilised by soldiers. Any information or images they do not approve of, or appear to be a "potential operational security" (OPSEC) violation, are reported to the Army's Web Risk Assessment Cell (AWRAC). The majority of OPSEC violations found so far on Army milblogs have been "For Official Use Only" (FOUO) documents, and distribution of personal information such as name, address, and age. Currently there are an estimated 1,200 military blogs (milblogs), where soldiers are (were) free to share information back and forth between family and friends. "The military's stepped up surveillance of online activity also means an increasing risk to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members who use online communities," said Kathi S. Westcott, deputy director of law for Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN). "Service members must be especially cautious about posting any information online which reveals their sexual orientation. While online communities can be an important communication tool for military personnel, they can also lead to investigations and dismissals under 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell.'" These milblogs served several purposes which included - reaching out to a loved one back home; used as a journal to express views, concerns, and fears; and the medium exposed abuses and realities of war itself. It has been reported that the majority of the postings made by the soldiers on these milblogs have been written by those who are pro-war, not against. Only a small number of troops have milblogs opposing the war, since that view is in itself a violation. The Pentagon is concerned that milblogs may have a negative impact on how Americans see the military and how the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are being serviced. Others in the military believe the blogs may serve as notification for insurgents to view and subsequently act on. Copyright ©2006 Anai Rhoads Ford

 

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Anai Rhoads is a Human Rights journalist originally from Athens, Greece. Her work has been featured on several web-based newspapers and media outlets, which include ZMagazine, InfoShop.com, and Media Monitors. She is currently the Editor-in-Chief (more...)
 
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