Thursday, May 03, 2007
Do Soldiers Have Freedom of Speech?
If we consider the latest new Army regulations concerning electronic communications, it would appear that the United States Army thinks not.
The U.S. Army has ordered soldiers to stop posting to blogs or sending personal e-mail messages, without first clearing the content with a superior officer, Wired News has learned. The directive, issued April 19, is the sharpest restriction on troops' online activities since the start of the Iraq war. And it could mean the end of military blogs, observers say.The rationale for the new regulations is to improve operational security (OPSEC) by tightening controls over what military personnel are allowed to say via electronic media. This would be a sound reason -- if there were a major problem with soldiers giving away sensitive information through their blogs, which there hasn't been, to my knowledge. Besides, existing regulations would seem to have been sufficient for such cases anyway. And then, of course, its effectiveness at stopping compromises of sensitive information would still be open to debate.
Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq -- the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.
Another rationale for restricting "mil-bloggers", as active duty bloggers are often known, would be concerns over what they say being mistaken for the official position of the military. However, I saw no mention of this concern in my brief readings about the subject and this is something that most people would not be confused about, and which a standard disclaimer could fix in any event.
This former member of the armed forces sees the measure as superflous, and probably even bad for our military for the reason indicated by the mil-blogger Dadmanly: It will likely harm morale.
The AR not only directs Commanders (BN and above) and OPSEC Managers to ensure that no communications in a public forum or media (to include email) occur without OPSEC review, but directs UCMJ action against military violators and criminal prosecution against anyone else.I have heard it said of the American military that one of the things that distinguishes it from many others is the degree of responsibility entrusted even to many of its lowest-ranking individual soldiers. It is unsurprising that we can do this given that our military is all-volunteer, consists of men fighting to preserve their freedom, and relies on technology enough to require intelligent recruits.
Worse than that, as written it also means soldiers need to have their commanders review/censor every single email or IM they want to send. To comply, commanders would have no choice but to forbid their soldiers from using email or IM via the internet, or the Commander would have to go with them to the internet cafe.
Completely impractical, unrealistic, worse by far than prohibitions that are widely ignored, such as gambling. This one can only be complied with by severely curtailing one of the few highly successful MWR initiatives in combat theater -- internet cafes. [bold added]
While I think it is a waste of time and a pointless sacrifice for us to have soldiers doling out welfare in Iraq rather than, say pummeling Iran or Saudi Arabia, I think we should treat them like the rational, freedom-loving adults we recruited rather than as traitorous conscripts. If our men on the lines can drink technical training from a fire hose in preparation for their roles in combat, their leaders could return the favor by putting a lot more thought behind the regulations our men will be expected to follow.
Massachusetts to Ban Pit Bulls?
One thing first: I dislike most dogs and viscerally hate pit pulls. The breed is designed to be extremely aggressive and I even agree a little with the state representative who equated pit bulls with weapons.
After once having a neighbor's escaped pit bull take up residence in our carport for a few days and start randomly attacking people before we even knew about the animal, I also agree that there ought to be some way to make the animals less dangerous -- by causing their owners to become more responsible.
Nevertheless, I do not think the breed should be banned.
State legislators will hold a hearing later this month on whether to outlaw pit bulls, though Walsh said lawmakers hope to look into broader issues regarding dog safety.As far as I am concerned, an escaped pit bull falls under the category of "fair game". I wonder what elements of weapons control and liability law Massachusetts could get rid of that might allow its own citizens to protect themselves better from escaped pit bulls. And what about holding careless dog owners responsible for what their animals do on the loose, perhaps by changing or abolishing the "One Bite Rule"?
State Rep. Vincent Pelone said the state may consider either banning pit bulls outright or requiring owners to get training or a dangerous dog license.
"If you want to own a pit bull, which in my estimation can be the same as owning a weapon, the owner and the dog should receive training," said the Worcester Democrat.
I would like to see, for once, a state legislature look to what superfluous laws it can get rid of and what laws that protect individual rights it could better enforce before it simply enacts yet another piece of obtrusive legislation to fix a problem created by the fact that the government is increasingly focused on babysitting rather than protecting rational adults from the initiation of force.
John Lewis Audio
I need to find out why I can't play this for myself, but I suspect that if you use Windows, you'll be able to listen to the audio of John Lewis's recent talk ("No Subsititute for Victory") at George Mason University.
Today: Corrected a typo.