Military clamps down on web sites/blogs of soldiers and their families

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 at 03:08 PM

In the midst of the battle to bring freedom and democracy to Iraq, the US military and government have often made mention of the new freedom of Iraqis to have cell phones, internet access and other indicia of modern day freedom to communicate.  For example, Ambassador David A. Gross, the "U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy" said, in remarks made in March, 2005, that:
"Mobile phones, the Internet, and satellite TV and radio among other technologies can have a powerful impact in weakening repression, shaping how people relate to their governments, and sometimes even providing the means for organizing and sustaining movements for political change.....It is no mere coincidence, then, that we have seen in Iraq a great expansion in the number of cell phone and Internet users. Cell phone service was nearly non-existent under Saddam Hussein's brutally repressive regime. Today, there are about 1,600,000 cell phone subscribers in Iraq. Pre-war, there was limited Internet service with approximately 3,000 Internet and 8,000 e-mail only accounts. As of earlier this month, there are more than 130,000 active subscribers and a large number of unregulated users of Internet cafes."

Which makes it all the more heinous that the military has apparently begun to "crack down" on both soldiers and soldiers' families who want to communicate via the net.

1. Newsday reports in a 1-1-06 piece that "now, as hundreds of soldiers overseas have started keeping Internet journals about the heat, the homesickness, the bloodshed, word speeds from the battlefront faster than ever.
"More and more, though, U.S. military commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan are clamping down on these military Web logs, known as milblogs."
"Nowadays, milbloggers "get shut down almost as fast as they're set up," said New York Army National Guard Spc. Jason Christopher Hartley, 31, of upstate New Paltz, who believes something is lost as the grunt's-eye take on Tikrit or Kabul is silenced or sanitized.

"Hartley last January was among the first active-duty combat troops demoted and fined for security violations on his blog,"

2. Meanwhile, the Alternative Press Review, in a 12-24-05 piece, reprints the letter of a soldier's mother detailing what happened after she started a web site for military family members on MSN:

"...the Army decided to call every single family on the site, informing them, that the site was not to be used by any of the families. The Department of Defense called families in the middle of the night to notify them to not use the web site. Most of the families were near tears, thinking they were getting "THE" call telling them their child or loved one had been killed or injured.

"The information received via the phone call was to inform the families that the base did not condone the site, nor [did] the Army, and that it was not to be used; the gist was, families were not allowed to use the site, or they could get into "trouble". Some members reported their soldier calling from Iraq, telling them to be careful about using the site as the Army was monitoring it."

Why does this praise for Iraqi freedom to communicate while denying the same right not only to soldiers, but to their families, strike me as kind of like the difference between funding infrastructure improvements in iraq, but cutting them here in the U.S., because we have to make sure that those millionaires get their tax cuts?