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Crackdown on MilBlogs? « MikeFitz with overflow bit set…

Crackdown on MilBlogs?

Thu 21 Sep 2006

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I have been following with interest the blog of Ben, an Australian army officer who is blogging from Iraq.  Sadly, in the past 24 hours, his entire blog was deleted.

ASLAV in front of the Ziggurut of Ur

Letter to Ben

Conscious of the threat from cyber-squatters, I beat them to it.  I immediately re-registered his URL and posted this letter to Ben

G’day Ben,

I was disappointed to see your blog had been deleted.  (I’m guessing it was probably not done voluntarily.  Still, the need for military security is understandable and I’m sure everyone involved had Australia’s best interests at heart.)

But on a practical note, it’s unwise to completely delete a Blogger blog.  There are baddies constantly trawling Blogger looking for relinquished accounts.  When they find one, they will immediately re-register it.  They will then redirect all incoming links to their porn/fraud sites.

I hope you don’t mind, but I’ve taken the precaution of re-registering the site myself to prevent this.  Contact me, and I’ll gladly hand it back to you (after confirming ID, of course.)

Next time you are near Brisbane, say G’day.  I’d be proud to buy you a beer.

Keep up the good work.

Cheers — Mike

Why did this happen?

I suspect there was some fall-out from inappropriate videos on another (no longer serving) military member’s blog.  They may have been harmless enough on their own but the fact that they have been mentioned at the Kovco inquiry has made milblogs a politically sensitive issue.

Australia has lost a lot here.

It’s sad to see the demise of Ben’s blog.  There were no culturally-insensitive images or comments.  Quite the reverse; Ben’s posts were intelligent and insightful.  They gave a real feel for what life is like on the ground in Iraq today.  I myself was in Jordan at this time last year and I can vouch for Ben’s description of the heat haze and the grit in your teeth.

He also conveyed the excitement of putting all that training into practice.  As another commenter put it

The blog was an excellent advert for the ADF.

Recovery

I have also quickly recovered as much material from Google’s cached pages relating to Ben’s Blog as I could.  I’d love to republish this but I don’t want a visit from ASIO straight away.

I’m waiting to hear from Ben.

———————
Update - 22 Sep 06
It appears the Australian Army’s PR unit have yet to formulate a policy on milblogs.

Comments are open on Ben’s mothballed blog. Please leave any suggestions on what should be allowed (or disallowed) on blogs by serving members or how they should be registered/approved or whatever. (As well as messages of support for Ben!)

I note that several of the commenters on Ben’s original Iraqi Letters blog were young men of pre-military age. To these young men, Ben’s blog was inspirational and a concrete example of the living Anzac spirit.

C’mon Australia, we cannot let Ben’s blog die.

Mike

14 Responses to “Crackdown on MilBlogs?”

  1. Neil Says:

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    Mike, our top military boys do not take a crap without the appropriate advice. They aren’t a bunch of dummies. So dont be too angry at big brother. … That is a very well thought out conspiracy theory. Have you considered a book?

    What you have done is highlight the need for the DOD to establish a well defined policy on MilBlogs. …

    Your mate

    Neil.
    ———————
    Neil, I hope you don’t mind. I’ve edited your comment down a bit, to hilight the important parts. — Mike

  2. MikeFitz Says:

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    Neil: No, I wouldn’t say there was any conspiracy. More likely, I suspect, simply no-one had thought about the need for a policy.

    Then, when some political pressure came, the knee-jerk reaction was “Quick! Shut everything down.

  3. Ben Dullroy Says:

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    Hey Mike

    thanks for the intervention - didn’t know about site squatters, and considering the url is in my full name (novice blogger mistake) I very much appreciate the action you took.
    (message truncated by Mike)
    thanks,

    - Ben

  4. Colleague in Army Says:

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    You should have known better. It tookyou four years to get a deployment and you did this.

  5. MikeFitz Says:

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    G’day Colleague in Army,

    I presume by you did this you are talking about Ben’s Iraqi Letters Blog?  I’m guessing that your view on milblogs is that they should be completely banned for reasons of military security.  This is an understandable viewpoint.  There is also the risk that culturally-insensitive material may be published.  I’d like to think that most Aussies are smarter than that, but there’s always one idiot.

    It’s my view, however, that Ben’s blog was not a threat to security, nor culturally-insensitive.  Rather, it was extremely positive; it portrayed “the Aussie way” of honesty and openness and was worth more than a million recruiting posters to the ADF.

    Clearly there has to be some middle ground here.  Do you have any views on how milblogs should be regulated and/or approved?

    Cheers — Mike

  6. MikeFitz with overflow bit set... Says:

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    2/14 LHR QMI at the Ziggurat of Ur…

    Three things caught my attention when I saw this image which I rescued from the rubble of Ben’s deleted blog.*  Don’t panic; it’s an officially-sanctioned photo, originally published on defence.gov.au.
    Soldiers from the 2nd/14th…

  7. Craig Says:

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    Like many others I was looking forward to regular updates from Ben who provided a soldiers’ perspective of what is happening in Iraq. If the Australian Defense Force public relations section has any sense at all they will allow him to continue writing about the events they encounter and the ways they are assisting in this country. Obviously care needs to be taken to ensure the safety of our soldiers is not compromised by his actions. The intelligent portion of the public is fed up with the biased reporting by main stream media in Iraq, Lebanon and many other places and it will be a major injustice if he is silenced. My expectation is that the military will want to pass his stories through several layers of bureaucracy so that the information is so old by the time it is released that no-one will be interested anyway.

    Hoping Ben succeeds,
    Craig. Brisbane

  8. MikeFitz Says:

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    Hi Craig,
    It’s hard to argue with “Safety First”, but, even several layers of bureaucracy would be better than no information at all.

    A reasonable standard of review might be just two layers:
    1 an operational review at unit level, and
    2 a top-level ADF PR review.

    It would be a shame to lose Ben’s first-person accounts. They are a valuable slice of Australia’s history. Just look at how letters from Gallipoli are revered by today’s historians.
    –Mike

  9. MikeFitz with overflow bit set... Says:

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    Bank queues, hospital queues, prison queues, …WTF? PRISON Queues?…

    Who makes up these crazy headlines?  “Blogosphere shrinks planet!”  There’s another one.
    I met blogger Joel Dullroy (a journalist in Estonia) by doing a small favour for his blogger brother in the Middle East.  It turn…

  10. David from Perth Says:

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    Mike,

    Aside from the issue of operational security (OPSEC) and the threat that OPSEC breaches pose to deployed troops in the field (and I’ll leave that up to theatre commanders to determine, not armchair observers), there is a Defence Instruction on public comment by members of the ADF that expressly forbids this type of unauthorised information being made available in the public domain. This should have been drilled into Ben during his time at ADFA and Duntroon, let alone the media brief he would have received prior to his deployment. That he has wilfully and irresponsibly disobeyed this legal instruction should at the very least have him immediately sent home.

  11. MikeFitz Says:

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    Hi David,

    Good point about the need for operational security. Cannot argue with that.

    I guess it comes down to what “this type of unauthorised information” is. From my reading, Ben’s blog contained even less operational information than is freely available on defence.gov.au. The main difference is Ben’s was written in the first person and not in PR-speak.

    Cheers — Mike

  12. David from Perth Says:

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    Mike,

    While Ben’s blog may have seemed innocent enough, it wasn’t. There are bad guys over there who want to see the Ben’s of the world stone cold dead or at least out of Iraq so that they can launch further attacks on us at their leisure. He posted pictures that clearly showed how far apart Australian vehicles travel in convoy and he spoke about upcoming patrols and where they were likely to be. Our enemies are masters of the internet and Improvised Explosive Devices (IED’s) and those two things by themselves may well have placed Ben’s life and those of his mates in deep peril. Yes, it was a soldier’s take on life on the front line and yes it’s a story that needs to be told because Australian soldiers are the best in the world (just read MAJGEN Mike Hindmarsh’s media brief on the SFTG deployment to Afghganistan on the Defence website) and we’re fighting in an honourable and worthwhile cause. It just shouldn’t be told as it’s happening because those who wish him dead will use any and all information they can get their hands on to do just that. Unlike the diaries of former diggers (incidentally, they have never been ‘legal’ and always kept secret), the internet is immediate. When Ben leaves the Army, I hope the diary he writes in his head (or secretly stows away in his trunk) makes its way into the rich tradition of Australia’s war history but in a manner and a time and place that doesn’t put his life at any more risk than it already is. Let’s honour and support these brave young men and women but for God’s sake let’s not give our enemies the information to kill them.

  13. Matt Says:

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    Hwat has happened to Bills blog??? Even the Comments page has been removed. Have the NAZI’s finally taken over the howard government!

  14. MikeFitz with overflow bit set... Says:

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    Iraq Diggers silenced - my comments in The Sunday Mail…

    Welcome to readers following up my comments in today’s Sunday Mail article “Iraq Diggers silenced” by Lucy Carne.  You may be interested in my earlier posts on this topic:

    Crackdown on MilBlogs? - Thu 21 Sep 2006
    2/14 LHR QMI at…

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