PEEK

Army spying on its own soldiers

Infringing on the freedom of our troops...
Our freedom as Americans was -- okay, falsely -- one of the paramount battle cries of the Iraq War. So it's that much more of a spit in the face to learn that the Army is, without any explicit criteria, spying on soldier blogs.

Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed a Freedom of Information Act request so soldier/bloggers and the public will know exactly what information the army finds "inappropriate," writes:
[A]n Army unit called the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell (AWRAC) reviews hundreds of thousands of websites every month, notifying webmasters and bloggers when it sees information it finds inappropriate. Some bloggers have told reporters that they have cut back on their posts or shut down their sites altogether because of the activities of the AWRAC. EFF filed its suit after the Department of Defense and Army failed to respond to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests about the blog monitoring program.
We can only conclude that the DoD is interested in spying on more than just militarily sensitive information. That it wants to spy on dissent.

Point is this: There is sensitive information that jeopardizes missions and lives and the Army has a good case when it comes to protecting that information. But when the dragnet is unspecified and soldiers know they're being watched they're naturally going to cut back on their thoughts and, in particular, their criticisms.

I emailed EFF attorney Marcia Hofmann and asked about truly sensitive information. Here's her reply: The military clearly has an interest in making sure that properly classified information remains secret. The problem is that some soldiers have taken down or changed their websites because they aren't sure whether the sites comply the military's guidelines. The Army must be clear about the standards it imposes upon soldiers' websites to ensure that those restrictions don't encroach upon rights to free expression.

It's a shame that America's Department of Defense is rolling back the freedoms of our own troops.
Evan Derkacz is an AlterNet editor. He writes and edits PEEK, the blog of blogs.
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