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Army Shuts Down Soldier Blogs

I am not entirely convinced of the correcntess of either side of the debate on this issue. Wired reports here:

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.

Yes, this is prior restraint. However, once you join the military, you also accept that most of your Constitutional rights are secondary to your mission and your orders.

No one would question but that a government might prevent actual obstruction to its recruiting service or the publication of the sailing dates of transports or the number and location of troops. Near v. Minnesota, 283 U.S. 697 (1931).

I don’t agree with a lot of Near’s dicta, but on this one I can’t find much umbrage in my otherwise absolutist stance on the First Amendment.

On the other hand, the regulation does appear to go a bit too far when applied to civilians.

Active-duty troops aren’t the only ones affected by the new guidelines. Civilians working for the military, Army contractors — even soldiers’ families — are all subject to the directive as well.

But, while the regulations may apply to a broad swath of people, not everybody affected can actually read them. In a Kafka-esque turn, the guidelines are kept on the military’s restricted Army Knowledge Online intranet. Many Army contractors — and many family members — don’t have access to the site. Even those able to get in are finding their access is blocked to that particular file.

“Even though it is supposedly rewritten to include rules for contractors (i.e., me) I am not allowed to download it,” e-mails Perry Jeffries, an Iraq war veteran now working as a contractor to the Armed Services Blood Program.

If the information arrives in a citizen’s hands, even if they could review the regulations, I would be very uncomfortable with civilians being required to have any writing on military issues pre-screened by the military. The fact that their writing is governed by regulations that they are not authorized to review is properly described as “Kafka-esque.”

In my minid, the jury is still out on these regulations. Thought provoking comments are invited.

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