Sunday, February 26, 2006

This entry has been censored

Spencer Case: sage under siege. Photo by Staff Sgt. Engles Tejeda.

Last night, I had one of the biggest artistic epiphanies in a long while. I sat down at my computer and spontaneously wrote a 700 word BLOG entry about mortar attacks. It was one of the best essays I've ever written. Unfortionately, my command informed me this morning that all information about mortar attacks falls under "tactics, techniques, and procedures" and thus is OPSEC (sound of climactic violin music).

In retrospect, I can see the command's point about at least some of the information that particular entry. If I hadn't, I'd never have given it to them to double check. But it got me thinking about how easily worthwhile but politically incorrect information can be surpressed in the name of keeping soldiers safe.

I have been aggrevated by the Army's draconian OPSEC policies before. Earlier in the deployment, I was not allowed to publish pictures of Stryker vehicles because a certain infantry unit was paranoid that if the insurgents discovered the dimensions of the vehicle their security would somehow be compromised. Of course, the insurgents could simply look out the window and see the vehicle rolling past them in the narrow streets. Or they could look it up online with a simple Google search.

A few weeks ago, a free lance journalist named David Axe was stripped of his credentials and made to leave Iraq because he printed information about the Warlock signal-jamming system. An imbedded journalist like himself should have known better. Still, any insurgent with the internet search skills of a fifth grader could have found for himself. It seems unfair on some level that the journalist has to bear all the heat for repeating readily available information.

The Army's issues with the press go well beyond security concerns.

Consider the case of the article "Biggest base in Iraq has a small-town feel" by Thomas Ricks, the senior war corrospondant for the Washington Post. In the article*, Ricks takes the reader on a journalistic tour of the base, describing what items are available at the PX, what the speed limit is, how the Air Force, Army and civilians live in different parts of "town," etc. I've lived here seven months and I see nothing misleading about his discription. What could be more innocent?

Woe unto Thomas Ricks! Details such as this give the (accurate) impression that Balad is being run more like a garrison in the U.S. than a combat zone in Iraq. They also raise questions about the number of troops stationed here, since many troops in Balad don't even see Iraqis during their tour.

From what I've heard, the command at Balad is very unhappy about this article. Not because it endangers anyone's life but because the truth reflects poorly on the command. In fact, the Pentagon has been so pissed at Ricks for not pushing their propaganda in his articles that they had an unprecedented meeting with Washington Post editors to discuss their grievances a few months ago.

In my opinion, the Army could show a little more sensitivity toward journalists, who have freedom of the press. After all, if freedoms like that aren't important what are we fighting for anyway?

* The article can be found here:


Blogger clayton said...

"Sage under siege..." I like that, is that your idea or Tejeda's?

Good article.


12:57 PM  
Blogger Spencer Case said...

The caption was my idea. Glad you like it.

9:32 PM  

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