May 04, 2007

Army lists media as same threat level as drug cartels

Seriously. No bullshit. The media is now an official threat to the United States Army. Read on:
It looks like it’s official: the United States Army thinks that American reporters are a threat to national security. Thanks to some great sleuthing by Wired’s “Danger Room” blogger Noah Shachtman, the Army's new operational security guidelines (OPSEC) hit the Web in a big way yesterday, and the implications they have for reporters — who are grouped in with drug cartels and Al Qaeda as security threats to be beaten back — are staggering.

Make no mistake, this is a very big deal, and every American citizen, not just reporters and soldiers, needs to understand the implications of the Army’s strict new policy, because it directly affects how citizens receive information about their armed forces: information that it has every right to get.

Shachtman reproduces a slide from the new “OPSEC in the Blogosphere,” document, which lists and ranks “Categories of Threat.” Under “traditional domestic threats” we find hackers and militia groups, while “non-traditional” threats include drug cartels, and — yes — the media. Just to put that into some perspective, the foreign "non-traditional threats" are listed as warlords, and Al Qaeda. In other words, the Army has figuratively and literally put the media in the same box as Al Qaeda, warlords, and drug cartels.

While snake oil salesmen like Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh would surely rank the American press up there with Bin Laden and his homicidal ilk, for the Army to do so is shocking, displaying a deep ignorance on the part of at least some segments of the uniformed military over just what the media’s role in a democracy is, while sending the unambiguous message to soldiers and DoD employees that reporters are to be treated as enemies.

Under the new rules, all Army personnel and DoD contractors are told to keep an eye on reporters and anyone seen speaking to the press, and that they should “consider handling attempts by unauthorized personnel to solicit critical information or sensitive information as a Subversion and Espionage Directed Against the U.S. Army (SAEDA) incident.”

Great. Even less reason to trust the military’s comments about Iraq than we have now. Even more reason to be suspicious of kowtowing embedded reporters.

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