Soldiers' Iraq Blogs Face Military Scrutiny

Day to Day, August 24, 2004 · Military officials are cracking down on blogs written by soldiers and Marines in Iraq, saying some of them reveal sensitive information. Critics say it's an attempt to suppress unflattering truths about the U.S. occupation. NPR's Eric Niiler reports.

A blogger with the pen name CBFTW, stationed near Mosul with the First Battallion, 23rd Regiment, says he began his My War Web log to help combat boredom. "I'm just writing about my experiences," the soldier says. "I'm pretty much putting my diary on the Internet -- that's all it is."

CBFTW says he has avoided describing sensitive information, such as U.S. weapons capabilities, weaknesses and scheduling. But earlier this month, CBFTW was lectured by commanders about violating operational security. Two other popular blogs run by soldiers have been shut down recently.

Lt. Col. Paul Hastings, a spokesman for unit CBFTW belongs to, said the soldier's blog now has to be reviewed by his platoon sergeant and a superior officer. In an e-mail to NPR, Hastings said the popularity of blogging has increased the chance that soldiers may inadvertently give away information to Internet-savvy enemies.

But some critics worry that military officials are trying to muffle dissent from troops in the field. "I really think it has much less to do with operational security and classified secrets and more to do with American politics and how the war is seen by a public that is getting increasingly shaky about the overall venture," says Michael O'Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.