The Media, the New Media and U.S. Intelligence

BY Herschel Smith
4 years, 5 months ago

The DoD policy on the new media has been released.  There are positive steps – computers are to be configured to access such sites within the constraints of operational security.  But the policy is subject to local application and enforcement.  Milblogging.com likes it, but I’ll wait to see the affects of the policy before weighing in on it.

My experience with blogging is that even as a parent of a member of the military, my words got significant attention to both me and my son, some of it unwanted and unwarranted.  There were daily site visits from PAOs, and usually within minutes of making posts.  If I mentioned water survival training while donning body armor, it got my son a visit to the First Sergeant’s office and a call from the Colonel, or better yet, a comment about how “we don’t do that sort of thing.”

Absurd.  Nothing false, nothing OPSEC about it, just a desire to control the narrative.  Concern over what mothers might think if they read the blog, or something of that nature.  I would have thought it wise and laudable that the Marines taught their guys to deal with HMMWV rollover incidents where the Marine ended up in a river with his body armor on.  After all, it had happened before.

The secrecy surrounding the 26th MEU was extraordinary.  We got more information from his deployment to Fallujah than we did from the Persian Gulf.  But any bystander at the Suez Canal who has a cell phone can inform his contacts when he sees a U.S. Amphibious Assault Dock floating by.  The concern that a Marine on board a ship  informing his family members about his proximity being more valuable information than someone in Egypt actually seeing a ship floating by is the fantasy of control freaks.  Enlisted men rarely are in possession of something that can seriously compromise OPSEC, and if they are, they are usually mature enough to handle the responsibility.

Stepping into the twenty first century is proving to be difficult for the military in more ways than accepting social networking.  In Systemic Defense Intelligence Failures, I lamented the fact that I had pointed out the Taliban strategy of targeting lines of logistics two years ago, while Army intelligence was busy denying that there would be any resurgence of the Taliban or even a spring offensive in 2008.  Military intelligence should have been reading my analysis rather than arguing their own merits.  Intelligence failures also played a part in the losses at COP Keating and Wanat.

The DoD may be adjusting.

On their first day of class in Afghanistan, the new U.S. intelligence analysts were given a homework assignment.

First read a six-page classified military intelligence report about the situation in Spin Boldak, a key border town and smuggling route in southern Afghanistan. Then read a 7,500-word article in Harper’s magazine, also about Spin Boldak and the exploits of its powerful Afghan border police commander.

The conclusion they were expected to draw: The important information would be found in the magazine story. The scores of spies and analysts producing reams of secret documents were not cutting it.

“They need help,” Capt. Matt Pottinger, a military intelligence officer, told the class. “And that’s what you’re going to be doing.”

The class that began Friday in plywood hut B-8 on a military base in Kabul marked a first step in what U.S. commanders envision as a major transformation in how intelligence is gathered and used in the war against the Taliban.

Not too many months ago Maj. Gen. Michael T. Flynn published a scathing critique of intelligence analysis in Afghanistan (I thought it was more than a little weird and a bit too political to publish this report with CNAS).  But I have read the entire report by Matthieu Aikins in Harpers.  It’s well worth the read by people interested in hard core data, names, information and analysis of the situation in Afghanistan.

Whether studying Aikins’ report, or Nicholas Schmidle on the Next-Gen Taliban, or David Rohde’s account of his captivity under the Taliban, some of the best information and analysis is right in front of our eyes if we can think outside the box.  This is why the media must be culled for good reports, and – to a lesser extent – it’s why I get military visits every day.  The new media merits its own attention, but it needs to be the right kind of attention.  We need for the military to pursue good analysis, not fulfill their own [sometimes] megalomaniacal ambitions to control every little detail of everyone’s life.




You are currently reading "The Media, the New Media and U.S. Intelligence", entry #4617 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) Afghanistan,Intelligence,Media,Military Blogging and was published March 1st, 2010 by Herschel Smith.

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