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Pentagon ratchets up surveillance of online habits of military personnel

Rummy’s checking out where servicemembers are surfing. Clearly this makes sense if the Pentagon is concerned about classified information or troop positions that might be disclosed.

A Virginia-based operation, the Army Web Risk Assessment Cell, monitors official and unofficial blogs and other Web sites for anything that may compromise security. The team scans for official documents, personal contact information and pictures of weapons or entrances to camps.

It’s also a possible opportunity to find out the sexual orientation of soldiers. Servicemembers Legal Defense Network (SLDN) has put out a release cautioning those in the military who are blogging that this heightened monitoring may lead to more DADT bootings.

“The military’s stepped up surveillance of online activity also means an increasing risk to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender service members who use online communities,” said Kathi S. Westcott, deputy director of law for SLDN. “Service members must be especially cautious about posting any information online which reveals their sexual orientation. While online communities can be an important communication tool for military personnel, they can also lead to investigations and dismissals under ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.'”

SLDN’s Steve Ralls, over at the organization’s blog The Frontlines, offers a look at one man whose online profile was enough to get him into trouble.

Former Army Specialist Jeff Howe … was dismissed shortly after his command discovered both a blog he was keeping about day-to-day life in his unit, and a (G-rated) online profile at a predominantly LGBT website.

Service members should be especially careful about what information they post on such sites as MySpace, Friendster and other online communities.

SLDN’s Sharra Greer, Director of Law and Policy has a list of precautions for military personnel to help them navigate the online world up at

BTW, is this kind of witch hunt the best use of the Pentagon’s resources when people are getting blown the F up over in Iraq and Afghanistan? Just asking.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding