More military digital shenanigans

Douglas Hanson
One of the key factors that enabled Scott Beauchamp to spread his lies beyond the confines of his unit's area of operations is our service members' near-universal access to computers and cell phones in the theater of operations.  Restrictions on what subjects may be discussed in Soldier emails and blogs, or security screening of digitized photos are an unrealistic approach to curbing unwanted info moving through the ether.

However, the military command seems singularly disinterested in going to the heart of the operational security problem by prohibiting laptops, cell phones and other devices outside of valid military necessity.

Now we learn from the San Diego Union-Tribune that a YouTube video shot aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan shows female sailors not only "inappropriately using safety equipment," but also,
...included fleeting shots of the door to the ship's nuclear power plant and of a sailor dancing while wearing a full-body radiation suit - items that might alarm the Navy's nuclear-propulsion officials, who are hypersensitive about the security.  Under Pentagon rules, images of any part of a ship's nuclear plant cannot be shown to foreign nationals.
But then there is this amazing assertion:
The incident illustrates the challenges that the military faces in an age of digital cameras and online video-sharing. The Pentagon frequently has found itself on the defensive - for security or other reasons - on issues involving the Internet and technology.
This begs the question, why would the Pentagon or operational commanders be on the defensive for limiting transmittal of potentially compromising information on the internet?  Exactly who is in charge here?  The commanders, or the young Soldiers and Sailors who just can't seem to resist the urge to photograph anything and everything and then share it with the rest of the world?

The video was posted on May 23rd, but was not taken down until last week, and the Navy's response has been anything but encouraging, calling the video "light-hearted" and a "positive depiction of the service of women officers and sailors" aboard ships and in naval aviation squadrons.  Even the Reagan's skipper, Capt. Terry Kraft, made a cameo appearance.

If the Navy's response was lame, the naval experts and security consultants' views were equally flippant; including brushing off Pentagon concerns about the amount of bandwidth used to access the website while charging that the Navy is conducting a censorship campaign.  I've got news for these experts; bandwidth is a critical operational concern.  Just ask anyone trying to digitally request re-supply over hundreds of miles of desert in an immature theater.

Of course, all of this is frustrating to those who in the past would not compromise nuclear propulsion security.  Apparently, these experts who rationalize this bad behavior have never heard of the need to know, or that potential adversaries gather disparate bits of information and patiently put all the pieces together to get a reasonably accurate picture of our capabilities.

But the Navy incident, with the apparent support of the skipper, and Beauchamp's phony story, which of course is arguably a far more serious offense given its current propaganda value, prompts some very basic questions on military leadership and discipline.  Sailors afloat who produce and post a silly video, and Soldiers in a war zone who publish phony war crime stories all seem to have too much time on their hands and are easily distracted by their high-tech toys.  Perhaps they all need more battle drill and extra training and less time playing with their gadgets on the taxpayer's dime.

Douglas Hanson is the national security correspondent of American Thinker
One of the key factors that enabled Scott Beauchamp to spread his lies beyond the confines of his unit's area of operations is our service members' near-universal access to computers and cell phones in the theater of operations.  Restrictions on what subjects may be discussed in Soldier emails and blogs, or security screening of digitized photos are an unrealistic approach to curbing unwanted info moving through the ether.

However, the military command seems singularly disinterested in going to the heart of the operational security problem by prohibiting laptops, cell phones and other devices outside of valid military necessity.

Now we learn from the San Diego Union-Tribune that a YouTube video shot aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier Ronald Reagan shows female sailors not only "inappropriately using safety equipment," but also,
...included fleeting shots of the door to the ship's nuclear power plant and of a sailor dancing while wearing a full-body radiation suit - items that might alarm the Navy's nuclear-propulsion officials, who are hypersensitive about the security.  Under Pentagon rules, images of any part of a ship's nuclear plant cannot be shown to foreign nationals.
But then there is this amazing assertion:
The incident illustrates the challenges that the military faces in an age of digital cameras and online video-sharing. The Pentagon frequently has found itself on the defensive - for security or other reasons - on issues involving the Internet and technology.
This begs the question, why would the Pentagon or operational commanders be on the defensive for limiting transmittal of potentially compromising information on the internet?  Exactly who is in charge here?  The commanders, or the young Soldiers and Sailors who just can't seem to resist the urge to photograph anything and everything and then share it with the rest of the world?

The video was posted on May 23rd, but was not taken down until last week, and the Navy's response has been anything but encouraging, calling the video "light-hearted" and a "positive depiction of the service of women officers and sailors" aboard ships and in naval aviation squadrons.  Even the Reagan's skipper, Capt. Terry Kraft, made a cameo appearance.

If the Navy's response was lame, the naval experts and security consultants' views were equally flippant; including brushing off Pentagon concerns about the amount of bandwidth used to access the website while charging that the Navy is conducting a censorship campaign.  I've got news for these experts; bandwidth is a critical operational concern.  Just ask anyone trying to digitally request re-supply over hundreds of miles of desert in an immature theater.

Of course, all of this is frustrating to those who in the past would not compromise nuclear propulsion security.  Apparently, these experts who rationalize this bad behavior have never heard of the need to know, or that potential adversaries gather disparate bits of information and patiently put all the pieces together to get a reasonably accurate picture of our capabilities.

But the Navy incident, with the apparent support of the skipper, and Beauchamp's phony story, which of course is arguably a far more serious offense given its current propaganda value, prompts some very basic questions on military leadership and discipline.  Sailors afloat who produce and post a silly video, and Soldiers in a war zone who publish phony war crime stories all seem to have too much time on their hands and are easily distracted by their high-tech toys.  Perhaps they all need more battle drill and extra training and less time playing with their gadgets on the taxpayer's dime.

Douglas Hanson is the national security correspondent of American Thinker