An item of special concern is the placement of
photos of forward operating bases on personal Web sites. What
has officials worried is the possibility of adversaries collecting
those photos and using them to plan attacks against U.S. forces.
According to Lt. Col. Brieuc Bloxam, Air Force
operations security program manager, airmen have posted photos
on their Web sites of personal living areas, common-use areas
such as dining facilities and basketball courts, operations buildings,
perimeter fences and guard shacks.
"It makes people very nervous when they come
across those (on the Internet)," Bloxam said.
Maintaining operations security, Bloxam said,
is one of the keys to effective force protection.
"Ultimately what's important is that OPSEC
can and does save lives and increases our mission success rate,"
While there are no specific regulations or laws
that prevent someone from posting unclassified information on
a personal Web site, Bloxam said people should keep in mind the
"At present, there is nothing that says I
can't take personal photos with my personal camera and post them,"
Bloxam said. "But when you post something on the Web, you're
posting to the world, and you don't control who has access to
the information you're posting. You're open to threat, and you
may put others at risk in the same way."
In a recent case, Bloxam said, personal photos
taken by an airman and placed on a personal Web site were downloaded
and placed on an anti-American site. What began as "I was
here" photos for friends and family became propaganda material
used by an adversary.
Air Force legal officials say a commander's right
to protect his forces may supersede a person's right to post.
"I would be surprised if anybody would argue
that they'd have some sort of First Amendment right to publish
photos ... especially when we're in a heightened state of security,"
said Lt. Col. Timothy W. Murphy, chief of the command doctrine
and employee law branch in the office of the Air Force Judge Advocate
"National security and the security of personnel
are compelling reasons ... to prevent this type of speech,"
Murphy said if a commander determines there are
legitimate security concerns, he can prohibit personnel from posting
to the Internet from his location, even if that means curtailing
"morale call" types of e-mail access.
"When you put security concerns together
with the fact that you're using government Internet access time,
it's reasonable for the U.S. military to say 'No pictures,'"
While commanders may have the ultimate responsibility,
Bloxam said, maintaining operations security and force protection
is everyone's business.
"Security, ultimately, is everyone's responsibility,"
he said. "It's everyone's duty to protect themselves and
the U.S. armed forces, even if that means you don't send out a
photo over the Internet. That 'innocent' picture of you standing
outside your dorm may provide an adversary all kinds of information."