Bassel Khartabil, Syrian prisoner who lives and risks dying for a free Internet

 Article by Stéphanie Vidal under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license
Please attribute author Stéphanie Vidal and first publication in Slate.France with a link to
Translation into English by Philippe Aigrain, Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Jean-Christophe Peyssard
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Known worldwide as a free Internet defender and an Open Source culture promoter, he has been detained for three years and a half by the Bashar al-Assad regime and has been transferred from Adra prison to an unknown place on 3 October 2015. On October 10th, his wife has been informed that his name has been deleted from the prison register, without further information on where he could be. None of the parties involved recognizes they have him or not (
Bassel Khartabil, 34, fervent defender of a free Internet and promoter of open source culture, has been held prisoner since 15 March 2012 in the jails of the Syrian regime of Bashar al-Assad. According to the opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention ( during its 72nd session, held in Geneva in April 2015, he had been arbitrarily detained for “peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression” and having “advocated a non-restricted use of the Internet.” He was transferred on 3 October 2015 from the Adra prison, located in the north-eastern outskirts of Damascus, where he was imprisoned since December 2012, he was taken to an unknown location, possibly for trial. Accused without evidence having ever been presented against him, he is more than ever in danger.
A developer recognized worldwide for his contributions to open source projects such as Mozilla Firefox, Wikipedia and Creative Commons, Bassel Khartabil was also involved in local action, based in Damascus at Aiki Lab, a place dedicated to digital art practices and teaching of collaborative technologies. For all of his work, he was awarded by the Foreign Policy website the 19th position on its prestigious Global Thinkers ranking of 2012 ( and in 2013 won the Digital Freedom Award from the Index on Censorship (, an international organization that promotes and defends freedom of expression since 1972.
His imprisonment and his recent transfer deeply affect and concern the Open Source community and activists for human rights and the fundamental freedom of free communication of thoughts and opinions. At the announcement of the news, Jillian C. York, director of the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), an organization defending civil liberties in the digital world, posted on her Twitter account the following message:
In less than 140 characters, Jillian C. York managed to raise two realities: the frightening silence of the Syrian government in response to the actions taken for the release of Bassel Khartabil and the protection power that lies in the watchfulness of the Internet users for political prisoners fate. On the first point, Ines Osman, Coordinator of the Legal Service of the Alkarama Foundation NGO, linking the victims of violations of human rights in the Arab world and UN mechanisms, confirms the impassivity of the Syrian authorities:


“We have taken action at the UN twice, in 2012 and 2014, and the Syrian authorities have never responded to UN requests. This past April, the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called for the release of Bassel, and this appeal once again remained ignored. It is essential that the international community is calling for the implementation of these decisions, which clearly state that his most basic rights were not respected: he was arrested, held incommunicado, tortured, and brought before a military judge with false accusations.
On Saturday morning, we were informed that Bassel had been transferred from the Adra jail towards an unknown destination. Nobody knows his present whereabouts. We immediately informed the Working Group on Enforced Disappearances. We hope that this time, the Syrian authorities will answer.”

When there is no longer respect for human rights, public calls can only state what one hopes for. This brings us to the second point: the more the affirmation of our hope is shared and present on the Web and social media, the more it may turn to a reality. Bassel’s engagement in favor of a free Internet may have brought him to jail, but the attention that we, citizens on the Internet, give to this case may, to some degree, help bring him out of the darkness. To demonstrate interest for his life is one of the ways by which people can become aware that in Syria, one can die because one uses a smartphone and understands how the Internet works.

 Survival in Adra, even under the bombings

 To tell Bassel’s story over these last five years, is also to try to portray implicitly a devastated Syria, from the beginning of the Syrian revolution 15-18 March, 2011 (first calls to uprising, further to the Egyptian revolution; first “Friday demonstrations” and their brutal repression) to the slow transformation of this revolution into an inextricable armed conflict where 240,000 people have died and millions displaced.

4670781482_d072301ef0_mBassel Khartabil, who was forced by restraint to remain in Syria, is yet another of these prisoners whose number is hard to establish: one speaks of 8,000 prisoners, of which 600 women, only in Adra prison, three times its nominal capacity. Prisoners have been jailed in Adra for a wide variety of motives such as drug dealing or use, murder or robbery, but it also detains prisoners whose name is known abroad for the engagement in favour of freedom of expression. Mazen Darwish, for instance, is one of them. He is the President of the Syrian Center for Media and Freedom of Expression, arrested in February 2012, almost a month to the day before Bassel Khartabil. He was freed temporarily on 10 August 2015 (,48211.html) before being found not guilty of the charges of “publishing information on terrorist acts” on the 31st of the same month.

Detained under other charges, Bassel Khartabil was accused in front of military courts, and thus excluded from the general political amnesty of June 2014, which, though opaque, cleared many peaceful activists from the charges brought against them. He was thus still in Adra when the jail was stormed by the armed rebel group Jaysh al-Islam, who took control of two of its buildings on last September 12th, a date that may be symbolic as it is the day after Bashar al-Assad’s fiftieth birthday. The prisoners found themselves caught between bombings by the regular army and fire by the rebels trying to free the jail. Bassel Khartabil survived to this deluge of fire, but it seems that around twenty other prisoners were killed and several dozens, possible a hundred, were injured (

Again, when it comes to Syria, information sources are difficult to obtain. Numbers are approximate, speech is choked in fear, and communication is slowed because of regime surveillance. As stressed by the lawyer Benoît Huet in an op-ed published in the French newspaper Libération, the war in Syria has also become, in a connected world, an information war, raising the question of its dissemination and manipulation. Internationally, this information war prevents us from clearly seeing the facts in a media-pervasive but terribly distant conflict because of its extreme complexity. This should not make us overlook the other information war, which raged this time at local level: in the heart of Syria, personal information and content posted on social networks are used as weapons.

Syrian smartphones, fear in the pocket

Internet, and particularly social media such as Facebook, have been privileged communication means used by Syrian population to testify of the revolution of 2011 and the regime‘s bloody repression. The documentary Syria: Inside the Secret Revolution (, initially broadcasted by the BBC on 26 September 2011 (, gathers some of these videos which, after their publication online, allowed the international community to realize the revolt on Syrian streets.

Bassel Safadi @basselsafadi  31 Jan 2012                                      
the people who are in real danger never leave their countries. they are in danger for a reason and for that they don’t leave #Syria
Bassel Khartabil, 31 January 2012, two weeks before his arrest
It should nevertheless not be forgotten that Internet has not always been authorized in Syria, nor Facebook accessible to its population. As he took office after the death of his father Hafez in June 2000, Bashar al-Assad appeared like a reformer demonstrating opening spirit in several economic and political domains. He even made access to Internet possible but, understanding the power of the network, took care to have most social networks censored in 2007, followed by Wikipedia in Arabic in 2008 (
From the start, the network was monitored: those who would go to cybercafés had to show proof of identification and their web history was kept, as explains Wahid Saqr, former officer of security of the Syrian government, to Mishal Husain in the second episode of How Facebook Changed the World: The Arab Spring (, another documentary broadcasted by the BBC on 15 September 2011 (
It was only in February 2011 that Bashar al-Assad made possible connections to Facebook, YouTube and Twitter. The gesture, intended to be magnanimous, was quickly interpreted as threatening, social networks appearing as a useful tool for the govenrment to surveil its population and gather information on those who could, through words and images, be opponents. Employed as digital surveillance weapons, they have been used to track those whose voice could rise, virtually or for real, against the Damascus regime, but also all those who had computer means or competences.
Dana Trometer, researcher and producer of the documentaries quoted above, could feel this dreadful reality:
“People who I met for all movies on which I worked on the Arab world, and especially of Syria, have very often been forced to escape or have unfortunately disappeared shortly after our interviews”.
Even today, on the road of exile, refugees explain that it is particularly dangerous to carry a mobile phone ( This simple possession can lead to arrest – or much worse – by Syrian government representatives or ISIS members who ask them, at their respective checkpoints, to give their Facebook username and password to determine their political allegiance.
Bassel Khartabil was saying that in Syria, holding a mobile phone was much more dangerous than walking around with a nuclear bomb. Because of his job as a developer and his commitments to the promotion of a free Internet, it was impossible for him to get rid of his computers and connected mobile phones, nor to have his Information Technologies competences forgotten. On 31 January 2012, two weeks before being arrested, he posted the following tweet: “the people who are in real danger never leave their countries. they are in danger for a reason and for that they don’t leave #Syria” (

Wanting to build: the AikiLab and Palmyra Project

His role of Creative Commons lead in Syria and his participation, at the international level, in the free culture movement, led him to frequent travels abroad, but he would always go back home. It was in Poland, at the September 2011 Creative Commons Summit, that his friend Jon Phillips, who became since them the leader of the #FreeBassel campaign, saw him for the last time:
“I begged him to not go back, that he would be killed or made prisoner. He tried to reassure me by telling that maybe he would not be risking that, and that anyway, his friend, his family, his love was there, that he could not stay. We cried and it was really ugly, then we spent the rest of the night laughing and designing a new world. When the sun rose, he took his cab, waved a last time through the open window, and I remember thinking that it was the last time I would see him; that he would be arrested as soon as out of the plane.”
It didn’t exactly happen like that: Bassel Khartabil got a few more months of respite, during which he continued his local engagement. Syria being under embargo, only certain proprietary software had received the authorization to be taught in universities. Bassel Khartabil had thus founded in 2010 the AikiLab (, described, depending on the person, as a hackerspace or a cultural center, in order to allow education in social media and open source technologies.
Developers, artists, professors, journalists and local entrepreneurs would frequently visit: the AikiLab, as described by artist Dino Ahmad Ali, was a large apartment with two rooms where anyone could come work and even sleep if the task was long, and take a coffee or a beer in the kitchen to give oneself courage or relax. The large living room was fit for conferences, and Internet celebrities visited to share their knowledge, such as Mozilla founder Mitchell Baker MIT Media Lab director Joi Ito.
Dino Ahmad Ali and Bassel Khartabil were also colleagues. They were both working for a publishing house called Al-Aous (, on, a website providing cultural information on Syria – Dino as artistic director and Bassel as technical director. Always for the same company, Bassel Khartabil dedicated himself for years to a project which was particularly close to his heart, the Palmyra Project ( On CD-Rom, this project was an ambitious virtual tour of the antique city, fully reconstructed in 3D images from documents of scientific and archaeological research. “Initially, Bassel was only dealing with programming, but as a person with multiple talents, he learned to use the Maya software and realized 3D models, remembers Georges Dahdouh, who joined the team several months as head of 3D modeling. He also learned the functioning of a game engine to conceive the path of the virtual tour in 3D and at the end, together with other team members, he would work on every other aspect, except copyright and research, for which a team was dedicated to the study of historical sources and interviews with archeologists.”
View of Palmyra reconstituted by Project Palmyra:
Oriented for a general audience, Project Palmyra was expected to constitute a sort of digital encyclopedia on this city also called Tadmor, bringing its return through gathering images and texts and realization of new technologies involving specialists and archaeologists. Khaled Al-Assad, director of antiques of Palmyra between 1963 and 2003 and friend of Bassel Khartabil, was one of those. This scholar was beheaded on 18 August 2015 by ISIS, before his body was exposed on the streets by his executioners and photos broadcasted on social media.
If the CD-ROM has not been published to date, the members of the #FreeBassel campaign decided to revive Palmyra Project by launching on 15 October 2015 #NewPalmyra, an online community and a platform of data storage, in order to honor the work of Bassel. A project is directed by Barry Threw, digital artist and director of software for Obscura, who also contributed to allow technically #racingextinction, a video projection on the Empire State Building. Behind both hashtags is a similar desire to use architecture to raise public awareness, by displaying endangered species on one of the most famous skyscrapers in NYC, raising awareness on climate change, or by putting digital technology at the service of a threatened Syria:
The Ancient City of Palmyra was a vital gateway for commerce and cultures. With #NewPalmyra, we oppose the foolish destruction of archaeological treasures led by ISIS by the will of construction of a man like Bassel Khartabil. We hope this project will raise awareness on his work and contribute to his liberation.”

A civilian pursued by a military tribunal

It was at the exit of his job, located in the district of al-Mazzeh in Damascus, that Bassel Khartabil was arrested on 15 March 2012 by the men of Branch 215 (, one of the military intelligence services in Damascus. After having been interrogated and tortured for five days, he was accompanied to his house so that his computers and documents could be seized. He was then detained in secret for nine months. We know since then that he was first taken to the Branch 248 of military intelligence and that he spent eight months in solitary confinement in the Adra prison. He was there presented to a military count on 9 December 2012.
“The military court, specialised in trials of military criminals in times of war, obeys to the Defense minister and not to the Justice minister. It is composed of three soldiers, including one president. Its procedures are kept secret, and accused do not have the right to a lawyer’s assistance, explains Noura Ghazi, attorney and human rights activist, who had gotten engaged to Bassel Khartabil a short time before he got arrested. Sentences are particularly severe and can go to death. Penalties are executed immediately, preventing any re-examination of the sentences. Since 2011 events, the military counrt was activated to persecute peaceful activists such as Bassel, Anas and Salah Shughri and many others ( This is a clear violation of the law, the Constitution and even the founding decree  of this court.”
A civilian without a lawyer trialed by a military court, Bassel Khartabil saw his trial last no more than a few minutes, without any evidence advanced against him, as underlined the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention. After this expedited and unfair trial, he was immediately transferred to the prison of Sidnaya, known to be one of the most infamous of the regime. (
Then sent again to the prison of Adra, he could receive a visit of his family on 26 December 2012. They found him in an alarming physical and psychological state. He obtained the right to marry Noura Ghazi in the prison on 7 January 2013. He has been detained in Adra until 3 October 2015. According to a message posted on that day on the Facebook page of the #FreeBassel campaign (, he was “transferred from the Adra prison to an unknown location after a patrol, which origin is unknown, came to ask him to arrange his affairs. It is assumed that he has been transferred to the headquarters of the military police civil tribunal in the district of al-Qaboun. Once more, we do not know where Bassel is, and are very worried.”
Bassel Khartabil, developer, teacher and pacifist, who survived torture, solitary confinement, hunger and bombing, certainly lives under the knife of a terrible sentence. Do not forget, you certainly have a mobile phone in your pocket.
Article by Stéphanie Vidal   
First publication in French on 9 October 2015 in Slate.FR at
Translation into English by Philippe Aigrain, Mélanie Dulong de Rosnay, Jean-Christophe Peyssard
Due to international emotion ( raised by the fate of Bassel Khartabil, Slate decided to share this article under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. Republication is free, please mention the author Stéphanie Vidal and the media of first publication

Weapons of War don’t Protect & Serve

The police exist to ensure that society works – anyone who has been subjected to American films and television is aware that their motto is “to protect and serve”. In order to protect and serve in all kinds of situations the police require a great deal of equipment. Most of this equipment is, as you would expect, uniforms, cars, communications etc. But recently in the US some of this equipment has been growing increasingly militarized.

As American armies go to war they need to be supplied with equipment to meet their needs. This is the need of combat soldiers fighting an enemy in a hostile environment. This is really a no-brainer and should be easy to understand whether the wars are supported or not.

In order to supply the army their is an increase in weapons production and purchasing. The problems begin when the army has a surplus of equipment it needs to dispose of. In the US, one method of disposal seems to be supplying the police with this surplus or excess material. On paper this may seem like a good idea. However, there is a problem. The equipment is not designed for those who “protect and serve” and therefore there is a challenge when the technology of violence is brought home and supplied to those who protect and serve.

The ACLU published “War Comes Home: The Excessive Militarization of American Policing.” in June.  Its central point: “the United States today has become excessively militarized, mainly through federal programs that create incentives for state and local police to use unnecessarily aggressive weapons and tactics designed for the battlefield.”

This technology, and the training it requires, goes against the goal to protect and serve the public and is replaced by an ethos of aggressiveness. The report states:

Our analysis shows that the militarization of American policing is evident in the training that police officers receive, which encourages them to adopt a “warrior” mentality and think of the people they are supposed to serve as enemies…

Once the police forces have invested in the equipment and the training it is almost inevitable that these will deployed. Even in situations where it is not merited. This is not a case of the police being violent individuals but rather the case of them being drilled in the use of the wrong technology. They have been focused on the use of technologies of violence and death and any attempt to curb civil unrest with these mechanisms is naturally seen as repression.

When dealing with football (soccer) hooligans the European police have learned through experience that excessive shows of militarized police treating the fans as thugs would have the inevitable effect of turning the crowd towards aggressive reactions. What the police have learned is to talk to the crowd (not at the crowd), to build up links and liaison, to break down the us/them barriers. This has drastically reduced the level of violence.

By showing up in military gear the police are inherently threatening. They are treating citizens as enemies and pointing weapons of war at them. This does not calm the crowd. In the best case scenario this will repress the crowd, but it will not reflect the way in which a democratic discourse should occur and it will also brand the police as symbol of violent repression.


Bradley Manning's letter to the President

The decisions that I made in 2010 were made out of a concern for my country and the world that we live in. Since the tragic events of 9/11, our country has been at war. We’ve been at war with an enemy that chooses not to meet us on any traditional battlefield, and due to this fact we’ve had to alter our methods of combating the risks posed to us and our way of life.


I initially agreed with these methods and chose to volunteer to help defend my country. It was not until I was in Iraq and reading secret military reports on a daily basis that I started to question the morality of what we were doing. It was at this time I realized that (in) our efforts to meet the risk posed to us by the enemy, we have forgotten our humanity. We consciously elected to devalue human life both in Iraq and Afghanistan. When we engaged those that we perceived were the enemy, we sometimes killed innocent civilians. Whenever we killed innocent civilians, instead of accepting responsibility for our conduct, we elected to hide behind the veil of national security and classified information in order to avoid any public accountability.


In our zeal to kill the enemy, we internally debated the definition of torture. We held individuals at Guantanamo for years without due process. We inexplicably turned a blind eye to torture and executions by the Iraqi government. And we stomached countless other acts in the name of our war on terror.


Patriotism is often the cry extolled when morally questionable acts are advocated by those in power. When these cries of patriotism drown out any logically based dissension, it is usually the American soldier that is given the order to carry out some ill-conceived mission.


Our nation has had similar dark moments for the virtues of democracy – the Trail of Tears, the Dred Scott decision, McCarthyism, and the Japanese-American internment camps – to mention a few. I am confident that many of the actions since 9/11 will one day be viewed in a similar light.


As the late Howard Zinn once said, “There is not a flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.”


I understand that my actions violated the law; I regret if my actions hurt anyone or harmed the United States. It was never my intent to hurt anyone. I only wanted to help people. When I chose to disclose classified information, I did so out of a love for my country and a sense of duty to others.


If you deny my request for a pardon, I will serve my time knowing that sometimes you have to pay a heavy price to live in a free society. I will gladly pay that price if it means we could have a country that is truly conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all women and men are created equal.

Via Gizmondo

Release Bassel Khartabil

The post is copied in its entirety from the Creative Commons weblog

What open means to you
Bassel / joi / CC BY

Earlier this year, Creative Commons issued a statement in support of Bassel Khartabil, a longtime CC volunteer who has been detained by Syrian authorities since March 15. Amnesty International recently released a document with information suggesting that Bassel has been ill-treated and even tortured. This morning, we sent a letter to President Bashar al-Assad, Minister of Foreign Affairs Walid al-Mu’allim, and Minister of Defense ‘Imad al-Fraij; urging that Bassel be released unless he is promptly charged with an internationally recognized criminal offense. We urge Syrian authorities to grant Bassel immediate access to his family, a lawyer of his choice, and all necessary medical treatment.

Bassel has played a crucial role in the open technology and culture communities, both in Syria and around the world. Through his service as Creative Commons’ project lead in Syria and his numerous contributions to the advancement of open source and related technologies, Bassel has spent his career working toward a more free Internet. Many of us at Creative Commons have become friends of Bassel’s over the years. All of us have benefited from his leadership and expertise.

Please stand with us in support of Bassel. Amnesty International has provided instructions for contacting Syrian authorities. For more information, visit

Read Creative Commons’ call for the release of Bassel Khartabil (PDF).

Eight years have passed

For eight years the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak has been detained without a trial in a prison in Eritrea. It is difficult to imagine what that must be like. He was imprisoned on the 23 September 2001.

Here is an excercise in perspective:

One month after his imprisonment the first iPod was launched (23 October 2001) and Microsoft released Windows XP (25 October 2001). Facebook was launched in 2004 and so was the first version of the Ubuntu operating system.

For more information FreeDawit.

Shooting Back

Providing cameras and video cameras to different groups is not an uncommon method which allows the subjects to bring their own lives into focus without the direct mediation of the “outsider” camera/filmmaker. Naturally all uses of technology contain risks of bias and slanted views – nobody still believes that the camera never lies? Even if many still believe that fashion images are “real”.

In January 2007, B’Tselem launched Shooting Back, a video advocacy project focusing on the Occupied Territories. We provide Palestinians living in high-conflict areas with video cameras, with the goal of bringing the reality of their lives under occupation to the attention of the Israeli and international public, exposing and seeking redress for violations of human rights.

In projects such as these technology in the form of the cameras and Internet as a distribution medium can be used to empower those involved in a conflict while still providing a preaceful alternative way of coping with everyday violence.

Utility of Force

The University of Bath has a podcast with General Sir Rupert Smith. Sir Rupert is the author of the insightful book The Utility of Force: The art of war in the modern world (amazon). His main thesis is that war is changing from the tradition industrial war into a war amongst the people.

The essential difference is that the use of force is no longer used to win a battle but to create a condition  in which the strategic result is achieved in other means. The strategic object is to alter the opponents intentions as opposed to win over him or to remove him.

Don't believe in (cyber) war

Once again one of Sweden’s largest daily papers refers to a report about the state of Swedish national IT security. Apparently we are totally unprepared and vulnerable to everything that’s out there. Two things really annoy me about reports like this:

Firstly, very few people seem to question the motives of these “expert” reports. Most of them are written either by companies attempting to provide systems intended to solve the problems they discover, or (as this latest report) is provided by organizations (often governmental bodies) that need to show that there is work to be done. The implication is that the organization should be funded to carry out the work.

Secondly, if the world was so unprotected and vulnerable to cyberwar and cyberterrorism then why is it that most of our technology related collapses, disasters and problems do not originate from bad people, purposely intending to do us harm but rather by faulty systems, incompetent staff, greedy management and pure incompetence. Just look at technology related disasters such as Five Mile Island, Chernobyl, Bhopal and Exxon Valdez.

Terrorism and war remain on the primitive level of bombs and rockets – incompetence and greed accompany high level technical systems.

On Sleeping Bears

Getting older is a strange thing. I don’t feel older – in fact I feel younger today than I have been for many years. But I am older and the best way of measuring age is not the way in which you feel but rather in the way you relate to older and younger people.

I am not old and yet I have a school tie in my closet that is older than many of my students, I am not old but I am trying to lecture to a room full of people who were born when I was attempting to disco.

The difficult thing about getting old is attempting to talk across the barriers of age. My students perceive me as older and I perceive them as younger. The difference, in a teaching scenario, is the problem of giving examples. It is hard to convey the importance and turmoil of 1989. This was the year that saw both the Tiananmen Square student massacre and the fall of the Berlin wall.

While growing up the concept of the cold war seemed outdated. East-West relations had been frosty for my entire life and we had always lived under the threat of nuclear war. My generation was bored with the fear of nuclear war and were more concerned with the social economic changes brought about by Reagan and Thatcher.  We were tired and blasé, we did not really expect change. We knew that teenagers everywhere where in reality the same but politics was (and is) the game of old men.

So it’s understandable for my generation to see 1989 as a proof of the correctness of optimism and it is equally understandable for my students not to understand why I make a big deal of it all.

The question is what shall we all make of Putin’s decision to re-activate strategic flights by nuclear bombers:

Russia has resumed regular “strategic flights” of nuclear bombers. (They may or may not be carrying nuclear bombs, but you can practically hear Putin’s smirking tone as he says, “Our [nuclear bomber] pilots have been grounded for too long. They are happy to start a new life.”) (via Question Technology)

Are the cold war generation just nodding their heads in the understanding that the last 2o years has been an exception to the status quo. Do the post 1989 generation even think about the possible implications of this or have they lived in a post cold war era for too long to be able to imagine the alternatives.

And what on earth does my generation think about it all…

War blogs silenced

Wired News reports that In a directive (dated 19th April) US troops have been ordered not to blog without first clearing each post with a superior officer. There is also a discussion going on at the Wired Blog Danger Room.

Military officials have been wrestling for years with how to handle troops who publish blogs. Officers have weighed the need for wartime discretion against the opportunities for the public to personally connect with some of the most effective advocates for the operations in Afghanistan and Iraq — the troops themselves. The secret-keepers have generally won the argument, and the once-permissive atmosphere has slowly grown more tightly regulated. Soldier-bloggers have dropped offline as a result.

The new rules (.pdf) obtained by Wired News require a commander be consulted before every blog update.

It’s hardly a surprising move. It’s doubtful whether blogs were revealing security information (US troops should be better trained in this case) but on several occasions information on blogs and films of YouTube (for example Iraqi kids run for water) have caused embarrassing situations which hardly have improved anyone’s opinions of the war.