Saturday, August 27, 2005

Okay, Stinson, just what's your deal with the Navy and their Chief of Information?

A valid question. As you likely know, I usually take it up a little closer to home. But, as you also likely know -- if you've read Musings at all -- that almost no cow is sacred. And the Chief of Information for the Navy is no sacred cow, that's for sure.

For those of you who haven't been following Musings this month, let me bring you up to speed.

About three weeks ago, the Virginian Pilot, our local daily newspaper here in southside Hampton Roads, published a story about Charlie Mitchell and the U.S. Armed Forces News Service website he runs. The gist of the story was pretty straightforward: here's a patriotic guy, a veteran, who posts online news releases from the U.S. Armed Forces. He posts good news, the stuff they send him. The story is that the Navy has cut him off, citing his website as a security risk.

I, of course, couldn't pass up the opportunity to blog about this. I'd also been talking in that post about military bloggers. I was a bit irreverant in the end, writing,
They fear good news might aid pranksters and terrorists. Lord knows, we don't want good news -- or unfettered truth from a war zone -- making its way into the public domain.
I thought that would be it, a one-time shot across the bow, as it were.

Nope. Wasn't meant to be. Mr. Mitchell found my blog and commented on it. So, of course, I responded in kind. And, thus, we were off and blogging. I posted that second blog by saying
Mr. Mitchell, I'm with you. Publish away. I'm a fan of transparency in government, and good news as produced by the hometown news program helps make the government a bit more transparent and not a bit less safe. Cheers to you for continuing to do what you do.
Well, then the news got weird. Mr. Mitchell told us that the Chief of Information had identified his website as a website they wanted to shut down. A source of his, who he called Deep Throat II (as ini Deep Throat Aye Aye) gave him the information. As Mr. Mitchell wrote, and I posted here,
One of the most disturbing things that D.T. II revealed is that within CHINFO's empire, there is a list of websites to be shut down. I find that thought very chilling, and it sounds a lot like McCarthyism. A "lot like" hell, it is McCarthyism.
I agreed that it looked like McCarthyism. It certainly didn't look like the government I want.

I have to say, however, that I'm not all that surprised. I work as a civil servant and as a reservist, and I've seen stuff similar. And, no, I'm not going to go into in this posting; I've covered most of it before.

So, what we have is an office within the Chief of Naval Operations -- the Chief of Information -- out to shut down civilian websites.

Sounds like censorship -- and a violation of rights -- if you ask me.

Then, Mr. Mitchell got quiet for a few days. I was almost wondering if some secret team of special forces-trained public affairs specialists had gotten to him and taken him out in a clandestine operations.

I mused about the purpose of the Chief of Information. I found a picture of the Chief of Information and posted a bit called Hey, Admiral, you've been blogged. I wasn't sure it was the right flag officer as the pic was about a year old, and flags rotate fairly frequently. Turns out it is.

Anyway, Mr. Mitchell started posting on his blog; he decided to share his story and use the blog as a vehicle. Free speech in action, you know.

His story is a tale of bureaucratic staffers and power hungry nincompoops. In his second posting, he tells how he'd been using the Navy seal and some staffer from the Chief of Information wrote and told him to cease and desist from using the seal. It is against the law, you know.

Sidebar: as a public service, I am showing you here to the right what the Navy seal looks like, You're not allowed to use it as it's against the law and against Navy policy. So, don't use this seal. You can use the emblem, as I did earlier. I'd like to thank the Chief of Information's news service for providing the link on the web, which I found by using Google. And, yes, I have to admit, I don't have permission to use this seal here; I didn't ask, but I'm using it under the fair use clause as a public service so that fellow bloggers will know what not to use on their non-Navy and non-DOD websites. Oh, and I haven't downloaded the file, merely linked to the Navy's site for it. If you want to use something, you have to use the emblem which looks like this second, larger one here to the left. And, if you see nothing here, it's likely as the Chief of Information's office moved the files and I'm linking to nothing but a dead URL. I suspect that means the crack public affairs team is on to me and my days are numbered. And, although it's damn obvious, I guess I'll follow at least one rule and post this:
Neither the Department of the Navy nor any other component of the Department of Defense has approved, endorsed, or authorized this blog.
Of course they haven't; I'm claiming they're out to kill off free speech.

I figure by now Rear Adm. T.M. McCreary and his staff have added Tidewater Musings to their blacklist. They've likely also contacted their counterparts at the Coast Guard and the cease-and-desist order is floating quickly down the chain-of-command. I see another ass chewing coming on.

So, stand by. Read Gunner's Blog and Musings for continued updates. I'm sure the two of us will piss a few folks off. And maybe we'll get the truth out there at the same time and promote a little transparency in government.

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