For quite a while, the debate over blogs in the Defense Department was over whether U.S. troops should be allowed to have them at all. On the one hand
April 1, 2008

For quite a while, the debate over blogs in the Defense Department was over whether U.S. troops should be allowed to have them at all. On the one hand, some officials were concerned about security breaches, with troops inadvertently sharing compromising information online. On the other, some saw blogs as a morale-boosting outlet for the troops.

But as Noah Shachtman explained in an interesting report, a study was written for U.S. Special Operations Command that took an entirely different approach to online communication, which included the suggestion of possibly “clandestinely recruiting or hiring prominent bloggers.”

“Hiring a block of bloggers to verbally attack a specific person or promote a specific message may be worth considering,” write the report’s co-authors, James Kinniburgh and Dororthy Denning.... Denning, a professor at Naval Postgraduate School, adds in an e-mail, “I got some positive feedback from people who read the article, but I don’t know if it led to anything.”

The report introduces the military audience to the “blogging phenomenon,” and lays out a number of ways in which the armed forces — specifically, the military’s public affairs, information operations, and psychological operations units — might use the sites to their advantage.

The Kinniburgh/Denning report was quite provocative, suggesting paying prominent bloggers to address “entrenched inequalities,” presumably in the media. The study did, however, note the downsides of such a plan: “People do not like to be deceived, and the price of being exposed is lost credibility and trust.” You don't say.

Now, it’s worth emphasizing that there’s no apparent evidence that the Pentagon actually put any prominent bloggers on the payroll. A spokesperson for U.S. Special Operations Command told Shachtman that the Kinniburgh/Denning report was merely an academic exercise: “The comments are not ‘actionable’, merely thought provoking.”

As far as I know, prominent bloggers who toe the administration’s line on Iraq policy are doing so for misguided ideological reasons, not unethical financial ones.

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