One of my side jobs is helping nearby Navy commands understand Operational Security (OPSEC), a term used to describe protecting unclassified information from the enemy, which they might use to get some sort of military advantage. Given the speed and connected nature of today’s world, it is significantly harder for the military, and especially military spouses, to keep information protected.
A few nights ago, I was asked to talk to a command’s family readiness group. This command’s schedule had been leaked from at least a few spouses and Sailors, and the captain was having a tough time getting people to understand the seriousness of these leaks. So I gave my normal presentation, walking through how OPSEC issues had killed ISIS members, destroyed Army helicopters, and are increasingly used to target service members. It gets a bit scary, because it’s not hard to show how Facebook, Twitter and other apps sell data to anyone, making it increasingly hard to argue that they aren’t evil in some way.
Even Hakim agrees with me…
I took questions at the end, and for once, I was surprised.
One young lady asked me “So why is it we get in trouble for sharing stories about our command, but CNN can blab all day long about it? Why don’t they get in trouble?”
I’d never been asked that before. My reply was quick, without any forethought:
“CNN is a company that makes money selling news. They would gladly sell stories about your Sailor even if it’s a risk to mission. Heck, if it gets your husband killed, they’d sell even more and not care one bit.”
The room got deathly silent, despite the presence of babies and small children. The young lady nodded her head.
And sadly…I think it’s true. Anymore I don’t trust the media at all to care about our country, military, way of life…none of it. They’ll gladly put people at great risk to get a story. They’ll destroy people’s lives just to get more clicks on a website. I used to think people cared about the truth, representing both sides and giving a fair shake, but I don’t see it often anymore. If something like the vital repairs made to USS YORKTOWN needed to be covered up to help our country, I don’t we could do it.
Even if you aren’t in the military, you should be thinking through OPSEC when you interact with the media, including on social media. Your information is worth a story and some clicks, and nothing more.
If you’re interested in learning more about OPSEC or social media safety, please check out the Navy’s OPSEC program here.