Irak — Top U.S. Commander in Iraq Raises Internet Concerns

WASHINGTON — Army Gen. Ray­mond T. Odier­no, reflect­ing on lessons learned and the way ahead as the out­go­ing top com­man­der in Iraq, voiced con­cerns today about how the ease of Inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions some­times under­mine mil­i­tary oper­a­tions.

“One of the things we have con­tin­ued to work hard at is the change in glob­al com­mu­ni­ca­tions and its impact on war­fare,” Odier­no said dur­ing a Pen­ta­gon press brief­ing. “It’s absolute­ly essen­tial that we take a hard look at how we’re going to address this issue.”

Odier­no, who com­mand­ed the Army’s 3rd Corps in Iraq from May 2006 until tak­ing over U.S. Forces Iraq in Sep­tem­ber 2008, is not the first mil­i­tary leader to voice con­cerns about how the unreg­u­lat­ed and ubiq­ui­tous nature of Inter­net com­mu­ni­ca­tions under­mine secu­ri­ty efforts. Army Gen. David H. Petraeus, com­man­der of Multi­na­tion­al Force Iraq before becom­ing com­man­der of U.S. Cen­tral Com­mand in Octo­ber 2008, voiced sim­i­lar con­cerns dur­ing bud­get hear­ings on Capi­tol Hill ear­li­er this year.

Odier­no and oth­ers have raised con­cerns about al-Qai­da and oth­er ter­ror­ist groups’ recruit­ing and pub­lic rela­tions efforts on the Inter­net. Even as mil­i­tary oper­a­tions chip away at the groups’ insur­gen­cies in Iraq and Afghanistan – killing or cap­tur­ing 34 of 42 al-Qai­da in Iraq lead­ers in the past three months – mil­i­tant web­sites don’t reflect that. “What they’re telling peo­ple on their web­site is com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent than what is hap­pen­ing on the ground,” the gen­er­al said.

Odier­no, whom Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma has nom­i­nat­ed to head the Nor­folk, Va.-based U.S. Joint Forces Com­mand after rotat­ing out of Iraq at the end of sum­mer, endorsed the Defense Department’s new Cyber Com­mand to work on such Inter­net issues.

The U.S. mil­i­tary has been the tar­get of numer­ous e-mail scams, Odier­no said, includ­ing the social net­work­ing site, Face­book. His own Face­book site has been used in schemes to extort mon­ey, he said.

“These are real chal­lenges to us that we real­ly have to get after,” he said.

Army Lt. Gen. Lloyd Austin has been cho­sen to replace Odier­no as com­man­der of U.S. Forces Iraq.

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)