Pentagon Official Addresses WikiLeaks, Social Media

WASHINGTON, April 18, 2011 — The Wik­iLeaks episode under­scores the need for laws and poli­cies that address the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of “tech­nol­o­gy at the inter­sec­tion of nation­al secu­ri­ty,” the Pentagon’s lead com­mu­ni­ca­tor said yes­ter­day.
Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense for Pub­lic Affairs Dou­glas B. Wil­son told inter­view­er Vago Mura­di­an on “This Week in Defense News” he’s not sure how the Defense Depart­ment might have han­dled the Wik­iLeaks sit­u­a­tion dif­fer­ent­ly.

WikiLeaks.org group post­ed more than 90,000 doc­u­ments, many that detailed field reports from Afghanistan as well as Pakistan’s rela­tion­ships with the Tal­iban.

“I think the most sig­nif­i­cant les­son to come out of this is that tech­nol­o­gy — and par­tic­u­lar­ly tech­nol­o­gy at the inter­sec­tion of nation­al secu­ri­ty — has out­paced the pol­i­cy and the law nec­es­sary to address the unin­tend­ed con­se­quences,” Wil­son said.

Wil­son called Wik­iLeaks an exam­ple of how “arro­gance and naiveté have deter­mined and had neg­a­tive con­se­quences for nation­al secu­ri­ty.”

“Clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion is clas­si­fied infor­ma­tion, and releas­ing that infor­ma­tion is ille­gal,” he said. “But I think that we have a lot to do in gov­ern­ment to under­stand that we need to be focus­ing much more on pol­i­cy and much more on the laws that we need to think about to address what have been very unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of tech­no­log­i­cal advance.”

Even as social media rev­o­lu­tion­izes infor­ma­tion-shar­ing, the Defense Department’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions strat­e­gy boils down to the respon­si­bil­i­ty of being trans­par­ent and time­ly with­out jeop­ar­diz­ing the safe­ty and pri­va­cy of ser­vice mem­bers and their fam­i­lies, Wil­son said

“The issues that we face every day at the Pen­ta­gon involve two fac­tors,” he said. “One, how do you deal with the press and pub­lic open­ly, cred­i­bly, in a time­ly man­ner and hon­est­ly?

How do you pro­vide facts and the truth, by the same token under­stand­ing that we’re respon­si­ble for our men and women in uni­form who are in harm’s way in many places? How do you make sure that there is not unin­tend­ed con­se­quences of infor­ma­tion which can put them fur­ther in harm’s way and affect their safe­ty and the pri­va­cy of their fam­i­lies? “Those are the issues that frame every­thing that we do,” Wil­son said.

These endur­ing prin­ci­ples apply regard­less of the com­mu­ni­ca­tions for­mat, and whether it’s through tra­di­tion­al or evolv­ing media, he said.

Wil­son said he rec­og­nizes how the advent of social media rev­o­lu­tion­ized the way peo­ple around the world — includ­ing those in the Defense Depart­ment — com­mu­ni­cate.

Social media “pro­vides instan­ta­neous, real-time abil­i­ty to reach broad num­bers of peo­ple and to com­mu­ni­cate quick­ly and effec­tive­ly,” he said. “When every­body is equipped with the social media tools, it’s a very effec­tive means of com­mu­ni­ca­tion.”

Wil­son not­ed the use of social media as an orga­niz­ing and mes­sag­ing tool in the Mid­dle East in recent months.

“We’ve seen that in terms of sec­tors of soci­eties in the Arab world which had not had that kind of com­mu­ni­ca­tions across those sec­tors before being able to mobi­lize very quick­ly,” he said.

Unlike in that past, where a finite num­ber of elites around the world defined mes­sages, social media pro­vide a voice to any­one, regard­less of what they have to say and whether they are friend or foe.

“You can have reli­gious extrem­ists from Flori­da to Yemen say things and do things that are going to have inter­na­tion­al impact,” Wil­son said.

That makes it an imper­a­tive, he said, for com­mu­ni­ca­tors at the Defense Depart­ment — and across gov­ern­ment as a whole — to be able to explain poli­cies in ways that peo­ple find cred­i­ble.

Twit­ter, Face­book and oth­er social media, Wil­son said, are among the many com­mu­ni­ca­tion tools that DOD employs, includ­ing print and broad­cast media, the Inter­net and per­son­al com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

Social media “is not an end in itself. It is a tool of com­mu­ni­ca­tions,” Wil­son said. “It’s a way to com­mu­ni­cate, and you need to under­stand the strengths and weak­ness­es of each of the tools of com­mu­ni­ca­tions in order to be effec­tive … I don’t believe that there is any panacea in com­mu­ni­ca­tions.”

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

More news and arti­cles can be found on Face­book and Twit­ter.

Fol­low GlobalDefence.net on Face­book and/or on Twit­ter

Team GlobDef

Team GlobDef

Seit 2001 ist GlobalDefence.net im Internet unterwegs, um mit eigenen Analysen, interessanten Kooperationen und umfassenden Informationen für einen spannenden Überblick der Weltlage zu sorgen. GlobalDefenc.net war dabei die erste deutschsprachige Internetseite, die mit dem Schwerpunkt Sicherheitspolitik außerhalb von Hochschulen oder Instituten aufgetreten ist.

Alle Beiträge ansehen von Team GlobDef →