Wednesday, February 2, 2011

OPSEC: Learn it, Live it, Love it!


Since the Hubs left, there is one acronym that keeps popping up all over facebook: OPSEC. When my husband was in school, I heard nothing of this. It was not until after we moved to VA that I heard of OPSEC. Of course it made total sense to me, but I have noticed lots of other people don't understand what it is and what is/isn't an OPSEC violation. This post is going to be about what I know and what I've found on the internet about OPSEC. I will be the first to admit I do not know everything on this subject. So only constructive criticism please :)

What is OPSEC?
Operations Security, or OPSEC, is keeping potential adversaries from discovering our critical information. As the name suggests, it protects our operations planned, in progress, and those completed. Success depends on secrecy and surprise, so the military can accomplish the mission faster and with less risk. Our adversaries want our information, and they don't concentrate on only Military Members to get it. They want you, the family member.

Protecting Critical Information
Even though information may not be secret, it can be what we call "critical information". Critical information deals with specific facts about military intentions, capabilities, operations or activities. If an adversary knew this detailed information, our mission accomplishment and personnel safety could be jeopardized. It must be protected to ensure an adversary doesn't gain a significant advantage. By being a member of the military family, you will often know some bits of critical information. Do not discuss them outside of your immediate family, over the telephone, and especially not on the internet!

Examples Of Critical Information
  • Detailed information about the mission of assigned units.
  • Details on locations and times of unit deployments.
  • Personnel transactions that occur in large numbers (Example: powers of attorney, wills, deployment information).
  • References to trends in unit morale or personnel problems.
  • Details concerning security procedures.
Puzzle Pieces
These bits of information may seem insignificant. However, to a trained adversary, they are small pieces of a puzzle that highlight what were doing and planning. Remember, the elements of security and surprise are vital to the accomplishment of our goals and our collective personnel protection.

Where and how you discuss this information is just as important as with whom you discuss it. Adverse agents tasked with collecting information frequently visit some of the same stores, clubs, recreational areas, or places of worship as you do. You know when you chat with your hairdresser or the person giving you a manicure? To you it may seem like mindless chatter but think about who all can hear your conversation.

If anyone, especially a foreign national, persistently seeks information, notify your military sponsor immediately. He or she will notify the unit OPSEC program manager.

What Can You Do?
There are many countries and organizations that would like to harm Americans and degrade our influence in the world. It's possible, and not unprecedented, for spouses and family members of U.S. military personnel to be targeted for intelligence collection. This is true in the United States and especially true overseas! What can you do?

Be Alert
Foreign governments and organizations collect significant amounts of useful information by using spies. A foreign agent may use a variety of approaches to befriend someone and get sensitive information. This sensitive information can be critical to the success of a terrorist or spy, and consequently deadly to Americans. I would suggest cleaning up your list of facebook friends. Do you really know 1000 people well enough to trust them with the information you put out there?

Be Careful
There may be times when your spouse cannot talk about the specifics of his or her job. It's very important to conceal and protect certain information such as ship movements. All those rumors that fly around during deployment about "a change in port of calls" or "a change in schedule". While you may not be specifying EXACTLY what has changed, you are possibly letting the enemy know that something has changed. Something as simple as a phone discussion about where your spouse is deploying can be very useful to our enemies.

OPSEC IS A FAMILY AFFAIR - DISCUSS OPSEC WITH YOUR FAMILY
All family members are part of the military OPSEC team. They need to protect information to ensure the safety of all our soldiers, sailors, airman, coast guards, civilians, and their families. If you decide to share information with your family, you need to make sure they know the rules. Personally, I don't share with any of my family. Why? First of all, they are all thousands of miles away so the only way to tell them would be A) over the phone, and B) over the internet. Neither of which is a safe way to share information. My family respects the rules enough to understand that I can't share anything. They are okay with it, they'd rather my sailor be safe.

Here is a run down of what you CAN'T say:
  • Current and future operations
  • Travel Itineraries
  • Operation planning information
  • Entry/exit (security procedures)
  • Capabilities and limitations. Example: My husband told me that _____ broke on the flight deck today.
  • Port calls (current, future and past port calls in a current deployment)
  • Readiness
  • General morale
  • VIP/ distinguished visitor movements
  • People’s names and billets in conjunction with operations
Now for discussing past operations of a current deployment. (You can't say my husband left Spain yesterday but you can say my husband left port. You can't say my husband left for deployment yesterday because you can generalize an area off one day.) You may however post any of the above if you have a media link to prove the information has been released. Our ship has a public page. When they announced where they were in port, A LOT of people unnecessarily panicked. Ladies and Gentleman, the ship would NOT allow information to be posted if it were not safe to do so. The command WILL ALWAYS have our sailors best interests in regards to safely in mind when they choose to release information.

Guess what else is a violation? Marking halfway points or referring to how many months are left in the deployment. Also no discussing how long your SO has been extended. This includes discussing percentages left on a deployment. (example: There is only 20% left on this deployment). So those cute DaisyPath tickers you have on your facebook counting down until you are once again united with your love? OPSEC violation. Those pie charts that count down the percentage left on deployment? OPSEC violation. I have been out of college for 5 years now and I can do the reverse math to figure out from those percentage left charts when your sailor comes home. The point: It doesn't take a genius to figure out when your sailor is due home. The deployment date was publicly released and then if you have a percentage showing how much of the deployment is completed, its just simple algebra from there.

Do NOT discuss anything that has not been released yet. So your husband told you the ship's schedule has changed? Prove it before you announce it to the public. You must provide a link if it is questionable. While we are at it, you must provide a link to a reputable news source! Sorry ladies, we bloggers are NOT considered a good, time proved source of information! Do NOT speculate or spread rumors. Rumors will fly about the ships schedule. The command is committed to keeping Sailors and families informed and getting schedule updates to you as soon as practical. Flexibility is the key. Navy schedules do change but the command will keep its crew and families informed. The best way for family members to keep informed is to attend the Family Readiness Group meetings every month and to avoid listening to or spreading rumors. The command will only release official schedule updates so why rely on rumors and hearsay?

CORRECT: "My soldier is deployed in support of Iraqi Freedom or Enduring Freedom."
INCORRECT: "My soldier is in XYZ Unit and is stationed at ABC Camp in XXX city in Iraq."

INCORRECT: "Please pray for my soldier. He called today and told me he is going out on a very dangerous mission tonight."
When our sailors are in dangerous situations, it is natural to want to reach out to others. But the above statement puts your sailor in danger. You could have very well just alerted the enemy about their mission

Best piece of advice:
IF YOU'RE NOT SURE DON'T POST IT!

If you see someone has violated OPSEC, kindly message them to let them know. If they are a repeat offender, you should remind them of the consequences: deployments can be extended, communication with your sailor could be cut off (no phone calls, no emails!), and then the worst of all, being attacked by the enemy. If they don't remove their post, inform your ombudsman. 

Now please don't read this and interpret is as "Well she thinks she is just the OPSEC expert!". By no means do I feel that way. I have violated OPSEC myself unknowingly. But you better believe once it was pointed out to me, I didn't argue. I didn't send rude messages to the person who showed me my error. I apologized and then educated myself! Knowledge is power people. Knowledge will keep my sailor safe. While researching for this post I came across this: Know OPSEC. Keep OPSEC. Get over yourself. 

8 comments:

  1. So since our hubbys ship's page posted where they made port, it's ok that I said they had been there a couple days later?

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  2. I love this post! It's awesome!

    Though I can tell you that the rules are much stricter than what they actually get mad about. The biggest things to remember is that dates matter. None of the higher ups in my husbands unit got mad at any of the wives little tickers that said X amount of months to go. But they would have been pissed if anyone had mentioned a specific date, time or location. :)

    I simply put up a ticker that said X amount of months since my husband deployed, to avoid any trouble at all. It's very non-specific about when he left or when he was coming home.

    But I do agree. Many don't seem to understand OPSEC and why it's there. I've seen so many people post dates and count downs on their blogs and FB pages. :( It's a shame. And as far as family, I agree with you. My husband and I decided things were on a need to know basis, and that our family basically didn't need to know anything. So, they only knew after that fact.

    Again, great post! I love that you are trying to get the word out. :)

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  3. Great post!

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  4. Penguinia: Yah it is ok to post it after it has been announced, I did that but what I also should have done was link where that information was released from.

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  5. Great post! As military wives we can't forget that we know information that others want to know, even if it doesn't seem important to us.

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  6. Where is the 'like' button when you need it?! :) Our ship has a FB account & they also post a podcast type thing of their current port call but it's not UNTIL then that I share the video & post it on my FB for all my concerned family members to be updated. We all (or most) know the next port call & of course.. there are ALWAYS one person who blurts out too much info way before they're even there. Luckily, there is a delete & block button :)

    Awesome post!

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  7. Amen sista!!!! I've done a couple of posts on OPSEC, and I know of other mil bloggers who have as well, and I just LOVE seeing it. We need to spread the word, make sure everyone is following OPSEC. So good for you!!!! AWESOME post!!!!

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  8. Thanks for all the positive response!

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