In another section of the Insider Threats course, the media are referred to as adversaries, and DoD personnel are responsible for reporting any contact with the press to their “information security office”.
Orland noted that the training emphasizes that media personnel are generally not seen as a threat, but that “their actions of collecting and communicating classified / proprietary information can be just as damaging”.
Price Floyd, who served as Acting Under Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs in the Obama administration and director of media relations in the State Department in the George W. Bush administration, also criticized the new policy. of the DoD on Operational Safety and Leak Response.
“I think this administration is confusing the leaks with written stories they don’t like,” Floyd said. “Because this administration, of course, gives information to the press without attribution all the time. In other words, they flee. They want the stories the way they want them. “
He also took issue with the way the training course is structured, arguing that in his experience it inaccurately describes the overall relationship between the military and the media.
“If, for some reason, a reporter got wind of something that was classified or secret, all it took would be a conversation with public affairs and someone to say, ‘Look, this is classified. secret, talking about it now puts lives in danger. ‘ “
“I think this Esper witch hunt is just a way of trying to crack down on what they consider to be fake news,” he added, “when in fact all the media doing is reporting the facts. “
Mick Mulroy, an ABC News analyst who was responsible for Pentagon Middle East policy in the Trump administration, said he did not believe the DoD intended to tag all protesters and reporters as threats, but called the language used in the training materials “bad choice of words.” “
“‘Adversary’ is a loaded term, we use it to define Russia, for example,” Mulroy said, distinguishing between protesters and journalists appropriately exercising their constitutional rights with “protesters who use violence. against military or military personnel who disclose confidential information. information. “
“However, in this climate of calling the media a threat to the people and the protesters being all grouped together (both violent and non-violent), the military will want to make sure that they don’t add to the problem with this type of terminology, ”he added. said. “I don’t think they intended to do this with this choice of terms, but it should be adjusted. “
The new OPSEC effort was launched just weeks after Esper told lawmakers in a hearing he opened an investigation to look for leaks, following a New York Times. report on intelligence that Russia was paying militants to target US forces in Afghanistan.
The leaks “undermine the security of our nation, they undermine our troops, their security, they affect our relations with other countries, they undermine our national policy,” Esper told lawmakers this month. “It’s something we have to take control of. It is bad and it is illegal and it must stop. “
A separate memo published around the same time as the first set out new guidelines for the force when interacting with members of the news media.
Bryan Bender contributed to this report.