Officials warn Airmen of MySpace dangers

MCCHORD AIR FORCE BASE, Wash. -- The online site MySpace, which allows individuals to create free, personalized Web pages, can become a liability when Airmen post information that can be exploited or misconstrued, according to base officials. 

To prevent McChord's Airmen from posting potentially hazardous information, Col. Jerry Martinez, 62nd Airlift Wing commander, issued a memorandum dealing specifically with MySpace recently. 

The memo affirmed the constitutional freedom of speech for each Airman at McChord while addressing the seriousness of the potential dangers MySpace poses to base operations. 

Specifically, the issues the commander addressed were implied Air Force endorsement, improper wear of the uniform, Military Equal Opportunity issues and Operational Security. 

According to the memo, Air Force endorsement is "words or images that tend to imply official Air Force endorsement of, participation in or involvements with an Internet site."
 
Improper wear of the uniform is described as photographs in which "Airmen in uniform engage in activities that may discredit the Armed Services." The MEO issues the memo focused on dealing with Airmen using "language in their entries that could be construed as racially or sexually disparaging." 

The biggest issue Colonel Martinez addressed, however, was Operational Security. 

According to the memo, "some Airmen have posted entries that describe current or impending deployments, aircraft and troop movements and show photographs of the inside of USAF aircraft." 

Special Agent Jared Whittenberg from Detachment 206 of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev., said disclosing that kind of sensitive information can put the nation at risk. 

"Servicemembers must remember they represent the military as a whole, 24 hours a day, and are responsible for what they post," said Agent Whittenberg. "The effects of what you do in the comfort of your own home can potentially have an impact worldwide." 

According to a statement from News Corp., MySpace's parent company, the site accounted for 4.46 percent of all U.S. Internet visits for the week ending July 8, pushing it past Yahoo Mail for the first time and outpacing the home pages for Yahoo, Google and Microsoft's MSN Hotmail. 

(Information from an Air Force News story was used in this article.)