WASHINGTON (AP) – The Army is taking stronger steps to warn soldiers they will be punished if they reveal sensitive military information on Web sites or blogs.

While the possibility of punishment is not new, the Army spells out in recently published regulations the range of actions if soldiers “fail to protect critical and sensitive information.”

Some Web logs, also called blogs, raised alarms this week, suggesting the Army was cracking down anew on soldiers who have blogs. But the bulk of the regulations released April 19 mirror rules published in 2005 that required soldiers to consult with commanders before “publishing or posting information” in a public forum.

The regulation is not as explicit as the one issued by commanders in Iraq two years ago that requires soldiers in war zones to register their blogs with the military.

Army Maj. Ray M. Ceralde, who worked on the new regulations, said Wednesday the intention of the 2007 rule is not to have soldiers clear every public posting with commanders.

“Not only is that impractical, but we are trusting the soldiers to protect critical information,” he said.

He said there is no effort to block soldiers from setting up or posting comments to blogs. “We’re not looking for them to seek approval each time a blog entry is posted,” Ceralde said.

The rules, he said, do not affect personal, private e-mails that soldiers send. “Soldiers have a right to private communications with their families,” he said.

Instead, Ceralde said, soldiers are expected to consult or clear with commanders when they start a blog, in part so they can be warned about information they cannot publish.

Ceralde said Army leaders wanted to emphasize the importance of maintaining operational security. Soldiers will be punished if they publicly reveal sensitive information, such as troop movements, planned raids, travel itineraries of senior leaders, or photographs of casualties, new technology or other material that could compromise their location.

The rules say solders can be charged with violating a lawful order under the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

He said unit commanders have the authority to establish more restrictive requirements – such as requiring that individual postings be reviewed – if they deem it necessary.

As before, the regulations require that soldiers tell their family members and friends to protect sensitive information.

The blog rules were part of a much larger update to regulations governing operational security, including training requirements, policies and procedures on maintaining security, and sections stressing that soldiers are personally responsible for keeping operations secure.

Army officials said they did not have details on how many soldiers have violated the blogging rules.

The military set up the regulations in 2005, as blogs and other Web postings became more popular, particularly among service members who were deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan.

On the Net:

Defense Department: http://www.defenselink.mil

AP-ES-05-02-07 1912EDT

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