• What is OPSEC? In short,
OPSEC is keeping potential enemies from discovering critical DOD information,
such as when units are mobilizing, where they are traveling, or what processes
are involved. It protects US operations – planned, in-progress, and completed.
Success depends on secrecy and surprise, so we can accomplish the mission more
quickly and with less risk. Potential adversaries and even friendly nations
want this information, and will not only pursue military members for the data,
but may also look to family members.
• What Can You Do? There are
many countries and organizations that would like to harm Americans and degrade
US influence in the world. It is possible and not unprecedented for military
personnel, spouses and family members to be targeted for intelligence
collection. This is true both in the United States and overseas.
Be Alert. A foreign
agent may use a variety of approaches to collect sensitive information. This
sensitive information can be critical to the success of a terrorist or spy, and
consequently, deadly to Americans. Their methods have become very
sophisticated, with the internet being the preferred method of gathering
information. You should assume that anything you communicate via the internet (email,
blog, status update, etc.) or unsecured phone call is available to the public,
including those who may wish to do us harm. And while snail mail may be more
secure, it could also be intercepted or the information in it mistakenly made
public. Family members should be aware of this as well, or they may unknowingly
provide all the necessary information to compromise our mission. Regardless of
how it becomes public, you must remember that you are still responsible for it.
Be Careful. There may be times
when you can’t talk about the specifics of your job. It is very important to
conceal and protect certain information such as flight schedules, ship
movements, exercise and operation names, and dates and locations. Where and how
you discuss this information is just as important as with whom you discuss it.
Something as simple as a phone conversation concerning where you are going on
liberty can be very useful to our adversaries.
Information. Even though this information may not be classified, it is what
the Department of Defense calls “critical information.” Critical information
deals with specific facts about military intentions, capabilities, operations,
or activities. If an adversary knew this detailed information, US 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, you will often know some bits of critical information. Do not
discuss them outside of your immediate family and especially not over the
telephone or through the internet.
Examples of Critical Information. These bits of information may
seem insignificant. However, to a trained adversary, they are small pieces of a
puzzle that highlight what US forces are doing and planning. Remember, the
elements of security and surprise are vital to the accomplishment of US goals
and collective DOD personnel protection.
Position and movement of US Naval vessels.
Details concerning locations and times of exercises, port
Details concerning security procedures.
Comments on daily military activities / operations.
Discussion of areas frequented by US personnel.
Detailed information about mission of assigned units.
Descriptions of overseas military bases.
Family members’ personal information.
How to Keep Family
and Friends Informed. Simply put, avoid specific details concerning dates,
times, locations and exercises/operations, and instead stick to general
information. Details concerning our deployment will be passed by the Command
through PAO and the Family Readiness Officer, who can strike the appropriate
balance between satisfying families’ and friends’ curiosity and maintaining the
security of our operations. The details can wait until we have returned home
and are telling our sea stories.
• An Example of
OPSEC Failure. In early October 2000, “Tom” sent an email to his wife, telling
her that he would be in Aden, Yemen for a port call on Tuesday. Tom’s wife then
posted this to the web page she’d been maintaining for other family and friends
to stay up to date on Tom’s latest deployment. Armed only with Google and some
background information he’d collected from Tom’s neighborhood, a terrorist
agent figures out that “Tom” is Petty Officer Tom Smith aboard the USS Cole.
The terrorist group that the agent works for has been planning an attack using
a small boat and explosives. The only problem is that they have limited
resources, and are unable to keep a boat laden with explosives on the water for
days or weeks at a time. They can only keep it afloat for a day. But now that
their agent has provided the date of Tom’s upcoming liberty, they know what day
that will be. On Tuesday, the boat is loaded and the terrorists sail around the
harbor until the US warship comes in. On 12 October 2000, Al Qaida did just
that. The terrorists on the small boat actually waved and smiled at the crew of
the USS Cole as they floated in close enough to the ship to detonate their
cargo. As a result, 17 sailors were killed and many more injured.