In an exclusive interview with RAW STORY, a military blogger that embedded with the Marines in Iraq reveals that he sometimes worried that he might unintentionally reveal classified information.
Military blogger Bill Roggio, a 35-year-old software analyst, left his wife and kids in New Jersey to embed with the Marines in Iraq for about thirty days last November and December. After spending over a year covering the military operations in Western Iraq at The Fourth Rail, the blogger - who spent four years in the U.S. Army and three years in the National Guard - accepted an invitation from the Marines to come get a first hand look himself.
According to Roggio, those reports were "blown out of proportion" and "Haditha was taken without a fight once the ground assault element moved in." There were some "tough battles" but the areas were "largely cleared of al Qaeda," although the blogger wasn’t given information on where they may have relocated. As Roggio reported for The Weekly Standard, Barwana’s "voters turned out in droves" for the election in December.
Except for a Sky News team in nearby Haqlaniyah, the milblogger was the lone reporter in Barwana during the December election, although he claims that the military encouraged embedment there.
"The journalists (several of them) I spoke to said they were confined to Baghdad most of the time due to poor staffing and resources," Roggio told RAW STORY.
At his ThreatsWatch Website, Roggio wrote that his work was never "subject to the approval or review of the military" but the milblogger provided more details regarding the "back story" of his embedment.
"If there was a situation where I felt I might give up sensitive information, I asked for the article to be reviewed, but never once was what I wrote altered," explained Roggio. "I think it is responsible to keep classified information out of the news."
Before he posted his article, After Rivergate, Roggio wanted to make sure he wasn’t "given classified information that revealed too much on the operation" so he asked the Executive Officer who briefed him to review it. Other than a few slight error corrections - such as substituting company for battalion - nothing was deemed potentially harmful or revealing. Though he most likely would have removed anything objectionable, so as not to "possibly harm our troops," the former soldier would have asked for an explanation why.
While riding on an armored personnel carrier designed with anti-land mine capabilities called the Buffalo, as described in his article, On Route Michigan, Roggio became privy to some "inside baseball" tactics used in hunts to disable improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and roadside bombs.
"I was told I was the first to go on an IED hunt in Ramadi," said the milblogger. "I kept the classified tactics classified. But I took good notes so I did not need to ask for a review. Had my notes not been so clear I would have asked the battalion commander who I rode with to review for sensitive information."
Roggio added that there weren’t any questions about what he published, and was informed that the Engineers considered it "excellent" work. In an interview published in New Jersey’s Courier Post, Roggio said that his trip "opened the door" for contact which will allow him to "conduct long-distance interviews and discuss events" in the future.
(A report on the controversy surrounding a Washington Post article written about Roggio's trip to Iraq can be read elsewhere at RAW STORY at this link.)