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Thursday, March 31, 2011

OPSEC, Officer Safety, & Me

Sometimes people are amazed by the information I obtain and post on twitter and Facebook. Occasionally people approach me with concerns, usually along the lines of "you could put people in danger" or "that type of stuff isn't meant to be heard". Occasionally, I am also struck by the irony that at my day job, and jobs I've held in the past, I'm extremely OPSEC (Operational Security) minded, but in social media, I post so much information. I thought I'd take a second to explain my own personal guidelines and the "rules" I use.

Firstly, OPSEC is the responsibility of whatever organization controls the information. If I inadvertently released harmful operational information, the proper question isn't "why did I share that info?", it's "how did that info get out to begin with?". With that being said, safety of first responders is an enormous priority for me.

Most of my information comes directly from the police scanner. I am constantly monitoring state, local, & federal law enforcement, area fire departments, EMS, airports/aviation,  news media, etc. If you've never listened to a police scanner, trust me when I say that you would be amazed at the amount and content of the information that is available.

The next largest chunk of info comes from reliable sources on twitter and Facebook...I'm by no means the only person doing what I'm doing, and there are a lot of others doing really good work.

Very rarely, friends of mine who are police, firefighters, EMT's, or emergency management will provide me with some "off the record" information.

Once I hear something good, here are some of the general rules I follow:

1) I never post about police incidents until the police are on scene. This is so that the criminals can't monitor my twitter feed and know when to flee (as unlikely as this would be). On a practical side, the initial call is often inaccurate or wildly different then what is actually going on.

2) I don't post about active surveillance operations. In my daily note blog posts I note that it's happening, but I'll only include the agency and a vague location. I would never post target descriptions, street addresses, etc.

3) I don't post the names of victims or first responders, for privacy reasons. The only exception to this would be the chief's name at a fire, as in "5th alarm by order of chief Smith".

4) I don't post alerts about operations that would be considered anti-terrorism, homeland security, national security, etc. The best example of this would be the weekly LNG tanker escorts in and out of Boston harbor, and the massive security operation that surrounds it.

5) I don't post the addresses of SWAT team operations until it is public knowledge. Essentially, once someone else has posted it, then I will.

6) When all else fails, I try and employ as much common sense as I can. I would never knowingly post something that I thought would put someone in danger or hamper a law enforcement operation.

If you think of anything else, or have any questions, please post in the comments below.

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