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A Bucks County military doctor serving in Iraq says he was forced to shut down his Internet war diary last week after Army officials decided his gripping accounts of frontline medicine constituted a breach of Army regulations.
Maj. Michael Cohen, a doctor with the 67th Combat Support Hospital unit, had chronicled the bloody aftermath of the Dec. 21 mess-hall bombing in Mosul that killed 22. That account and 12 months of other postings on his Web log, www.67cshdocs.com, were replaced with a short notice:
"Levels above me have ordered, yes ORDERED, me to shut down this Web site. They cite that the information contained in these pages violates several Army Regulations," Cohen wrote, adding that he disagreed with the ban.
Military blogs have grown numerous since the invasion of Iraq, often providing a closer account of the war than traditional media. But such "milblogs" present a problem for military brass because the diaries are available to anyone with Internet access, including insurgents.
Lt. Col. Steven Boylan, a spokesman for coalition forces in Iraq, said the Pentagon allows blogging so long as authors do not disrupt discipline in their units, make statements on behalf of commanders or the Army as a whole, or reveal operational details that could aid attackers.
"Sometimes a blog might contain subtle nuances from which you can put together a complete picture of our operations, which insurgents can use to attack us," Boylan said. He said he was not aware of any bloggers facing court martial or other serious discipline. He could not confirm the investigation into Cohen's blog, saying it would likely be handled by field commanders in Mosul.
"We definitely don't want to impinge upon somebody's free speech. We're out here defending that. But it can cross a line," Boylan said.