The Coast Guard, like the military in general, appears to be working at cross-purposes with itself when it comes to the Internet, while international jihadists move from strength to strength online. …
[E]vents unfolded that resulted in the Coast Guard publishing a faked first-hand account of an at-sea rescue on its official “Coast Guard Journal” blog.
That particular blog had been a centerpiece of a new Internet campaign by the nation’s fifth military service. In fact, Capt. Jim McPherson, the Coast Guard’s top public affairs officer, cited this blog in February, asserting his service was ahead of the pack when it came to the military services embracing the Internet.
But there were warning signs just weeks later that McPherson’s statements were mostly propaganda. In mid-March, Mike McGrath, a Coast Guard civilian employee, was fired, in part, for contributing in his spare time to The Unofficial Coast Guard blog, a website with no formal connection to the military, but which, nonetheless, strongly supports Coast Guard policy. McGrath had been posting updates on the blog about investigations into a controversial fatal diving accident. …
But the Coast Guard’s Internet problems were just beginning. A few days after McGrath’s firing, the Coast Guard admitted to fabricating a supposedly first-person “true story” on the service’s new official blog.
The story, published on the online Coast Guard Journal under the byline of the rescue diver Karen Voorhees (pictured), described the dramatic Mar. 12 rescue of several mariners from a sinking boat off the New Jersey coast. “As we hovered overhead near the survivors,” her account read in part, “I prepared myself and my gear and was lowered from the helicopter into a challenging nighttime sea, battling 10-foot seas.”
But the words were not Voorhees’s own. “I did not write that blog,” she said on a popular Internet forum a few days after the story bearing her name was posted.
According to emails leaked to The Washington Independent, McPherson had pressured his public affairs staff to come up with something “sensational.” When Voorhees’s actual description of the rescue turned out to be somewhat dull, McPherson told a subordinate to rewrite it, without Voorhees’s consent. One Coast Guard chief, objecting to McPherson’s order, called the rewritten account a “pulp-fiction drama novel.”
When challenged about the faked story, McPherson said the Coast Guard was still figuring out blogging. “We’ll do better,” he said.
Read the whole story at The Washington Independent.