Loose Lips Sink Ships: Our Thoughts on “THE” photo

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(Photo by MIRIAM ALSTER/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

SOAA wishes to express its deep concern surrounding the recent Operational Security (OPSEC) violation that appears to have resulted in the unredacted faces of several U.S. Special Operations Forces (SOF) personnel being shared on at least one White House social media outlet (X). Our Executive Director, David Cook, was interviewed in a Daily Caller article explaining the dangers such a careless error could cause for these Operators.

During President Biden’s recent visit to Israel, he met with multiple, operational SOF personnel, thanking them for “their bravery and work they’re doing in response to the Hamas terrorist attacks”. Photos of the SOF Operators, ostensibly captured by official White House photographers, should never have been released without redaction – the blurring or blocking of faces.

David explained, “The risk is high. These guys that got pictured, it could ruin their careers. They could put their families in danger. It could put them in danger. I don’t even know what to say. These are horrible operational security failures,”

Identity management, the protection of the names, images, or personal information of U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) personnel, is critical to their ability to conduct operations in sensitive, high-risk, or denied areas in support of US national objectives. The release of these unredacted photos could compromise not only the current or future operational effectiveness of the individuals involved, but could also place them, and even members of their family, at heightened risk.

“Whoever took the picture needs to be held accountable, David continued,  “These kind of gaffes happen every once in a while … that’s why SOAA exists, to educate policymakers and people who’ve never been in the community what the sensitivity is around the mission and why special operators are deployed downrange all year round or not.”

SOAA strongly recommends that the responsible office and officials conduct a thorough review of their internal processes. They must ensure that appropriate steps are taken to refine or institute measures to ensure that when POTUS or other senior U.S. Government officials interact with members of USSOCOM, and photos are taken for historical record and/or personal recognition of the individuals involved, that their identities are protected and any images released are redacted to protect the safety of those who defend our nation against its most dangerous enemies. Our Operators deserve nothing less.

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