Ukraine War, May 4, 2022 (I): The urgent need for censorship of militarily sensitive information

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To see a list of previous articles, enter “Ukraine” in the Search Box on the upper right, on The Trenchant Observer web site, and you will see a list in chronological order.


1) Anton Troianovski and Julian E. Barnes, “Russia’s War Has Been Brutal, but Putin Has Shown Some Restraint. Why?; Western officials are debating the Kremlin’s calculations in not trying harder to halt weapons shipments in Ukraine. Analysts wonder whether a bigger mobilization by Moscow is on the horizon,” New York Times, May 3, 2022 (Updated 11:14 a.m. ET);

2) David Ignatius, “Russia is losing on the electronic battlefield,” Washington Post, May 3, 2022 (6:42 p.m. EDT);1)

3) Roland Nelles (Washington), “Amerikas beste Kriegshilfe; Bei den militärischen Erfolgen der Ukrainer gegen die Russen spielen im Hintergrund die US-Nachrichtendienste eine wichtige Rolle. In diesem Fall erweist sich ihre Datensammelwut als Segen, Der Spiegel, den 1. Mai 202l2 (21:12 Uhr);

4) Abigail Hauslohner, Dan Lamothe and Hannah Allam, “Kremlin is targeting Ukraine resupply infrastructure, officials say,” Washington Post, May 4, 2022 “(7:41 pm EDT);

5) Julian E. Barnes, Helene Cooper and Eric Schmitt, “U.S. Intelligence Is Helping Ukraine Kill Russian Generals, Officials Say,” New York Times, May 4, 2022, (7:40 p.m. ET).


The need for coordinated military censorship among the NATO countries

While the information in the article by Troianovski and Barnes is very informative to readers in the U.S. and NATO countries, it raises serious questions as to whether it should have ever been published.

What is the military objective in pointing out to the Russians what more they could be doing to defeat Ukraine and counter NATO?

This type of article will be used by advocates within the Russian military who favor taking more forceful action.

On May 3, almost as in response to the article, Russian forces carried out intensive strikes against Ukrainian railroad infrastructure.

Similarly, the detailed information provided by Roland Nelles in Der Spiegel on how American agencies are providing real- time military intelligence to Ukrainians in battle situations is interesting to readers in the U.S. and NATO countries, and goes far to allay fears that they were not doing enough.

But what is the military objective that is furthered by releasing this information publicly, so that the Russians can see it, and perhaps respond to it.

Why should Troianovski and Barnes be allowed to suggest to Russian military planners even stronger actions against Ukraine and the West that they might undertake?

Why should Germany allow the publication by Der Spiegel of an article which lays out in detail the kind of real-time military intelligence the U.S. has been providing to the Ukrainian military?

Why should the U.S. allow David Ignatius to publish highly sensitive information on the conduct of Electronic Warfare by the U.S. and Ukraine, and the critical nature of the help the U.S. has provided?

Moreover, for months we have watched retired generals on cable news networks, standing next to a screen displaying information about the location of Russian and Ukrainian forces, discussing what they think the Russians objectives might (should?) be, and the various options Ukrainian forces have to respond to Russian moves.

This is madness! Why should we let the commercial imperatives of our TV news channels lead to competition among retired generals for the best analysis of the best military moves by Russia or Ukraine?

There appears to be a great deal of naiveté involved here, and some gross underestimation of the abilities of Russian intelligence to secure military benefits from such revelations, wholly aside from the issue of whether such revelations might lead Putin to decide NATO is already engaged in the military conflict, and that he should react accordingly?

This laissez-faire approach to the reporting of militarily sensitive information is dangerous, and should be stopped as soon as possible.

There is an urgent need to establish some form of censorship of articles that might disclose militarily sensitive information to the Russians.

Military censorship will need to be coordinated among NATO and other countries contributing to the Ukrainian war effort, as the Nelles article in Der Spiegel demonstrates.

Obviously the censorship should not be bureaucratic and should be strictly limited to censoring military information that could be of use to the Russians.
The mechanism could even be largely voluntary on the part of large news organizations, requiring the approval of military censors only of articles that disclose certain categories of information.

A prerequisite for effective action to censor and prevent the disclosure of sensitive military information could be a recognition by the highest officials in the U.S. and NATO that we are, in effect, at war with Russia, and that we are likely to be at war for a long time. It may be an economic war for the moment, but we are furnishing munitions to the Ukrainians that are killing Russian soldiers.

We are in a real war.

The sooner we recognize that fact, the better off we will be.

And the sooner we establish the kind of minimal military censorship necessary to avoid prejudicing the war effort by allowing the publication of militarily sensitive information the better off we will be.

The Trenchant Observer


See also,

Only force can stop Putin

“Ukraine War, April 5, 2022 (II): Force must be used to stop Putin,” The Trenchant Observer, April 5, 2022.

About the Author

James Rowles
"The Trenchant Observer" is edited and published by James Rowles (aka "The Observer"), an author and international lawyer who has taught International Law, Human Rights, and Comparative Law at major U.S. universities, including Harvard, Brandeis, the University of Pittsburgh, and the University of Kansas. Dr. Rowles is a former staff attorney at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) of the Organization of American States OAS), in Wasington, D.C., , where he was in charge of Brazil, Haiti, Mexico and the United States, and also worked on complaints from and reports on other countries including Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Guatemala. As an international development expert, he has worked on Rule of Law, Human Rights, and Judicial Reform in a number of countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, and the Russian Federation. In the private sector, Dr. Rowles has worked as an international attorney for a leading national law firm and major global companies, on joint ventures and other matters in a number of countries in Europe (including Russia and the Ukraine), throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, and in Australia, Indonesia, Vietnam, China and Japan. The Trenchant Observer blog provides an unfiltered international perspective for news and opinion on current events, in their historical context, drawing on a daily review of leading German, French, Spanish and English newspapers as well as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and other American newspapers, and on sources in other countries relevant to issues being analyzed. Dr. Rowles speaks fluent English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish, and also knows other languages. He holds an S.J.D. or Doctor of Juridical Science in International Law from Harvard University, and a Doctor of Law (J.D.) and a Master of the Science of Law (J.S.M.=LL.M.), from Stanford University. As an undergraduate, he received a Bachelor of Arts degree, also from Stanford, where he graduated “With Great Distinction” (summa cum laude) and received the James Birdsall Weter Prize for the best Senior Honors Thesis in History. In addition to having taught as a Lecturer on Law at Harvard Law School, Dr. Rowles has been a Visiting Scholar at Harvard University's Center for International Affairs (CFIA). His fellowships include a Stanford Postdoctoral Fellowship in Law and Development, the Rómulo Gallegos Fellowship in International Human Rights awarded by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and a Harvard MacArthur Fellowship in International Peace and Security. Beyond his articles in The Trenchant Observer, he is the author of two books and numerous scholarly articles on subjects of international and comparative law. Currently he is working on a manuscript drawing on some the best articles that have appeared in the blog.