In the past few days, NATO officials have acknowledged that social media reports contribute to their targeting process – but only after checking them against other, more reliable, sources of information.
A Twitter account with apparent links to the British military has even taken the unusual step of asking users to submit the precise co-ordinates of troops loyal to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi.
(59-year old Ontarian) Judith Clinch was among the first to respond. Months of online activism earned her a role as administrator of the Libyan Youth Movement page on Facebook – the only non-Libyan honoured with the job, she says – and on Monday she noticed that a regular member, somebody located in western Libya, had pinpointed a gas station converted into a temporary headquarters for Col. Gadhafi’s forces. She tweeted the co-ordinates, along with the longitude and latitude of a few other targets passed along from the same source, asking NATO to “clean up” the government troops.
Now, clearly the notion of rural Ontarians (and yes, I had to look up what one calls a resident of Ontario) serving as forward area controllers (rear echelon) comes with some operational security baggage. There are few barriers to entry, anyone can play and the information will have to be carefully vetted.
But without boots on deck to direct the close air support effort of the Libyan no-fly zone (tongue firmly in cheek), I guess you take what you can get.
We used to wonder what might be the psychological effect of Las Vegans (which has nothing to do with diet, apparently) fighting an overseas air war from the comfort of their air conditioned trailer for an eight-hour shift before picking up a bottle of milk and some diapers on the way home.
It’s come to this, then, that NATO must concern itself with the mental well-being of rural matrons in the Great White Up cleaning out regime troops in Libya.