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New York Times

Over the course of 10 months in eastern Afghanistan, an Army specialist nicknamed Mud Puppy maintained a blog irreverently chronicling life at the front, from the terror of roadside bombs to the tyrannies of master sergeants.

Often funny and always profane, the blog, Embrace the Suck (military slang for making the best of a bad situation), flies under the Army's radar. Not officially approved, it is hidden behind a password-protected wall because the reservist does not want his superiors censoring it.

There are two sides to the U.S. military's foray into the world of the interactive Web. At the highest echelons of the Pentagon, civilian officials and four-star generals are hailing the power of social networking to humanize troops, entice recruits and shape public opinion on the war.

Gen. Ray Odierno, commander of U.S. forces in Iraq, is on Facebook. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has a YouTube channel and posts Twitter updates almost daily.

The Web, however, is a big place. And the many thousands of troops who use blogs, Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites to communicate with the outside world are not always in tune with the Pentagon's official voice.

The Department of Defense, citing growing concerns about cybersecurity, plans to issue a policy that is expected to set restrictions on access to social networking sites from military computers. People involved with the review say the new policy may limit access to social media sites to those who can demonstrate a clear work need, like public information officers or family counselors.

If that is the case, many officials say it would significantly set back efforts to expand and modernize the military's use of the Web, just as those efforts were gaining momentum.