In an incredible online cock-up, the full details of a classified US military report into the shooting of Italian secret agent Nicola Calipari in Iraq have been made widely and publicly available.
The error was caused by the US military itself, which posted an unclassified version of the report on the internet as a PDF file with large chunks blacked out. However, the Pentagon had failed to save the file with the edit lines in place so a simple copy-and-paste of the document into a word processing application revealed the report in full.
The Pentagon has since pulled the PDF, but not before it became widely downloaded and now copies of both it and the uncensored version are widely available on the Internet.
So what were the military secrets so important that they could not be revealed to the public? Well, they fall into three categories. First, information that the army has clearly withheld to prevent journalists from reporting unpleasant facts and figures. Second, details of standard US military procedure when it comes to roadblocks. And lastly, the names of those individuals and units involved.
Specialist Mario Lozano was the only soldier to fire during the incident in which Mr Calipari died in Baghdad. Mr Calipari and his colleague in the Italian military intelligence, Mr Andrea Carpani, were returning from a successful mission to release Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena, who had been kidnapped months earlier by insurgents. They were heading to the airport when they came across a US roadblock .
Despite both Mr Lozano and Mr Carpani already being in the public domain as those involved, their names were blacked out. As were the names of all US military personnel involved in the incident, including commanding officer of A company Captain Michael Drew, First Lieutenant Robert Davis and the man in charge at the scene, Second Lieutenant Nicolas Acosta. The Italian authorities claim that three US soldiers fired at the car. The US report claims only one soldier fired.
The information pulled out solely to avoid embarassment includes:
- The fact that there were 3,306 attacks by insurgents in Baghdad between 1 November 2004 and 12 March 2005; 2,400 of them aimed at coalition forces.
- The fact that soldiers and commanders, and not only journalists, described the road the car was travelling down, "Route Irish", as the "deadliest road in Iraq".
- The fact that there was no alternative to Route Irish for large numbers of troops every day
- That there is a "minimum of one attack a day" on the route
- The methods used by insurgents, including putting a bomb in a bin bag, setting timers, and pretending to be roadmen fixing the road when in fact they were planting bombs
- That there is such a thing as a "politicial military counselor" who has the authority to direct military operations according to Washington's orders.
Most significant censorship however surrounded the recommendations, the first of which stated that from now on the military should look at installing "non-lethal measures" such as spike strips and speed bumps long before a soldier in a gun turret. Clearly this would have spelt out the headline for media reports of the inquiry, and seen heavy criticism of the US military.
Also removed were recommendations that different signs be used, and that a gunner in a turret should not have to operate both a spotlight and a gun at the same time at a roadblock - which is what happened in this case and may have been the cause of Mr Calipari's death.
As for the rest of it, it is simply the military removing all mention of its explicit tactics, the names, numbers and types of divisions that were in certain parts of Baghdad at the time, and other information such as US military training grounds and definitions of things such as "hostile act" and "hostile intent".
The leak of the information may further inflame Italians against the report. Italian authorities have already publicly questioned the conclusions. ®