Whistleblower website Wikileaks continued its explosion into mainstream journalism Monday with the release of a classified US military video showing forces firing repeatedly on unarmed people on a Baghdad street.
The video showed an incident from July 12, 2007, the same day that Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and his driver were killed in hail of gunfire in the same section of Baghdad. Nine other people were also killed and two children were wounded in the incident.
A Pentagon investigation later found the crew of two Apache helicopters acted appropriately and followed rules of engagement, according to the Associated Press. The Reuters employees were probably "intermixed among the insurgents" and their photography gear was likely misidentified as weapons, it reasoned.
But the video, taken from the gunsights of one of the helicopters, suggests something slightly more complicated. It doesn't show anyone firing on US troops, although an audio track of talking between the fliers identifies some of the men as armed. After a shooter asks for permission to engage, another responds: "Light em all up."
Most of the men immediately drop to the ground, while one scrambles to flee.
"Look at those dead bastards. Nice," a shooter says.
After one of the wounded is loaded into a van and shuttled away, the vehicle is taken out.
The video, which has been confirmed as authentic by senior military officials, may or may not be proof of the Pentagon cover-up and misconduct alleged by Wikileaks. After all, war is messy business, and a grainy video shot by a single helicopter can't be expected to tell the entire story.
Making the leak all the more impressive, Reuters sought the same video footage under the US Freedom of Information Act and was turned down. Wikileaks, which has little use for such niceties, said it acquired the encrypted footage from military sources.
Which makes you wonder if the army really did consider ways to bring down the whistleblower site. ®