WikiLeaks Releases Video of Soldiers Taking Pleasure in Firing Indiscriminately on Reuters Journalists, Unarmed Civilians, Children in Iraq (Video)

Posted: 5 April 2010 by Editors in International Affairs
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WikiLeaks obtained and, today, released footage filmed from a helicopter cockpit showing a missile strike and shooting on a crowded square in New Baghdad, Iraq in July 2007 where 12 civilians—with a Reuters photographer and his driver—were slain (2:23):

Julian Assange, editor and co-founder of WikiLeaks, confirms the authenticity of the video at Al Jazeera English (6:28):

WikiLeaks, a website that posts materials provided by whistleblowers, has released a classified U.S. military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen non-hostile people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad—including two  members of Reuters news staff. Reuters filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) suit against the U.S. military to release this video in July 2008 of the 2007 gunning down of one of its photographers, Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40, from the sky.

“The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers,” WikiLeaks reports.

A van with unarmed civilians and two children stopped to help Saeed Chmagh, who was laying on the side of the road—wounded, but moving. The soldiers in the helicopter are not assessing threats, but verbally expressing their will for reason to kill him with the comment, “Come on, buddy. All you gotta do is pick up a weapon.”

The van was this reason. More died.

As troops approach on the ground, the tanks rolled over the bodies. The soldiers get a chuckle out of this and two children—Sayad and Doaha, 10 and 5-years-old at the time—are found in the van, wounded.  Their father , Saleh Matasher Tomal, 43, was killed in the attack. Anhlam Abid Althussir, the mother of his four children, now widowed, was forced to sell their home. The soldiers’ response: “Ah damn. Oh, well…. Well, it’s their fault for bringing their kids to a battle.”

A massacre from the sky and a battle are two completely different classifications.

Responses like “Got the bastard”, “Nice!”, “There it goes! Look at that bitch go!” and “Oh, yeah, look at those dead bastards.”  litter the commentary of the U.S. soldiers throughout the video.

Today, a ‘senior military official, confirmed the authenticity of the video to NBC News Pentagon Correspondent Jim Miklaszewski. He only added that an investigation found “the crew of the two Apache helicopters at the scene might have erroneously identified the photographer’s cameras as weapons”. Because the Pentagon did not declassify the video and earlier had said soldiers followed the official “Rules of Engagement” [.pdf], the official spoke only under the condition of anonymity.

“Though WikiLeaks’ release was scheduled well in advance,” Jason Ditz writes at Antiwar News. “The release comes at a particularly inopportune time, as the U.S. military is still scrambling to explain away the killings of several civilians (including pregnant women) in an attack on an Afghanistan home. In that case as well, the military lied about a “firefight” which never happened, and even blamed the deaths of the pregnant women on insurgents that were never present at the site.”

Glenn Greenwald at Salon adds: “The important thing to keep in mind when watching this video, as well as reading about the Afghanistan masscare, is this: they hate us for our Freedom!

Brief Version, cut by Russia Today (1:40):

Short version, cut by Wikileaks  (17:47):

Daniel Tencer at The Raw Story writes:

The two reporters arrived in the area after reports of skirmishes between U.S. forces and insurgents. According to media news site The Baron, “there was no fighting on the streets in which Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh were moving about.”

The video seems to substantiate that report, as it shows Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh (identified on the tape by arrows) walking around in a group of people who don’t appear to be engaged in fighting. “Although some of the men appear to have been armed, the behavior of nearly everyone was relaxed,” Wikileaks notes, suggesting that the men weren’t involved in the fighting reportedly taking place in the area….

But Wikileaks offers the video as evidence there was no firefight in the location where U.S. forces launched the attack. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, witnesses said there were no gunfights in the area at the time of the attack.

Following the shooting, the Reuters news agency demanded an investigation. According to Wikileaks, the U.S. military determined that the shooting was carried out in accordance with the rules of engagement.

Nathan Hodge at Wired adds:

It was originally expected that WikiLeaks would release footage of a U.S. air strike last year in Afghanistan that reportedly claimed the lives of dozens of civilians (Assange said the group planned to release that footage, but were still “working on it.”)

WikiLeaks has also claimed this video furnishes evidence of a Pentagon “coverup.” Whether that is the case is open to question: At the time, a military officer said: “No innocent civilians were killed on our part deliberately. We took great pains to prevent that. I know that two children were hurt, and we did everything we could to help them. I don’t know how the children were hurt.”

via WikiLeaks – 5th Apr 2010:

Wikileaks has obtained and decrypted this previously unreleased video footage from a U.S. Apache helicopter in 2007. It shows Reuters journalist Namir Noor-Eldeen, driver Saeed Chmagh, and several others as the Apache shoots and kills them in a public square in Eastern Baghdad. They are apparently assumed to be insurgents. After the initial shooting, an unarmed group of adults and children in a minivan arrives on the scene and attempts to transport the wounded. They are fired upon as well. The official statement on this incident initially listed all adults as insurgents and claimed the US military did not know how the deaths occurred. Wikileaks released this video with transcripts and a package of supporting documents on April 5th 2010 on http://collateralmurder.com.

The military did not reveal how the Reuters staff were killed, and stated that they did not know how the children were injured.

After demands by Reuters, the incident was investigated and the U.S. military concluded that the actions of the soldiers were in accordance with the law of armed conflict and its own “Rules of Engagement”.

Consequently, WikiLeaks has released the classified Rules of Engagement for 2006, 2007 and 2008, revealing these rules before, during, and after the killings.

WikiLeaks has released both the original 38 minutes video and a shorter version with an initial analysis. Subtitles have been added to both versions from the radio transmissions.

WikiLeaks obtained this video as well as supporting documents from a number of military whistleblowers. WikiLeaks goes to great lengths to verify the authenticity of the information it receives. We have analyzed the information about this incident from a variety of source material. We have spoken to witnesses and journalists directly involved in the incident.

WikiLeaks wants to ensure that all the leaked information it receives gets the attention it deserves. In this particular case, some of the people killed were journalists that were simply doing their jobs: putting their lives at risk in order to report on war. Iraq is a very dangerous place for journalists: from 2003- 2009, 139 journalists were killed while doing their work.

At the site for the video, Collateral Murder, set up by WikiLeaks contains still photos and transcript. Timeline of responses posted by WikiLeaks:

  • 12th July 2007The New York Times reports that two Iraqi journalists were killed in a militia clash with U.S. forces – ”There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force,” said Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesman for the multinational forces in Baghdad.
  • 13th July 2007Press statement from public affairs office in camp Victory reports on the event. There is no question that Coalition Forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force, said Lt. Col Scott Bleichwehl, spokesperson and public affairs officer for MND-B.
  • 13th July 2007Reuters blog posts an entry on the killings of Namir Noor-Eldeen and Saeed Chmagh. Namir was the 109th journalist to be killed in Iraq since the invasion in 2003, and Saeed the 40th member of support staff.
  • 16th July 2007Reuters seeks U.S. probe into the killings of their staff. Our preliminary investigation raises real questions about whether there was fighting at the time the two men were killed, said David Schlesinger, editor-in-chief of Reuters. Specifically, Reuters wanted an explanation of why the two cameras were confiscated, access to any cameras onboard the Apache helicopters that were involved in the incident, access to any voice communications between the helicopter crews and U.S. ground forces and access to reports from the unit involved in the incident, in particular a log of any weapons taken from the scene.
  • 16th July 2007 — Counterpunch reports that The U.S. military says U.S. and Iraqi forces engaged “a hostile force” and, after coming under fire, called for air support that killed nine insurgents and two civilians. The police and witnesses tell a different story. A preliminary police report from al-Rashad police station said Mr Noor-Eldeen and Mr Chmagh were killed along with nine others by a “random American bombardment.” One witness, Karim Shindakh, said: “The aircraft began striking randomly and people were wounded. A Kia [mini-van] arrived to take them away. They hit the Kia and killed … the two journalists.
  • March 2008 — Reuters opens website Bearing Witness dedicated to the memory of the Reuters journalists that have been killed in Iraq during the war: Taras Protsyuk (2003); Mazen Dana (2003); Dhia Najim (2003); Waleed Khaled (2005); Saeed Chmagh (2007); Namir Noor-Eldeen (2007); and an anonymous Reuters journalist who was killed in 2007.
  • 15th July 2008Reuters posts memorial article. In it they mention that “Reuters News is seeking video footage from the U.S. military and other materials relating to the killing of Noor-Eldeen and Chmagh. The footage was taken by cameras on board the U.S. helicopters involved in the incident, in which nine other people were killed. The U.S. military said last week it is still processing the request”
  • 5th April 2010 — WikiLeaks releases video footage from Apache helicopter.

A 2008 U.S. Army counterintelligence report [.pdf] was released by Wikileaks March 18th ‘concocting a plan to fatally marginalize the organization’, according to WikiLeaks.

The report stated WikiLeaks’ war on secrecy and lies “represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC), and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the U.S. Army”.

“The identification, exposure, termination of employment, criminal prosecution, legal action against current or former insiders, leakers, or whistleblowers could potentially damage or destroy this center of gravity and deter others considering similar actions from using the WikiLeaks.org Web site,” the report added.

Shortly after the release of this report, Mr. Greenwald at Salon, interviewed Wikileaks editor Julian Assange:

As but one disturbing incident: a volunteer, a minor, who works with WikiLeaks was detained in Iceland last week and questioned extensively about an incriminating video WikiLeaks possesses relating to the actions of the U.S. military.  During the course of the interrogation, the WikiLeaks volunteer was not only asked questions about the video based on non-public knowledge about its contents (i.e., information which only the U.S. military would have), but was also shown surveillance photos of Assange exiting a recent WikiLeaks meeting regarding the imminent posting of documents concerning the Pentagon.

That WikiLeaks is being targeted by the U.S. Government for surveillance and disruption is beyond doubt.  And it underscores how vital their work is and why it’s such a threat….

At exactly the time when U.S. government secrecy is at an all-time high, the institutions ostensibly responsible for investigation, oversight and exposure have failed.  The American media are largely co-opted, and their few remaining vestiges of real investigative journalism are crippled by financial constraints.  The U.S. Congress is almost entirely impotent at providing meaningful oversight and is, in any event, controlled by the factions that maintain virtually complete secrecy.  As I’ve documented before, some alternative means of investigative journalism have arisen—such as the ACLU’s tenacious FOIA litigations to pry documents showing “War on Terror” abuses and the reams of bloggers who sort through, analyze and publicize them—but that’s no match for the vast secrecy powers of the government and private corporations.

The need for independent leaks and whistle-blowing exposures is particularly acute now because, at exactly the same time that investigative journalism has collapsed, public and private efforts to manipulate public opinion have proliferated.  This is exemplified by the type of public opinion management campaign detailed by the above-referenced C.I.A. Report, the Pentagon’s TV propaganda program exposed in 2008, and the ways in which private interests covertly pay and control supposedly “independent political commentators” to participate in our public debates and shape public opinion.

*************

Long version, released by WikiLeaks (39:14):

UPDATE: Mr. Assange made a handful of appearances on TV throughout the day. Here’s his appearance on RT, discussing the encryption of the video, the U.S. military Rules of Engagement and the content in the video (7:19):

Comments
  1. [...] and the deliberate procedural red-tape of receiving authorization for engagement in the videotaped massacre released by WikiLeaks is that neither of these are freak occurrences. Indiscriminate murder by the U.S. government has [...]

  2. [...] Today at Democracy Now!, Glenn Greenwald of Salon and WikiLeaks editor Julian Assange, made points on analyzing the recently released video showing U.S. soldiers indiscriminately firing on civilians in Iraq. [...]

  3. [...] footage from Iraq, taken from a U.S. military Apache helicopter in July 2007 as soldiers aboard it killed 12 people and wounded two children. The dead included two employees of the Reuters news agency: photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen and [...]

  4. [...] week, WikiLeaks, a website that posts materials provided by whistleblowers, released a classified U.S. military video depicting the 2007  indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen non-hostile people in the Iraqi suburb [...]

  5. [...] site Wikileaks”, they report. One of the videos reportedly leaked by him was the 2007 video of what’s been dubbed as the “West Baghdad Massacre”, where well over a dozen civilians—including a Reuters photojournalist—were gunned down [...]

  6. [...] the media was the 2007 video of what’s been dubbed as the “West Baghdad Massacre”, where well over a dozen civilians—including a Reuters photojournalist—were gunned down from a [...]

  7. [...] 95 children. The operation has been dubbed the “Garani Massacre”. Also among the media was the 2007 video of what’s been dubbed as the “West Baghdad Massacre”, where well over a dozen civilians—including a Reuters photojournalist—were gunned down from a [...]

  8. [...] U.S. Army intelligence analyst in Iraq kidnapped by the U.S. military for reportedly leaking the Collateral Murder video, the May 2009 Garani Massace in Afghanistan and a quarter-million diplomatic cables to [...]

  9. [...] published in April this year a previously suppressed classified video of U.S. Apache helicopters killing two Reuters cameramen on the streets of Baghdad, which gained international attention. A 22-year-old intelligence [...]

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