Small Wars Journal

Is WikiLeaks a Security Threat?

Video of Iraqi Journalists' Killings: Is WikiLeaks a Security Threat? - Peter Grier, Christian Science Monitor.

A 2008 report by the U.S. Army suggests that WikiLeaks, which on Tuesday published a video that shows U.S. forces apparently killing two Iraqi journalists, could be a threat to national security. The website has released sensitive information in the past, the report notes.

The U.S. military has been warily watching for several years the group that released on Monday a graphic video showing a US helicopter apparently killing two Iraqi journalists from Reuters in a Baghdad suburb in 2007., the organization in question, is a small nonprofit dedicated to publishing classified information from around the world. In 2008, a classified report from the Army Counterintelligence Center judged that WikiLeaks "represents a potential force protection, counterintelligence, operational security (OPSEC) and information security (INFOSEC) threat to the U.S. Army." ...

More at The Christian Science Monitor and:

Leaked Video Shows U.S. Attack in Iraq that Allegedly Killed Journalists - VOA

Video Shows U.S. Killing of Reuters Employees - New York Times

Leaked Footage Shows Iraq Journalists Killed by U.S. Gunships - The Times

Military Shooting of Reuters Men Online - The Australian

Calls for Inquiry into Attack on Iraqi Civilians - Daily Telegraph

Iraqi Journalists Want Probe of Taped U.S. Shooting - Associated Press

Iraq Video Brings Notice to a Web Site - New York Times

'Collateral Murder' in Baghdad Anything But - Weekly Standard

N.Y. Times, Weekly Standard Join in a Falsehood - Salon

Why "COIN for Aviators" is so Important - Wings Over Iraq

U.S. Army Killings in Iraq: Collateral Murder? - Captain's Journal

The Wikileaks Video - Blackfive

Discuss at Small Wars Council - SWC discussion thread



Thu, 04/08/2010 - 1:24am

Almost every sentence that you wrote is either irrelevant, incorrect, or speculation masquerading as fact.

Outlaw 7 (not verified)

Thu, 04/08/2010 - 12:14am

There is confusion with the video footage as it is clear to the observer that;

1. a number of the individuals were actually walking around UNARMED--AK47s and especially RPGs a relative easy to see being carried---most insurgents working Baghdad at that time (both Shia and Sunni) carried the RPG with a loaded round ready to be able to instantly fire at a target-once fired they would pull back into a building, side of a building or alley way to reload---none of that is present in the video that I can see.

2. it is apparent from the audio that a number of conversations are ongoing (between ground elements and ground elements and the AWTs) and personally it appears that the gunner is not separating the conversations in the excitement to shoot targets---remember AWTs like to go home having shot at targets!

3. from the vehicle appearing---again no apparent weapons seen---no clear ID that the vehicle was on a BOLO list, or ground elements had observed weapons in the vehicle---CLEAR violation of the ROE at the time

Personally think the AWTs were not observing the actual shooting event on the ground that the ground elements are seeing---that in fact there were civilians nearby and the AWTs simply thought they were what the ground elements were talking about.

Having interrogated a large number of Iraqi's in 2005 and 2006 I would often ask them why they would run when our troops appeared---standard answer you guys have the big guns and we always watch for them and then try to get out of the way---that explains why some people ran into the buildings and or where milling around trying to see what was going on around them.

MAYBE just MAYBE we should think and understand what it was like being an Iraqi caught in shootouts anywhere in Iraq from 2005 thru 2008.

Sorry to say I do not take the pilots view on this one---a really bad EOF if one asks me--but now one heck of a really great recruiting tool in the hands of say the Taliban.

I need to view the video again before I pass judgement (caveat).

Towards the end of the long version of the video, it looks like the pilots decide to fire a pair of hellfire missiles (two seperate passes) into a building that houses insurgents. However, you see a number of people walking in and around the building (on the first pass) that aren't armed. You also see a few people run into the building after the first missile impacts--presumably to see if anyone was in the building? As they go into the building, a second Hellfire strikes. I kind of want to watch that portion of the video again, as it still kind of confuses me.

motorfirebox (not verified)

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 2:59pm

The van is arguable, but there had been reports of insurgents using similar vehicles picking up and dropping off insurgents. It seems like it was a viable target, to me.

What is the issue with the hellfire strike?

I need to go back and watch the video of the Hellfire strike at the end of the "full" version of the video. That one still puzzles me.

I don't have a huge issue with the death of the journalists, per se--I could see how they were mistaken for armed insurgents. I have a bigger issue with the van and the final Hellfire strike.

motorfirebox (not verified)

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 9:02am

I really fail to see what the big deal is with this video. As far as I can tell, it doesn't show anything that clashes with the official report. The only discrepancy I can see is that it apparently calls the kids in the van "insurgents". But to be honest, it's not like anybody's paying much attention to the kids anyway--all the buzz is about the journalists.

BK (not verified)

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 6:55am

Wikileaks is not a security risk. The people who give them information are the security risk. Wikileaks is no different than any capable investigative journalist. They just happen to focus on these things more than most and provide a convenient website.

I do, however, object to the editorializing of the leak. You want to show the AWT video and let people decide what is or is not appropriate, that is one thing. But the comments added by Wikileaks were politicized and pre-interpreted what was going on in the video. Again, this is no different from what a journalist would likely do but that's what I find objectionable.

Sadly, it looks like the DoD, or the government on whole, has completely dropped the ball on this and is unlikely to address the issue at all. This should really be a measure of the effectiveness of our strategic communications gurus to seize this opportunity to show what the real video showed in context (where were the US troops that were being overwatched, what was the state of violence at this point, how many helicopters had been engaged/shot down in this part of Baghdad at this point.) As has been shown time and again (think Rodney King) video of an event is not the whole story, context is critical. But days have passed now and it doesn't look like anyone but a few on-line posters is making any effort to put events into context.

I was *there* (same AO, different job, different dangers) but can't talk to what threat these particular aviators were facing or what threat they thought was being posed to the ground forces they were supporting. That's where someone in the know should speak, on the record, about the situation and present the video in context. If there was an investigation afterward, that should be disclosed. I'm not saying its going to change the tragedy that occurred or even justify what happened, but context needs to be used to help the public understand what is going on and not allow Wikileaks to set the agenda.


Chicken Little (not verified)

Wed, 04/07/2010 - 6:53am

Can anyone describe the ROE at the time of this incident? I'm certain that the engagement criteria has changed. 2007 was still in the heart of the SHIA backlash, if I'm not mistaken, and AWT would have looser criteria at that time as opposed to now.

The Sky Never Falls,
But there is a chance it will rain bullets.


Wed, 04/07/2010 - 2:48am

No love.

I think the real issue for discussion is the procedures in place. Should an AWT be able to decide to kill someone even if there is no belief that the individuals pose an immediate threat?

The web is abuzz with nonsense and wild speculation. It is pointless.