Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

'Collateral Murder'

According to a piece in The New Yorker, "No Secrets," in late March 2010, Julian Assange had removed himself to a rented house in Reykjavik, Iceland, dubbed "the Bunker," with some volunteers and a cluster of computers. They spent nearly a week holed up in the house, working around the clock readying video. Before the piece could be released it had to be unlocked and edited, and the sound had to be overlaid. Without subtitles, it would be hard for the viewers to discern everything that was being said, and it would be harder for people to understand what was happening on the screen.

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

The edit done, Assange flew to Washington, D.C., on April 5, where he presented the video at the National Press Club.

Wrote James Fallows of The Atlantic: "I can't pretend to know the full truth or circumstances of this. But at face value it is the most damaging documentation of abuse since the Abu Ghraib prison-torture photos."

The response was fast and furious: Lt. Col. Scott Bleichwehl, a spokesperson of the multinational forces in Baghdad, denied that the officers in the video were in the wrong. "There is no question that coalition forces were clearly engaged in combat operations against a hostile force," he said in a press conference. The U.S. maintained that it followed the rules of engagement in battlefield.

As the days wore on, members of the military defended the actions of the troops online, and pointed out correctly that the WikiLeaks video was tightly edited—highlighting the photographers, but not those nearby holding weapons. But Ethan McCord, who had been on the scene, rejected the explanations. He said: "If this video disgusts you, it should. It happens daily in Iraq. We need to bring the soldiers home now."

"The rules of engagement in 2007 when this happened," he said, "were that if you were threatened by anybody you were able to engage that person. Many soldiers felt threatened by the fact that you were looking at them, so they fired at anybody who was looking at them."


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