Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Julian Assange and WikiLeaks

The July 2007 Iraq Video

It was the leak seen around the world.

On April 5, 2010, the Internet was abuzz. An 18-minute grainy black-and-white video shot in Iraq in July 2007, was on the minds and monitors of nearly every blogger, journalist and politico in the country. The video released was "the short version;" a longer, uncut version was over 34 minutes long and depicted members of the U.S. Army attacking and killing alleged insurgents from high above in Apache helicopters.

The clip opened with the George Orwell quote, "Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give the appearance of solidity to pure wind," before getting to the main event.

Though there was no blood or extreme close ups, many found the video disturbing due to the relaxed nature of the soldiers giving the orders to kill, and then shooting from afar, as if participating in a real-life video game.

Saeed Chmagh (left) and Namir Noor-Eldeen
Saeed Chmagh (left) and Namir
Noor-Eldeen

It turned out that the video was more than just another wartime action. The people fired on included two children, who were injured, civilians, and two Reuters news reporters: a photographer and his assistant, Saeed Chmagh and Namir Noor-Eldeen on assignment. The people they were with were not proven to be insurgents. And the weapon that Noor-Eldeen was holding which the American soldiers had identified, as a gun was merely a camera with a long lens.

"That's a weapon," said the soldier after spotting the photographers. "We have five to six individuals with AK-47s."

"We gotta a guy with an RPG! I'm gonna fire," said the solider, after seeing one of the photographers lay on the ground and look through his lense.

Though there were several men walking and holding weapons, they were not engaging or firing on anyone.

As the helicopter made its way around the building, the view of the men—about eight of them—standing around and talking on the phone was clear.

"Light 'em all up!" said the officer. "Keep shooting."

The Americans opened fire on the unsuspecting men. After hitting, but not killing, Saeed— who was crawling away from the scene for his life—they finished the job.

"Nice," one soldier congratulated the other, "Good shootin'."

The video only gets more horrifying, though. When a van comes to take the injured away, the soldiers open fire again and blast the van. Inside were two children who were injured. They were saved by nearby U.S. soldier Ethan McCord, who, later publicly denounced what had happened. In all, 12 people were killed.

Rescue Van loading wounded Chmagh before (left) and after shooting.
Rescue Van loading wounded Chmagh before (left) and after shooting.

The video was the handiwork of a covert organization called WikiLeaks, and though it had been around for over three years, for many, the video, dubbed "Collateral Murder," was, for much of the world, the initial introduction to a shadowy organization that soon revealed even bigger tricks up its sleeve. Over the coming months, WikiLeaks would release a series of explosive documents that would have one of its founders, and key figurehead, Julian Assange, on the run, wanted around the world.

 

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