A US soldier has been arrested in connection with the release of a classified video of a 2007 helicopter attack that killed a dozen people in Baghdad, including two Reuters news staff, the US military says.
Army Specialist Bradley Manning, 22, of Potomac, Maryland, who was deployed to Baghdad, is being held in pre-trial confinement in Kuwait, “for allegedly releasing classified information,” according to a US military statement. The statement did not provide details of the information in question but in an emailed response to a query, a US official confirmed that the case involved a US military videotape made public in April by WikiLeaks, a group that promotes the leaking of information to fight government and corporate corruption.
The gunsight video shows an attack by a US Apache helicopter on a group of men in a square in a Baghdad neighbourhood. The group included Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his assistant and driver, Saeed Chmagh, 40. “The Department of Defence takes the management of classified information very seriously because it affects our national security, the lives of our soldiers, and our operations abroad,” the US military statement said.
“The results of the investigation will be released upon completion of the investigation,” the statement said. Manning was deployed with the 2nd Brigade 10th Mountain Division, US officials said. The video, which included an audio track of conversation between the fliers, showed an aerial view of the men moving through the square. The helicopter opened fire on the group, killing several people and wounding others. A military spokesman said the helicopter crew mistook a camera for a rocket-propelled grenade launcher.
Minutes later, a van approached and began trying to assist the wounded. The fliers apparently became concerned that the vehicle was occupied by militants and fired on it. WikiLeaks said it obtained the video from military whistleblowers and had been able to view and investigate it after breaking an encryption code. Some international law and human rights experts say the helicopter crew may have acted illegally.
US Defence Secretary Robert Gates criticised WikiLeaks for releasing the video without providing any context. The US military has said an investigation shortly after the incident found that the US forces were unaware of the presence of news staff and thought they were engaging armed insurgents. Reuters editor-in-chief David Schlesinger in April called for a new investigation of the incident. Military officials said after the video’s release that they had no plans to reopen the investigation.