WikiLeaks Case Zooms In on Airstrike Video

     FT. MEADE, Md. (CN) – An official statement that the “Collateral Murder” video, leaked by Pfc. Bradley Manning, should have been unclassified may undermine the charge that it aided the enemy.
     The cockpit video was shot from an Apache helicopter during in Baghdad airstrike in which pilots gunned down about 12 civilians, including two Reuters employees: photographer Namir Noor-Edeen and Saeed Chmagh.
     WikiLeaks chief Julian Assange described the video as evidence of a “war crime.”
     The Pentagon’s investigation cleared the pilots by saying that they confused photographer’s cameras with guns.
     Reuters placed a Freedom of Information Act request to conduct its own investigation into the matter, but the military refused to provide the footage of the incident.
     In a public statement before trial, Manning testified that he learned about the video while he was stationed in Iraq as an intelligence specialist. He said he initially thought it was “war porn” when he saw fellow soldiers watching it, but that he became “troubled” by the comments of the pilots and crew as he listened closer.
     At one point, a pilot expressed hope that one of the wounded targets, Chmagh, would reach for a gun so that he would have an excuse to fire.
     “For me, this seems similar to a child torturing ants with a magnifying glass,” Manning said in his statement.
     He claimed that he knew Reuters wanted the video, and that he was going to send it to them directly before uploading to WikiLeaks.
     The military claims that this leak, and the roughly 700,000 other diplomatic and military files he disclosed, “aided the enemy.”
     To convict on this charge, prosecutors submitted testimony by Chief Warrant Officer 5 John Larue, an Army pilot with 22 years of experience.
     “The Apache video shows the high-action display,” La Rue said. “The high-action display shows the use of a laser for ranging, altitude and air speed. The laser also shows angles of engagement. The ranges and attack approaches are TTPs [tactics, techniques and procedures].”
     But Rear Admiral Kevin Donegan, who conducted the classification assessment for U.S. Central Command, found on Oct. 13, 2010, that the video should have been unclassified because it “provides no indicators of potential future operations, does not provide specific locations, unit data, TTPs, capabilities, or does not embarrass coalition members.”
     Donegan was the director of operations at Centcom, which was the custodian of the video.
     Prosecutors tried to suppress the evidence of his statement as irrelevant hearsay.
     On Thursday, the military judge, Col. Denise Lind, ruled that the remark passed muster as an “admission by a party-opponent,” and that she would consider it to assess whether the video was safe for release.
     Lind also took official notice that Reuters had submitted a FOIA for the footage, but Manning will have to prove that he was aware of this at trial.
     Although originally scheduled to run as long as 16 week, Pfc. Manning’s trial has sped along because both parties have agreed to enter testimony by dozens of witnesses into the record by stipulation, instead of calling them to the stand. More of these stipulations will be read into the record Thursday afternoon.
     The prosecution’s chase in chief could end as early as this week, and the defense’s case will follow.
     If convicted on any of the 22 counts against him, both parties will put on a sentencing case to determine what harm, if any, the leaks posed to U.S. security. Manning’s defense attorneys have promised to show internal documents showing that the alleged harm has been minimal, which they hope to use to fight against a potential sentence of life imprisonment.

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