But I realize, as much as that happens in Iraq, it almost never gets photographed, and so I did realize I was onto an important set of pictures. I was also technically worried if I had anything at all because it was completely pitch dark, almost to the limits of what can be photographed, and I had the camera set in a way that lets in the maximum amount of light but often blurs photos, so I was worried that it would be a bunch of mush. So I played along with their casual attitude, because I didn’t want them to realize what I suspected: that this would be an important set of pictures that would go out a lot. I wasn’t saying, “What’s your name? What’s his name? What happened here?” I was just trying to photograph, and I was just trying to stay in the background — click-click quietly, didn’t say anything, didn’t offer up any opinion or anything. And then it’s, “We’re going now.” “All right, ready to go?” “Okay.”
They radioed ahead to the base about what had happened, and I met up with the major there on the base, an officer who ran it, and who probably knew a little better than these guys that what had happened out there could get out, that a journalist was along. So he calls me to his office as soon as I get back, and he says, “Pretty unfortunate what happened out there, Chris. We’re going to investigate, see what happened. We’d appreciate it if you held off on sending those photos for a couple of days, because we’re going to investigate, try to see if we can get to the bottom of what happened out there.” I want to get these photos out. Whether we send them on the news wire or not, that can be negotiated, but I need to get these back to New York before something happens. I mean, they have the capability to jam all communications from base, including my personal sat phone, but they don’t want me to send these photos out. Their base, one hundred percent their property, they’re the Army, they have no reason whatsoever not to confiscate my sat phone or jam communications to prevent me from sending the pictures. So I said, “Well, I have to talk to my boss, but yeah, I think we want to work with you there, Major. So I think we can probably do something like that, let me check but I think we’ll be okay.” And then I stepped out of the major’s office, ran back to my trailer, and flipped open my sat phone, got all the pictures and looked at them, and whoa, I couldn’t believe how much information was there. The pictures did come out. And I said, “Okay, send, send! Tone them up, tone them up, quickly, quickly, send, send, send!”
And I put on the captions: “Don’t send these out until you hear from me, until you hear from my boss” — Pancho Bernasconi is my boss. So I sent twenty pictures, and I got my Thuraya phone. I talked to Bernasconi and I said you better talk to this guy about what to do, and he said, “I’ll talk to him.” So I walked back over to the major’s office, but the major had gone to bed. And then there was a captain who I’d also talked to earlier, still up, and I said, “I have my boss on the phone, can you guys talk about …” and the captain, young sport, he said, “Yeah, okay, sure.” So they talked, and I heard them talking, and I heard his side. He said, “Well, we’d like to hold onto these photos. We’re asking you not to send them out for a few days so we can investigate … Uh-huh, uh-huh, uh-huh. Yeah, well, we wanted a little bit of time for us to get the investigation, uh-huh.” And I think what my boss was saying was, “Well, we’re a wire service, by the time we put them on our wire — but they won’t actually be in papers till a day or two, [or] maybe not — people use them or not, it just depends.” I heard that back and forth, and the captain said, “All right, well, I think we’ve come to an agreement” or something, and gave the phone back to me. So I went to bed.