The “Full” WikiLeaks video

Gawker has a post up noting that 20 minutes of footage are missing from the 39-minute version of the WikiLeaks-released Army video depicting a 2007 aerial attack that killed two Reuters staffers, among others. (The post builds upon a catch made by the Jawa Report.)

Gawker’s original post claims that WikiLeaks, which described the 39-minute tape as the “full version,” did the editing, and calls on the organization to cough up the rest:

To have edited this “full version” as they did, then, seems hypocritical at best. If they could release 39 minutes, why not include the extra half hour as well? Let’s see some transparency, Wikileaks.

But according to an update to Gawker’s post, WikiLeaks spokesperson Julian Assange is quoted saying that what his organization has been describing as the “full tape” was received by WikiLeaks already missing this section.

Using written records from the the Army’s contemporaneous investigation of the incident, Gawker demonstrates that it’s likely that this section of the tape captured incidents where the pilots showed far more restraint than in the portions we’ve seen.

This seems to be a worthwhile point to clear up, but in the end, I don’t see how it changes much. If the incidents depicted on the leaked portions are unmanipulated—and there’s no reason to suspect that they are anything else—they give an accurate representation of the most salient parts of what happened that day.

Taking Assange’s contention that WikiLeaks didn’t edit the 39-minute tape for granted, the obvious question is: Who did?

Gawker flatly says “their source did,” which is of course possible. But there’s an alternate scenario that seems at least equally possible to me. What if, in the course of the Army’s official contemporaneous investigation, a clip reel of 39-minutes was created, showing only the portions most needing investigation (in other words, the portions that came closest to breaking or did break international law or the Army’s rules of engagement)? Why bother watching and rewatching relatively-innocuous footage of pilots overflying Baghdad and deciding not to engage?

If such a cut down version was circulated internally, the leaker, whomever they were, may have only had access to it.

Either way, we’ll probably never know, but there are plenty of people besides the leaker who could have edited the video in the last three years.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.