This morning at an event at the National Press Club, WikiLeaks screened a video depicting a missile strike on a van in Baghdad that killed a Reuters driver and photographer in 2007.
WikiLeaks is a non-profit supported entity that offers those with undisclosed documents and records a safe space for their anonymous dissemination.
Reuters editors were shown the video in an off the record briefing shortly after the killings, and the news agency reportedly filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the video, which apparently went unfilled.
Wikileaks promises to have the video more widely available this afternoon. In the meanwhile, its contents have been described by former New York Times reporter Jennifer 8. Lee, who saw the video at the conference and offered some tweets, including this one:
Wikileaks video offers unusual view of casual banter of attack pilots when killing people: “sweet” “look at that bitch go” “nice missile.”
This was not the video depicting a 2009 air strike in Afghanistan that may have killed approximately 100 civilians, which Lee reports WikiLeaks has but is not yet prepared to release.
In the run up to the release of this video, WikiLeaks principal Julian Assange claimed that his organization had come under “an aggressive US and Icelandic surveillance operation,” charges that CJR found the Icelandic media have been unable to substantiate. WikiLeaks later signaled it might no longer fully stand behind elements of the alleged surveillance stemming from the arrest of a Icelandic teenager who had volunteered with the site.
The WikiLeaks Twitter account offered this warning on March 23: “If anything happens to us, you know why: it is our Apr 5 film. And you know who is responsible.”
Further update: I’d like to warn you that this footage has a relatively tight field of vision, and is quite a bit more graphic than some bombs-bursting style aerial attack video you may have seen before. Also seems worth noting that the pilots, if WikiLeaks’s annotations are correct, confused the camera held by Namir Noor-Eldeen, the 22-year-old photographer killed that day, for an rocket propelled grenade.
Further update, #2: It also seems worth noting that the video credits a “Jenny Lee” for help with publicity. I’ve emailed Jennifer 8. Lee to see if it’s her.
Further update, #3: OK. Jennifer 8. Lee, in both an e-mail and a phone call, declined to comment for the record on whether or not she is the “Jenny Lee” noted in the credits.
Further update, #4: Just after 1pm, Jennifer 8. Lee acknowledged to CJR that she had helped WikiLeaks plan the roll out strategy, including working with YouTube to obtain an exemption for WikiLeaks to the site’s standard 10 minute video length limit. She added that she had not seen the video before this morning’s press conference.Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.