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Encryption The Media The Military United States

How Did Wikileaks Do It? 973

Posted by timothy
from the you-can-post-anonymously-y'know dept.
grassy_knoll writes "Related to the Wikileaks video recently released and discussed here, the NY Times reports: 'Somehow — it will not say how — WikiLeaks found the necessary computer time to decrypt a graphic video, released Monday, of a United States Army assault in Baghdad in 2007 that left 12 people dead, including two employees of the news agency Reuters. The video has been viewed more than two million times on YouTube, and has been replayed hundreds of times in television news reports.' The article is light on details; what encryption algorithm was used? Was this a brute force attack? Did someone pass the decryption keys to Wikileaks along with the video? Something else?"
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How Did Wikileaks Do It?

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  • Re:maybe (Score:2, Informative)

    by Jazz-Masta (240659) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:09PM (#31765010)

    they got it unencrypted

    Or, like every password in the world, the decryption keys were on a post-it note that the submitter passed along with the video.

    It's the digital equivalent of putting your car keys in the visor.

  • Re:maybe (Score:5, Informative)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:10PM (#31765050)
    exactly.

    It was in December [slashdot.org] when we learned that much of US Military video is actually not encrypted at all.
  • Bruteforce (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:13PM (#31765096)

    Wikileak Editor said clearly that they did it via bruteforce password guessing here:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7QEdAykXxoM [youtube.com]

    Presumably someone was able to grab a copy of the encrypted file, but didn't know the password?

  • by phantomcircuit (938963) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:14PM (#31765124) Homepage

    I cannot imagine that they actually decrypted the video. If it was encrypted it would have been FIPS-140-2 compliant. None of the approved ciphers on the FIPS-140-2 could be cracked in the four months since the twitter post.

    Either that or someone royally fucked up the encryption...

  • There should be a "submit" in there somewhere.
  • Re:First goatse (Score:2, Informative)

    by biryokumaru (822262) <biryokumaru@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:23PM (#31765264)
    Rule 34.
  • by jmichaelg (148257) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:27PM (#31765328) Journal

    http://www.google.com/patents?id=NBKaAAAAEBAJ&printsec=abstract&zoom=4#v=onepage&q&f=false [google.com]

    They had to kill Michael Uy after the patent was filed so he wouldn't tell anybody about it. RIP Michael. Excuse me, someone is knocking on my do

  • by Dachannien (617929) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:33PM (#31765416)

    In that case, you might be interested in this article [foxnews.com] in which a Fox News reporter talks to one of the Wikileaks editors associated with the release of this video. That editor states that it appears that one of the people killed in the video was carrying an AK-47 while another was carrying an RPG, even though Wikileaks neglected to include this in their commentary on the video.

    I know, I know, this is Slashdot, and dishing on Fox News is the most effective form of karma-whoring. Have at it, folks. Nevertheless, the substance of the article calls into question the veracity of (and the motives behind) the video and commentary.

  • by Andy Dodd (701) <atd7&cornell,edu> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:35PM (#31765468) Homepage

    Depends on if "decrypted" means "figured out the key" or just "we took a provided key and used it".

  • by kgo (1741558) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:36PM (#31765482) Homepage

    Most asymmetric encryption schemes use hybrid encryption. The RSA key encrypts the randomly generated session key. So if you're only trying to crack a single document, and not a person's actual key so you can access any document encrypted to that key, you can bypass the RSA key and brute force the session key. That could be something like 128 bit CAST5 or 3DES, which still shouldn't be easily crackable, but the complexity of that attack won't change no matter how big the RSA key is.

  • You know what's funny about that opinion piece? It is wrong. That is NOT an RPG, those are NOT AK-47s. I can understand why someone would think so, but they are obviously not, I know a telephoto lensed camera profile when I see one. Also since when does embedding yourself with a group, as a reporter, make YOU an enemy combatant? I reported on a group of local homeless crack users in HS, does that make ME a homeless crack head? I would also like to ask, when has reporting on a CRIME committed by armed forces made you anti-American? Not to mention that you have to be attacked or protecting US Forces under attack to engage an enemy group according to the US Rules of Engagement, violating those rules IS in fact a crime under military law. Also if you listen you will hear the pilot lie, saying they were under RPG fire, he said this AFTER practically begging for permission to shoot. So, where is this RPG? Watch the video again, carefully, before you show yourself to be an even bigger idiot than they guy who posted the above article.
  • Re:Wikileaks = Enemy (Score:3, Informative)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:42PM (#31765610)

    I hope they find out who did it, determine their motivations and the trade-offs that have resulted from their actions, and then decide whether to honor them or execute them.

    Leaking a document does not necessarily translate into casualties or hardship for anyone, especially when the classification level is merely a pretext for a cover-up. Clearly the law can hide injustice or protect those of ill intent.

    At the same time, simply Standing up to The Man is not sufficient justification to break the law. Like it or not, military classification does have a purpose, and if you are an outsider, some very good reasons for the classification level will not be apparent to you. Data that has nothing to do with the actual content of the video, such as the capabilities of the weapons systems, or the general operating area of the units involved can be determined from some video evidence. There is always the possibility that while you might be righting an injustice, you could at the same time be consigning other people in the field to their deaths with the very same action. The two end results are not mutually exclusive with the release of classified material.

    So, if you are planning to be a "hero", consider very carefully the total result of your actions. For my part, until I know about the leaker and their position and motivations, my opinion is decidedly out on whether they have done good with this action.

  • by ravenshrike (808508) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:46PM (#31765686)

    On the 17 minute video posted on Youtube, during seconds 3:45-6 you can clearly see someone separate from the two journos with an RPG-7 launcher. It's not a tripod or a camera, those were carried by other people.

  • Re:Not true (Score:4, Informative)

    by HeckRuler (1369601) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:50PM (#31765768)
    Well the long video I saw on wikileaks shows the infantry talking about an RPG round under a body. The helicopter pilot/gunner also claims to spot someone with an RPG at the very beginning, but the hell if I can see it.

    Didn't watch the short video, they might have cut the infantry out altogether. But it's hard to claim selective editing when, you know, the uncut version is presented as well.
  • Re:OpenSSL Salted__ (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:56PM (#31765866)

    If those links are legit, it's probably OpenSSL with the 8 bytes of salt included. So you just have to brute force the password with the given salt. You don't even have to decrypt the whole file - do the first 16 bytes or so and look for a legit file header. I doubt they stripped the header. Send the first 16 bytes to a file identification tool or something like VLC so you don't have to even program that part.

    I don't think this is revealing any secrets any idiot could have found on his own - they needed supercomputer time (or something equivalent) to brute-force it, just like everyone's reporting. I'm an idiot and I found it.

    http://juliusdavies.ca/commons-ssl/pbe.html [juliusdavies.ca]

    Why do the encrypted files always start with "Salted__" ("U2FsdGVkX1" in base64)? Isn't giving away information like this insecure?

    The encrypted files must always start with "Salted__" to interoperate with OpenSSL. OpenSSL expects this. The 8 bytes that spell "Salted__" are always immediately followed by another random 8 bytes of salt. The encrypted stream starts at the 17th byte. This way, even if you use the same password to encrypt 2 different files, the actual secret keys used to encrypt these 2 files are very different.

  • by Talderas (1212466) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @02:59PM (#31765940)

    Well, I read the report by the investigating officer. Where he identifies RPGs, also images taken after the fact verified the RPG. You can read the report from this PDF http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/images/04/06/6--2nd.brigade.combat.team.15-6.investigation.pdf [turner.com]

  • by pgdave (1774092) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:02PM (#31766010)
    The camera with long lens looks like a camera with a long lens. In the panic of war, it might look like an RPG to someone who wants to see an RPG. We know that they were civilians becase we can see what the gunner saw. We can see without a shadow of doubt that the 'ambulance' driver was unarmed. We can see that the wounded photographer was unarmed. We can see the time the bullets took to get to the target, which indicate that, at Gatling gun speeds, the helicopter is about 1km away. We can hear the guy desperate to kill the wounded photographer. We can hear the gunner lying to the base about the shots being fired, about there being more than 1 or 2 armed men, about the ambulance 'picking up bodies' It's not an offence to bear arms in Iraq- all sorts of bodyguards do it. (where have I heard that before?) We can read the lies that the US forces issued the next day. It's a bit more than 'some classified information' It shows that the US forces are a) over-brutalised b) incapable of performing a police action in a busy city.
  • Re:Wikileaks = Enemy (Score:2, Informative)

    by b0ttle (1332811) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:05PM (#31766074)
    I hope in the future you don't get murdered after your country is arbitrariously invaded.
  • Re:How ironic... (Score:5, Informative)

    by MartinSchou (1360093) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:10PM (#31766192)

    That is an incorrect way of citing. You make it sound like it was written by Jack Nicholson himself. You either cite the author (Mark Andrus) or the character (Melvin Udall) - not the actor.

    After all, you wouldn't write

    "To be or not to be, that is the question" - Alfred Ryder

    And if we really want to nit pick - from the trivia page on IMDB:

    Udall's response to the question about how he writes women is an actual response given by author John Updike when asked the same question.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:13PM (#31766264)

    "Why did they not react to the presence of US military helicopters?"

    Apache Helicopters fire upon their targets from literally miles away. That's why they're such fearsome weapons of shock and awe. They pop up, fire off several rounds from a long distance, and before the sound of the gunfire even reaches the intended target, the rounds have already struck. The sound follows.

    For proof of the above, watch the video again. You hear the gunfire (relatively) long before the shots hit home, because the audio is being recorded from within the cockpit. Now, if you figure, it takes about 1-1.5 seconds between the sound of the shot and the actual strike, and the 30mm rounds are travelling between 5300 and 6000 feet per second. This means the Apache is 1.1 to 1.6 miles away when those rounds were fired. This is certainly a large enough distance to mask or entirely hide the sound of the rotors' rotation. The individuals had no idea the helicopters even existed.

    I'm not passing judgment on the video either way. I am, however, answering your question.

  • by rwade (131726) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:15PM (#31766296)

    First of all, they do identify the lens that goes around the corner as an RPG:

    He ducks behind this building. Then a few seconds later he sees someone down on the ground with something that looks like it could be an RPG.

    Could that be the Reuters photojournalist with a long lense? [sic] Maybe. But from what the pilot is seeing the man seems like a threat. In war you eliminate threats.

    "Jawa Report" is biased toward the war-fighter. They have no reason to believe that the lens is an RPG -- they assume that the warfighter is correct. It is plainly not an RPG.

    Second of all:

    This screenshot is at 3:35. This guy is definitely carrying a weapon. In motion it looks like it might be a rifle, but from the profile angle snapped below it looks like an RPG.

    A few seconds later at 3:50 he puts the weapon down. The weapon is long enough that it's comes up well beyond his waist and it certainly has the width of an RPG. Or at least from this angle it looks that way.

    I think it looks like a rifle. They are biased toward the viewpoint of the war fighter -- they trust his judgment even though they have no reason to believe that that looks like an RPG at all.

    I think what is more important is the following statement:

    Let alone embed with the enemy. Whatever happened to the good old fashioned military pool reporter? Alas, gone out with the era of the dinosaurs and when "supporting the troops" actually meant, you know, supporting the troops.

    "Jawa Report" does not believe it is healthy to question the troops as long as they're killing people that Jawa thinks are terrorists, which is any random person with a guy in Baghdad, apparently. They are about supporting whatever efforts the military determines on its own are necessary.

    That's fine if that's their approach, but to suggest that these guys are journalists and that this posts offers facts about what happened is allowing them to take the wheel and drive. I think that Americans are owed the opportunity to see with our own eyes what we're doing/what we did over there.

    After all, if we're doing the right thing, why hide it?

  • Re:maybe (Score:3, Informative)

    by pixelpusher220 (529617) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:20PM (#31766376)
    It's not experimental tech. The drones are live and working right now.

    The point is that the video (not this case but generally) is relayed up and down from drones to support units to troops on the ground and unless every node can handle the encryption, no encryption is the only way to guarantee universal access.

    I believe the decision was made because getting new hardware out to every unit in the field was simply a non-starter of an option. It's hard enough to upgrade a corporate wide environment - now put the nodes in remote inaccessible locations under hostile conditions and that really gets tricky. Imagine the uproar if a unit hadn't yet received new gear, they were ambushed because the helo overhead couldn't show them where the enemy was coming from?
  • by Wyatt Earp (1029) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:32PM (#31766618)

    It is not against the Geneva Conventions to fire cannon from an aircraft against people on the ground.

    The Hague Convention of 1923 would have covered it, but it wasn't adopted.
    http://wwi.lib.byu.edu/index.php/The_Hague_Rules_of_Air_Warfare [byu.edu]

    The same caliber weapons were used on vehicles against infantry
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-propelled_anti-aircraft_weapon [wikipedia.org]

    "On occasion SPAAGs have been used as very effective direct fire weapons against infantry, for example by American forces during late World War II, in Korea against mass infantry assault, and extensively during the Vietnam War, where for example the U.S. M42 Duster SPAAG (based on a light tank) was employed purely for this purpose."

    This might cover what you are talking about

    1980 United Nations Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons Which May be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to Have Indiscriminate Effects (CCW)

    But the M-1 tank has an anti-personal round and that is a 120mm gun.

    M1028 120 mm anti-personnel canister cartridge was brought into service early for use in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion of Iraq. It contains 1,098 38-inch (9.5 mm) tungsten balls which spread from the muzzle to produce a shotgun effect lethal out to 600 meters (2,000 ft). The tungsten balls can be used to clear enemy dismounts, break up hasty ambush sites in urban areas, clear defiles, stop infantry attacks and counter-attacks and support friendly infantry assaults by providing covering fire. The canister round is also a highly effective breaching round and can level cinder block walls and knock man-sized holes in reinforced concrete walls for infantry raids at distances up to 75 meters (246 ft).

  • by MartinSchou (1360093) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:34PM (#31766650)

    It's not that hard.

    All you need to do is build a hardware unit that runs at 5 GHz, can test a million keys per clock cycle, embed them into every cellphone on the planet (4,100,000,000 [wikipedia.org]), have all of them work on the problem at once and wait 526,006,236 years [google.com].

    Easy as pi.

  • Re:Not true (Score:5, Informative)

    by thepainguy (1436453) <thepainguy@gmail.com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:35PM (#31766690) Homepage
    I posted the relevant frames here...

    - Apache Attack Analysis [chrisoleary.com]

    One shows an AK-47 and the other shows the RPG that was found at the scene.

    The presence of an RPG at the scene was confirmed on NPR by a Washington Post reporter who was in the neighborhood.
  • by Jephir (1379751) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:37PM (#31766722) Homepage

    And, where is the raw video? The timestamps are almost unreadable, it's obviously been reduced in size and re-encoded. Wikileaks put it into a boxed frame with titles and subtitles. The MP4 they provided is larger but is still blurry and obviously not the source video. Why are they not leaking that???

    The raw video is here: http://collateralmurder.com/file/CollateralMurder_full.mp4.torrent [collateralmurder.com]

  • by Liquidrage (640463) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:39PM (#31766786)
    http://blog.ajmartinez.com/2010/04/05/wikileaks-collateral-murder/ [ajmartinez.com] Their bias isn't a good thing. You may or may not agree with their opinions on this one particular case. But apparently they are not wikileaks. They are OpEdLinks. And that isn't good. We can draw our own conclusions. The military in this video acted poorly, but they didn't realize they were firing on civilians. Maybe wikileaks can decrypt some other military videos where the military didn't engage because they were afraid of harming civilians and they call got blown up because of it. Right? What would wikileaks call that website? You know as well as I do they wouldn't touch it because it's not up their agenda, I mean, alley.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @03:48PM (#31766950)

    I have the misfortune of working with classified material. A lot of it is pretty boring, particularly out of context. That being said, certain people who may be aware of the context, may glean extremely valuable information from it.

    It's really easy for some random Wikileaks editor to look at a video and say "There's no reason for that to have been classified!" but the simple fact is that they know next to nothing about the circumstances surrounding the video and have no business deciding whether or not it needs to be classified.

  • by bersl2 (689221) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @04:00PM (#31767212) Journal

    Do note that WikiLeaks spent real money to send real journalists to the actual Iraq to speak to real eyewitnesses and the very children who survived the attack. This was part of the verification process, and I do not see why this additional information gathered to provide context to the video should not also be used to voice some sort of opinion about the ongoing injustices that happen as part of wars. We civilians, removed from the locus of this conflict, tend to marginalize the innocent victims in our own personal evaluations of the war.

    FWIW, I don't think that the pilots should ever be punished harshly at this point, as they likely were indeed operating within rules of engagement, as the military concluded. The root cause of the errors lies farther up the chain of command.

    Also, remember that this is also about the CYA actions on the part of the military. If they had told Reuters, "Hey, our guys seriously fucked up," and perhaps paid the families of the journalists restitution (which would be the least they could do to somehow attempt to make right), and made significant changes to the rules of engagement, it wouldn't be quite as bad. But of course, this is probably not an isolated incident, and Wikileaks has footage of something in Afghanistan IIRC.

    And again, they need money to operate. There is enough of a PR component in all of this that one might consider whether money potentially derived through increased exposure played a factor in this. If so, that's one hell of a calculated gamble.

  • by jnaujok (804613) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @04:01PM (#31767228) Homepage Journal
    If they don't wish to be targets, they should be wearing a designated fluorescent press vest, specifically issued to journalists in Iraq to prevent exactly what happened here. Because they were not wearing this identification, they became part of the group of insurgents. Insurgents in Iraq often use cameras to take pictures of their attacks for propaganda purposes.

    The pictures recovered from their cameras show that they were sitting one block from a group of vehicles that were under small arms fire. The perfect place from which to launch an RPG attack. The cameraman was even found lying on top of an RPG round. All that can be found in the report and sworn statements of the soldiers who came on scene.
  • OK (Score:2, Informative)

    by geekoid (135745) <dadinportland AT yahoo DOT com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @04:12PM (#31767394) Homepage Journal

    A) It reveals military tactics
    B) It reveals military hardware capability.
    C) It reveals location and power of the military ins a specific location.

    D)To people trained to watch for it, it reveals a lot.

    One of the thing it reveals is how it's been edited a specific way, and it reeks of propaganda. The way ti was released, further details, it's reception in other countries.

  • Re:It was leaked. (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @04:22PM (#31767570)

    Indeed. My experience with the military (of my own country, not the U.S.) and their use of encryption is that it not as straightforward as simply using a GnuPG and a password. The gear we used was basically a field radio connected to a black box into which we fed the keys (hexadecimal IIRC, this was years ago) and transmitted text messages, it's specialized hardware and it doesn't exactly say BLOWFISH, RSA or AES on the box and you can't exactly pick one of these boxes up at a nearby electronics store. It would probably take time just to figure out what algorithm was used, the format/encoding of the information and how to play it back if you don't have access to the same hardware as the military uses. I'm pretty sure it used a symmetric cipher though but nowhere on the box is this confirmed by any kind of sticker or some such, and being the geek that I am I was really curious and looked for one. I have no idea how they handle keys either, who handles them or there are any procedures or time limited expiration on them.

    To summarize, your point is spot on. I'm not even slightly surprised it took them time to even figure out certain data was unencrypted, because, while I'm sure the military implementations of encyption devices are sound, they're still very funky compared to what most of us /. geeks are accustomed to.

  • Re:Not true (Score:5, Informative)

    by tha_mink (518151) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @04:40PM (#31767864)

    I've watched the video and I'm sorry but I thought those were weapons in their hands as well. RPG and AK's in a zone that you are trying to clear out? Check. Light 'em up. The guys shooting were wrong about the weapons and that sucks. The real issue here is the verification of danger. Of course when you unleash a force to stop all other potential force, people are going end up killing each other.

    Maybe. But the van? That was a guy helping an unarmed wounded man. Firing on that guy was against the law. Plain and simple. Geneva conventions and UN conventions. You can't shoot unarmed wounded people who pose no risk to you. Not to mention people that come to their aid.

  • by BobMcD (601576) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @04:47PM (#31767952)

    But as for the van: everyone on the radio is clear that the van is picking up wounded. Very seriously wounded. Permission to fire was still asked for, and still given. Why? Even if everyone involved was 100% convinced those were bad guys, why?

    The Apache crew lied about the van. Just plain lied.

    "Yeah Bushmaster we have a van that's approaching and picking up the bodies" - lie. The van hadn't yet even stopped. No one had picked up anything whatsoever when this was radioed into the man making the firing decisions.

    "...possibly picking up bodies and weapons..." - lie. They never got within 15 feet of where the alleged weapons were blown to smithereens by the 30 mil fire.

    So the permission to engage was based on a falsehood. The Apache team depicted the van as belonging to the same group of individuals, and as attempting to some how hide what had happened, or something.

    Further it seems that Bushmaster Seven was assuming they would disable the truck. They did a hell of a lot more than that. They actively pursued every moving person with rounds, trying to kill as many as possible.

    This clearly did not meet with the minimum necessary force guideline within the Rules of Engagement, and it seems that Bushmaster Seven was checking to see if they had successfully disabled the truck.

    There clearly should have been punishment attached to this event.

  • by Verunks (1000826) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @04:54PM (#31768068)

    Nobody in the group had RPGs or anything that looked remotely like them.

    Did you even watch the video?

    Did you? I saw nothing that made the group that was attacked look like anything but civilians. Tell me at what point in the video you saw an RPG, and I'll see if I can spot it.

    here http://sadpanda.us/images/116326-7WCUVOZ.gif [sadpanda.us]

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @05:32PM (#31768524)

    The military investigation that followed this event found that there were no AK-47s and no RPGs, just cameras with long lenses.

    So what you can "clearly see" is refuted by the actual investigation carried out by the people that did this and had access to the bodies on the ground..

  • Re:maybe (Score:4, Informative)

    by _Sprocket_ (42527) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @05:56PM (#31768864)

    It begs the question: Why the frak are we is that place anyways?

    Over 10 years ago, it was apparent that Saddam Hussein had to be removed from power. However, doing so by force would lead to a whole mess of issues (many of which we're dealing with now). So Saddam was left in power but the deck was stacked against him maintaining power. Unfortunately, Saddam is an amazingly resilient and ruthless leader - surviving internal attempts to unseat him. Furthermore, the US was uncomfortable with supporting the Shia element due to possible ties with Iran. And the Kurds were rather happy in their own virtually autonomous state. And so the problem continued without resolution. During that time there were elections, changes in power, and political scandals that continued to delay external action.

    Terrorism was a nice little excuse to re-visit the problem. But by then, I have to wonder if any plans that had been made back in the "new world order" days were current enough to invoke. It sure didn't look like it post-invasion.

  • Re:occam's razor (Score:4, Informative)

    by jnaujok (804613) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @06:14PM (#31769072) Homepage Journal
    Maximum effective range of RPG: ~1000m

    Distance to humvee that Apache was providing air support for: ~100m

    These are pictures (the last ones on the "roll") from the reporter's camera:

    2nd BCT Investigation [scribd.com] (Go to page 41 of 43)
  • by pbhj (607776) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @07:47PM (#31770150) Homepage Journal

    You mean the guy turning around at 3:45 in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5rXPrfnU3G0#t=3m40s [youtube.com] doesn't have an RPG? Look at http://mypetjawa.mu.nu/archives/201889.php [mypetjawa.mu.nu], still believe that.

    That guy is now behind that wall (ie they have cover WRT the convoy) where the photog is crouching taking a picture of an allied APC (http://www.scribd.com/doc/29487634/Centcom-FOIA?page=41 ; possible it seems for bragging rights later). If I were wanting to blow that up I'd crouch by the wall for cover to observe then move and fire - the pilots appear to believe the armed men are going to fire imminently and clearly become urgent to remove the threat.

    The pilots urgency is warranted IMO. The helicopters were called in as support, they are supporting and taking out an active threat in the process of targeting allied vehicles - if they weren't doing that then they'd be covering a medevac a minute or so later.

    The insurgents don't react to the presence of the two helicopters as they are about 2000m or so away, observe the delay between the helo firing (sound) and the impact of the bullets in the video's view. Also note at one point one of the helo pilots states he lacks a shot due to wall cover and the other that he has a low azimuth warning preventing weapons firing. In short they are at distance and flying low.

  • by phantasmagoric (1626559) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @07:54PM (#31770210)
    Watch the full video 38 min not 17 min! It shows a lot more than the propaganda that wikileaks wants you to hear. From the times article

    "The site is not shy about its intent to shape media coverage, and Mr. Assange (the founder) said he considered himself both a journalist and an advocate; should he be forced to choose one, he would choose advocate.

    First of all, you hear the soldiers on the ground talk about finding a live RPG shell, along with AK-47s at the site. Second, the helicopter was not 1km away, there were two copters, which explains why the sound of firing doesn't always match up with the flashes on the ground from the bullets. Thirdly, it was not an ambulance, it was basically a taxi. Who he was helping is up for debate. And finally, most importantly, the US military had been under fire early that day; the helicopter was providing support to the ground troops

  • Re:occam's razor (Score:2, Informative)

    by oopsdude (906146) <oopsdude&gmail,com> on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @08:23PM (#31770488)

    Were the pilots a bit gung-ho? Yes, they were. That's how you get a soldier past the fact that they're chopping up other human beings. It's a part of soldiering.

    Apparently they've gotten past the fact they're chopping up civilians, too. I wish that every soldier felt their heart ripped out every time they opened fire on another human; their only solace coming from a gut-deep knowledge that such an atrocity had to be done. Mindless murder is not a part of soldiering; soldering simply attracts the sort of people who enjoy mindless murder. And those people should be thrown out of boot camp before being ever handed a weapon.

    As for the van? Once again, you miss the context. Insurgents in Iraq often arrived in vans to collect wounded, weapons, and ammo to make any dead appear to be innocent civilians. This was well known to the Apache pilot, the gunner, and their chain of command.

    I was unaware that making the U.S. Army look bad was justification for murder.

    They didn't just "fire wildly" at the van. If you listen to the unedited video, they repeatedly ask their chain of command for a clear to fire. Their commanders were watching the video from two Apache helicopters and a UAV and made the decision that this appeared to be an insurgent group retrieving their wounded and weapons, and gave the order to fire.

    Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions bans the killing of medical personnel who are treating the wounded and bans "killing those who no longer pose a threat due to their injuries". (http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2010/04/the-wikileaks-video-and-the-rules-of-engagement.html). The van is obviously a makeshift ambulance, even to those in the chopper. They never, ever even try to claim that the van is a threat. Yet they're practically begging for permission to fire on it!

    The two men who attempt to load the guy into the van came from the same place the other insurgents had come from, not from the van itself. The guy in the van clearly knew who they were, knew he was in a combat zone (watch him trying to move the van to line it up for a getaway once they were loaded, almost running one of them over) and he made the choice to be there and to put his kids in danger.

    "Coming from the same place" is not positive identification of an enemy combatant. And the fact that kids were in the van signifies he never expected a chopper to fire on a van picking up the wounded - mind you, the chopper only fires after the driver has started dragging one of the wounded by the shoulders.

    Once the soldiers arrive, they continue to come under small arms fire, even while trying to rescue the wounded. It's a war, hard decisions are made, and "under fire" doesn't necessarily mean they're shooting at you but it could mean your friends are taking fire.

    So if your friends are taking fire at location A, you can fire at a makeshift ambulance at location B. It all makes sense now.

  • Re:supercomputer (Score:5, Informative)

    by mjwx (966435) on Wednesday April 07, 2010 @09:58PM (#31771146)

    I'm probably on the other side of the fence on this - I support the actions of the troops in the helicopter and on the ground, and think they made the correct decision given what they knew - and I'll agree with that. Knowledge is always better than ignorance.

    Ummm... the Helecoper crew or the people on the ground were not in any actual danger, they were well outside the range of any Russian made shoulder launched missile.

    What did they have to lose by not verifying the target.

    Many apologists are whitewashing this with the "right decision at the time" BS when it was clearly not the right decision either in hindsight or at the time. The crew had to real impetus to act, in fact the audio indicated that the crew simply wanted to kill something.

    In either case, shooting the people taking away the wounded is illegal under both international laws and US rules of engagement. There is no possible way to spin that into "the right decision at the time".

  • Re:Not true (Score:3, Informative)

    by commodoresloat (172735) * on Thursday April 08, 2010 @07:59PM (#31784464)

    True - and this was clearly a time to be a good Samaritan. There were no weapons being picked up, jackass.

  • Re:Not true (Score:3, Informative)

    by rdnetto (955205) on Friday April 09, 2010 @04:36AM (#31787156)

    This isn't the scene of an "accident." If police gun down an armed suspect and you run over to render aid, the police are going to detain you. If you pick up the weapon the armed suspect had the police are going to order you to drop it. If you don't, they will gun you down.

    Great. Show me exactly where they were given the opportunity to drop everything and surrender. Or do you consider it normal to be shot on without warning?

    There are times to be a good Samaritan and times to mind your own business.

    Only if you're a selfish jerk. I personally believe that you should *always* help someone in need, unless others are already attending to them (this includes placing them under arrest).

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