News & Politics

Intelligence Agencies Allegedly Going to Extremes to Suppress Video Confirming Pentagon Massacre Cover-up

Disturbing allegations have surfaced around WikiLeaks' promise to release a video April 5 at the National Press Club confirming a war-time massacre.

Editor's Note:Wikileaks has released the video as promised with this note:

WikiLeaks has released a classified US military video depicting the indiscriminate slaying of over a dozen people in the Iraqi suburb of New Baghdad -- including two Reuters news staff. Reuters has been trying to obtain the video through the Freedom of Information Act, without success since the time of the attack. The video, shot from an Apache helicopter gun-site, clearly shows the unprovoked slaying of a wounded Reuters employee and his rescuers. Two young children involved in the rescue were also seriously wounded. For further information please visit the special project websitewww.collateralmurder.com.

On April 5, online truth and transparency advocate WikiLeaks.org plans to release at the National Press Club what it alleges is a video confirming a Pentagon cover-up of a wartime massacre of civilians and journalists committed under the leadership of General David Petraeus.

In a recent editorial that was later scrubbed, WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange claimed WikiLeaks is under fire from American and international intelligence agencies angered by his site's oversharing of the global village's dark political and financial secrets, and that they are responding with harassment, surveillance, unnecessary detention and worse.

"We've become used to the level of security service interest in us and have established procedures to ignore that interest," Assange wrote in the editorial. "But the increase in surveillance activities this last month, in a time when we are barely publishing due to fundraising, are excessive."

As constitutional lawyer and Salon columnist Glenn Greenwald wrote in a recent column, "A volunteer, a minor, who works with WikiLeaks was detained in Iceland last week and questioned extensively about an incriminating video WikiLeaks possesses relating to the actions of the U.S. military.  During the course of the interrogation, the WikiLeaks volunteer was not only asked questions about the video based on non-public knowledge about its contents (i.e., information which only the U.S. military would have), but was also shown surveillance photos of Assange exiting a recent WikiLeaks meeting regarding the imminent posting of documents concerning the Pentagon."

WikiLeaks, administered by the Sunshine Press, an Amnesty International award-winning non-profit comprised of self-described "human rights campaigners, investigative journalists, technologists and the general public," has been whacking the powers-that-be's beehive since going live in 2007, and racking up as many legal challenges and enemies as journalism scoops and truth-seeking loyalists. But with its April 5 video, it evidently has raised the stakes.

"If anything happens to us, you know why," WikiLeaks warned on its Twitter feed. "It is our Apr 5 film. And you know who is responsible."

But this is not the 20th century, where classified information dissemination was a clumsy, clunky affair transmitted through bought-off print and television conglomerates.

"It certainly isn't surprising that entities affected by materials disclosed on WikiLeaks would explore ways to try to stop such disclosures," Matt Zimmerman, senior staff attorney at the digital-rights stalwart Electronic Frontier Foundation, explained to AlterNet. "That WikiLeaks continues to operate effectively underscores the difficulty of stopping such an operation in the age of the Internet which, from WikiLeaks' point of view, is the entire point."

Which doesn't mean that the powers-that-be threatened by WikiLeaks' persistent outings are going to just give up. WikiLeaks' exposure of military and financial carnage is encouraging, especially for a media landscape populated more and more by talk-radio shock-doctrinists like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.

"I don't have any evidence that Assange or anyone associated with WikiLeaks is in danger,"  Salon's Glenn Greenwald told AlterNet, after speaking with Assange. "But the CIA and Pentagon are vastly powerful entities that operate almost entirely in the dark. They have a long, sordid and well-documented history of targeting anyone who they perceive to be undermining their interests, and -- as they themselves acknowledge -- WikiLeaks qualifies. I think it would be foolish in the extreme not to take those threats seriously."

Indeed, downplaying the severity of real threats while inflating the importance of imagined or, worse yet, created ones has been an escalating obsession of ours in this new, turbulent century. And our chief coping mechanism has worked to the government's advantage, according to Greenwald's column. The official outcry over WikiLeaks is "based in the same rationale...used by all governments to conceal evidence of their wrongdoing: we need to suppress our activities for your own good. WikiLeaks is devoted to subverting that mentality and, relatively speaking, has been quite successful in doing so. For that reason, numerous governments and private groups would like to see them destroyed."

The increasing acceptance of that disingenuous rationale has been destabilizing. Instead of working to champion transparency in an era of increasing sociopolitical violence and corruption, most of the global public has gone fetal in the face of such fear. And it has lately been helped by the utopian promises of both Republican sadists and Democratic sellouts. As a result, it has devolved into a state where the hard truths of geopolitics and power have become too shocking to bear. Which makes it much easier to paint WikiLeaks into a compromised corner, where it must dodge the slings and arrows of the status quo.

"It's totally unsurprising," Greenwald told AlterNet. "Over the last decade, we witnessed an unprecedented expansion of government secrecy and executive power, the former of which has intensified under Obama. The 'war on terror' has convinced huge numbers of Americans that transparency is not only unnecessary but dangerous. That's exactly the climate that led to the abuses of the last century and will inevitably lead to abuses whenever it is allowed to fester."

But fester it will, unless organizations like WikiLeaks are championed by those trying to chart a more positive path toward a more transparent 21st century. It is painfully obvious that the information contained in the site's various leaks on wartime propaganda, rapacious finance schemes and even military atrocities aren't really dangerous to anyone, in and of themselves. In fact, it's the opposite: Documents that unmask the empowerment of the unfortunate few by the conniving many. The only threats they pose are to those who profit, in one form or another, from their suppression. If Daniel Ellsberg's leaked Pentagon Papers taught us anything, it's that such suppression strikes at the very heart of our republic, rotting it from the inside.

"Government entities, such as the army, are of course in a better position to know how damaging any given leak may be," said EFF's Zimmerman. "And indeed, leakers may in fact be breaking the law by disclosing documents. WikiLeaks comes down on the side of transparency, arguing that the benefits of widespread disclosure of information about matters of public concern will outweigh the harm. Those who disagree, whether private actors or those in government, will certainly continue to find ways to discourage disclosure to WikiLeaks or shut it down altogether."

But that would be our collective loss, considering that there are a scant few places left for us to fully probe the dimly lit corners of our empire, where bodies and stratagems are often buried too deep for most of us to find.

"There's no question that WikiLeaks poses a major threat because virtually every other intended check and oversight mechanism -- from Congress to the media -- has been neutralized," Greenwald concluded. "WikiLeaks has been an amazingly impressive success story thus far in exposing a wide array of elite corruption.  That definitely reflects the power of the Internet to harm large and powerful institutions, and it is precisely why they have been targeted."

Scott Thill runs the online mag Morphizm.com. His writing has appeared on Salon, XLR8R, All Music Guide, Wired and others.