The leaking last week of a batch of 400,000 military documents by the website WikiLeaks seems to have caused another major stir in US and British military circles. It was even roundly condemned by no other than Fox News in an opinion piece by Christian Whiton, former state department adviser, who proclaimed the whistleblowers to be “enemy combatants” so they can be dealt with through “non-judicial actions.”
What was interesting about this latest leak is the strong possibility of it being used in legal actions taken against US and British commanders. The reaction by the UN is also an important development with the UN special rapporteur on torture, Manfred Novak taking to task the Obama administration and reminding them of their obligations under international law to investigate any allegation of torture.
The leak in April last year by WikiLeaks of clear footage showing a US army Apache helicopter firing on and killing a Reuter photographer and his driver in Baghdad in July 2007 reignited the controversy over attacks and killings by the US army of journalists during the Iraq invasion. And who knows if among the millions of documents in WikiLeaks’s hands there is crucial information on these deaths?
The IFJ has for many years urged successive US administrations, including President Obama, to open fresh investigations into the actions of the United States army which has been implicated in the killings of journalists in Iraq.
Altogether there have been 19 unexplained killings of media staff at the hands of US soldiers, and Obama cannot continue to duck its responsibility and must order his military to account for its actions in Iraq. Instead of witch hunting WikiLeaks, US officials must order a prompt and convincing response over these killings of journalists through a convincing process of investigation, involving an exhaustive examination of the relevant evidence, and full disclosure of testimony.