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March 05, 2007

US Soldiers Allegedly Delete Footage, Photos After Afghanistan Attack

[litbrit speaking]

Journalists covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are there because they believe the ends--getting the story and the images out there, telling the truth--justify the means, which is to say, putting their own lives in grave danger by even being in country. Imagine the anger and disappointment a reporter or photographer feels when a story is buried (or even axed completely) for reasons beyond his or her control (see Logan, Lara; CBS) or a series of important images are deleted or destroyed--which is exactly what happened to news photographers Sunday after they documented the gun battle after a suicide bombing:

Journalists working for AP said US troops erased images of a vehicle in which three people had been shot dead.

The US military said it could not confirm its troops had seized any film.

Afghans who were wounded in the attack say American soldiers opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians on a busy highway. As many as 16 people died, though it is unclear whether the bullets that killed them came from Americans or militants (or both).

As the Americans sped away, they treated every car and person along the highway as a potential attacker, said Mohammad Khan Katawazi, the district chief of Shinwar. But Maj. William Mitchell, a U.S. military spokesman, said those killed and injured may have been shot by the militants.

More than a half dozen Afghans recuperating from bullet wounds told The Associated Press that the U.S. forces fired indiscriminately along at least a 10-kilometer (six-mile) stretch of one of eastern Afghanistan's busiest highways — a route often filled not only with cars and trucks but Afghans on foot and bicycles.

"They were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway," said Tur Gul, 38, who was standing on the roadside by a gas station and was shot twice in his right hand. "They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot."

It is not known how much, if any, of the images or recordings of the incident and aftermath remain intact.  For its part, the Associated Press (AP) said it "plans to lodge a protest with the American military".  To wit:

A freelance photographer working for AP and a cameraman working for AP Television News say they arrived at the site about half an hour after the suicide bombing.

Witnesses at the scene said three civilians in the four-wheel drive vehicle had been killed by US forces fleeing the attack, the journalists said.

"When I went near the four-wheel drive, I saw the Americans taking pictures of the same car, so I started taking pictures," photographer Rahmat Gul said.

"Two soldiers with a translator came and said, 'Why are you taking pictures? You don't have permission.'"

Mr Gul said troops took his camera, deleted his photos and returned it to him. 

His APTN colleague, who did not want to be named, said he was told he could film the scene - but when he did so a US soldier got very angry and deleted any footage that included the Americans.

Khanwali Kamran, a reporter for the Afghan channel Ariana Television, said the American soldiers also deleted his footage, AP reported.

"They warned me that if it is aired ... then, 'You will face problems,'" Mr Kamran was quoted by the news agency as saying.

Reporters Without Borders condemned the alleged actions of the US forces, saying they dealt with the media poorly.

There are times when even I am at a loss for words, and this is one of them.

March 5, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

This isn't the right way for the military to handle this kind of sensitive story. The impulse is natural, to keep from coming out the kind of footage that will damage the war effort and may literally cost lives if it leads to either a violent response or just an unwillingness to cooperate with the Americans in ways that are saving lives. I can imagine strong arguments for censorship on this basis, and some I might actually accept in particular circumstances. But as a rule, this kind of thing backfires. It doesn't keep the events from being known, it seems to imply guilt, and it seems to imply an effort to cover guilt rather than punish it.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 5, 2007 2:44:52 PM

It doesn't keep the events from being known, it seems to imply guilt, and it seems to imply an effort to cover guilt rather than punish it.

Doesn't just "seem to imply" it, it demonstrates it.

Posted by: Thomas Nephew | Mar 5, 2007 2:56:43 PM

What if showing those images would have been security breach?

Nah, US military cannot possibly have any legitimate reasons to do anything, its sole purpose is to distribute food in Moslem lands, so more of them will have a chance to grow to be jihadi.

Posted by: mik | Mar 5, 2007 3:20:20 PM

What if showing those images would have been security breach?

Yeah, because it's not as if Hamid Karzai complained about the US being trigger-happy in that particular incident, only to hear of a 2 x 2000lb bomb drop on another house later that day.

And way to show more about yourself than you intended, mik.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Mar 5, 2007 3:29:31 PM

Thomas, it implies an effort to cover what would feed the perception that there is guilt (which can happen even if there is no guilt). It doesn't imply an effort to avoid punishing the guilty. Obviously it can provide some presumptive evidence relevant to covering guilt and avoiding giving punishment, though.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 5, 2007 3:51:13 PM

What the soldiers' behavior implies is less important than what it accomplished by destroying/deleting images. There is no evidence now--or certainly, there is less evidence--to show what happened.

The alleged behavior also damaged the US reputation even further, if that's possible, and certainly, it was a potent strike against the press.

Any cover up implication would, at this point, be conjecture. But I think it's fair to point out that deleting/destroying journalists' work has the effect of negating evidence, evidence that could just as easily be exculpatory as probative.

Posted by: litbrit | Mar 5, 2007 4:38:45 PM

"(see Logan, Lara; CBS)"

Can't she just get Dan Rather and Bill Burkitt to conjure up some new photos? Or maybe that journalist from the AP who doctored photos during the recent Hezbollah/Israel war. Maybe Dan Rather can type up some confessions by the soldiers in MS Word?

The left's instinct to believe the worst about our troops based on unsubstantiated allegations is disgusting.

Remember Eason Jordan?

I just hope you revisit this story when the facts come out.

Why do liberals hate America?

Posted by: Captain Toke | Mar 5, 2007 4:42:28 PM

Pretty tired stuff, Toke.

Posted by: Sanpete | Mar 5, 2007 4:47:24 PM

Smarter monkeys, please.

Maybe we can trade ours in for some new ones?

Posted by: ice weasel | Mar 5, 2007 5:14:07 PM

This sounds like destruction of Evidence to me, a crime in and off itself. If there is is ever an inquiry into this event, these soldiers will likely be brought up on those charges is nothing else. As at least one of these journalists seems to have had official permission to be filming, this is also a violation of the chain of command. Nothing whackjob mik and captainscumbag can say will change that. If you join the military, you obey the law and follow orders. The only excuse for not attempting to follow orders or for contradicting the orders of a superior would be for those orders to have been criminal.

Posted by: soullite | Mar 5, 2007 5:22:10 PM

"way to show more about yourself than you intended"

Most people would agree that "Progressive" left hates guns.

Then why do they enjoy so much shooting their mouth off?

Posted by: mik | Mar 5, 2007 6:48:17 PM

mik: your support for the fledgling Afghan press is heartwarming.

Posted by: pseudonymous in nc | Mar 6, 2007 1:58:17 AM

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Posted by: judy | Sep 28, 2007 3:52:46 AM

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