N.Y. Times, Weekly Standard join in a falsehood

The claim that WikiLeaks failed to release the full video is self-evidently not true

Topics: Media Criticism, Washington, D.C.,

(updated below – Update II – Update III)

I just have to put this in a separate post from my two prior ones on the WikiLeaks video because it reveals how blatant falsehoods become lodged in our political discourse.  In reporting today on the Iraq video, The New York Times’ Elisabeth Bumiller strongly implies that WikiLeaks failed to release the full video and instead selectively edited it:

Reuters had long pressed for the release of the video, which consists of 38 minutes of black-and-white aerial video and conversations between pilots in two Apache helicopters as they open fire on people on a street in Baghdad. . . . At a news conference at the National Press Club, WikiLeaks said it had acquired the video from whistle-blowers in the military and viewed it after breaking the encryption code. WikiLeaks edited the video to 17 minutes.

That led The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Roggio to scream: “Wikileaks Edits out 21 Minutes of Baghdad Strike Video.”  He then accusatorily adds:

A New York Times article confirms that the tape has indeed been cut. There are 21 additional minutes of tape: . . .

So why hasn’t Wikileaks shown the whole tape? Wikileaks prides itself on releasing full classified documents, so it is curious that it decided to show only a selective portion of this tape.

The U.S. military maintains that there was a unit nearby that was under fire. In fact, the AR 15-6 (the investigation into the incident) said that a U.S. unit was under fire “approximately one city block away” before the Apaches began observing the Iraqi fighters gathering. Wikileaks should release the tape in full, and not just selective portions, and put this controversy to rest.

The only problem with this?  From the very beginning, WikiLeaks released the full, 38-minute, unedited version of that incident — and did so right on the site they created for release of the edited video.  In fact, the first video is marked ”Short version,” and the second video — posted directly under it — is marked “Full version,” and just for those who still didn’t pick up on the meaning, they explained:

WikiLeaks has released both the original 38 minutes video and a shorter version with an initial analysis. Subtitles have been added to both versions from the radio transmissions.

This is Bumiller’s fault for misleadingly suggesting that WikiLeaks failed to release the full video.  I know she’s been notified by at least one NYT reader of her misleading sentences but has thus far failed to respond.  Establishment media outlets can’t stand that WikiLeaks is breaking major stories and are trying — consciously or otherwise — to imply that they’re not as reliable as Real Media Outlets (hence, the “WikiLeaks edited the video to 17 minutes” without indicating that they released the full video).  But this is exactly how clear falsehoods are manufactured and then spread.

* * * * * 

Just in case you thought that it is only Bill Kristol, the Cheney family and their right-wing comrades who spew the YOU HATE THE TROOPS! smear at anyone who criticizes U.S. military policy, you would be wrong.  My reply is here.


UPDATE:  The online version of Bumiller’s article has now been edited to read:

At a news conference at the National Press Club, WikiLeaks said it had acquired the video from whistle-blowers in the military and viewed it after breaking the encryption code. WikiLeaks released the full 38-minute video as well as a 17-minute edited version.

There’s no indication that it had been corrected, and the caption at the bottom of the article — “A version of this article appeared in print on April 6, 2010, on page A13 of the New York edition” — leaves open the possibility that the misleading version appeared in print.


UPDATE II:  The Weekly Standard‘s Bill Roggio has now “corrected” his post as well with this:

Update:  The New York Times notes that Wikileaks had in fact released the 39 minute version of the video. The extended video does not alter anything in this analysis. We regret the error.

I emailed Roggio earlier to tell him a correction was warranted, though — given that this is The Weekly Standard — I wasn’t actually expecting one. His email reply to me was actually quite gracious and straightforward (and not in keeping with the Weekly Standard ethos):  “Yes, you are 100% correct, this was my error completely. I noted the correction at the post.”  It was important to kill the “they-distorted-the-video-with-selective-editing” excuse before it could take hold.

Meanwhile, Greg Sargent reports that the military is now formally confirming the authenticity of the video and plans a response.


UPDATE III:  CNN v. Al Jazeera:  this speaks for itself, and speaks volumes.  

For those in Canada:  I’ll be on CBC TV tonight at 8:20 pm EST discussing the Iraq video, WikiLeaks, and related matters.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

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