April 5th, 2010

beyond pornography

WikiLeaks

For those of you who don't know WikiLeaks.org, they post stuff that's embarrassing to governments, corporations, and all sorts of folks. They intentionally run their servers tightly, in areas where certain laws are hard to enforce and with no revelation of anybody's identity. They're exactly the type of "whistleblowers, send your stuff here and we'll repost it!" service that Neal Stephenson figured would prosper on the web.

They've been harassed a lot, questionably legally, by the US lately over something they've been planning to release soon. Apparently it was footage from an Apache helicopter of our pilots in Iraq shooting a crowd of apparent civilians, including two photographers working for Reuters. With radio chatter from our folks in the helicopters and on the ground.

Had you ever seen what the footage looks like from an Apache? Me either.

A lot of this is in some sense excusable, for a variety of reasons. Them gunning down the wounded, unarmed guy and the people in the van that came to pick him up and carry him off? Probably not so much, legally speaking.

I think the most unquestionable thing you get from this video is that the U.S. military investigation was not just biased, but willing to lie pretty flagrantly. The pilots' behavior, while not great, was at least mitigated by a number of important factors. The military spokesman's behavior and that of the investigators was inexcusable.

Nothing new, in the grand scheme of things, including the fact that our intelligence services are willing to illegally lean hard on people who they think will embarrass us internationally. But in case you're wondering, "do we still do that? Does that still happen?", this is one more piece of evidence that the answer is a resounding yes.

If you'd like something uplifting with your awfulness, apparently WikiLeaks received this footage from multiple independent sources in the military. So while we're killing civilians and lying about it, apparently a fair number of individual people in our military realize how bad that is, and will blow the whistle if they won't be personally destroyed for doing so.

So thanks, guys. You're the only people in this whole fiasco who make me optimistic about things changing.