NBC Misreports Collateral Murder Video

By Peter Hart (FAIR Blog)

nbc nightly newsAs we’ve pointed out, corporate TV outlets haven’t shown much interest in the Bradley Manning trial. And then when they do, maybe you wish they didn’t.

Covering the verdict announcement on last night’s NBC Nightly News (7/30/13), anchor Brian Williams said that Pentagon correspondent Jim Miklaszewski had “covered this story from the start.”

But you’d have a hard time believing that when you heard the way he described the Collateral Murder video, one of the most talked-about aspects of Manning’s trial.  It is the gunsight footage from a July 12, 2007, U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed two Reuters journalists, along with an unknown number of other Iraqis (FAIR Media Advisory, 4/7/10).

But Miklasziewski apparently knows who died, because he described that video this way:

In a pretrial statement to the court, Manning admitted he leaked this classified video of an Apache helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a number of insurgents and two innocent civilians.

But Manning did not describe the video as an attack on “insurgents,” because that is not what the video shows.

collateralmurderThere are three distinct attacks captured by the video.  First there is firing on a group of men– including the Reuters journalists–based on the presence of what the helicopter crew believes is a weapon. (A camera was incorrectly thought to be a weapon as well.)

After that attack,  a vehicle appears, and some of the passengers get out to assist Saeed Chmagh, a driver who worked for Reuters who was wounded in the first attack.

The van is fired on, killing the driver and wounding two children–leaving one member of the helicopter team to remark, “Well, it’s their fault bringing their kids to a battle.”

A third attack in the full version of the video is a Hellfire missile strike on a building, based on the fact that the helicopter crew saw armed men enter the building. Who was killed in that attack is hard to know, as a report by the New Yorker’s Raffi Khatchadourian (4/7/10) noted:

No one in the Apache knows who is really in the building, and there is evidence that unarmed people have both entered and are nearby.

The New Yorker piece also mentions that an investigator associated with WikiLeaks, Kristinn Hrafnsson, claimed to have located the owner of the building, who said that several innocent people were killed–including his wife and daughter.

So how does Miklasziewski know that the attacks mostly killed “insurgents”? That was the military’s cover story before WikiLeaks published the video, as Dan Froomkin pointed out at Huffington Post (4/5/10). That cover story is evidently still the one Miklasziewski is sticking with.

At the close of the segment, Williams refers to the Manning trial as  “this widely watched case.”

Sure–but you would have to been watching it somewhere other than NBC Nightly News.

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