WASHINGTON – The Army has arrested a 22-year-old soldier in Baghdad in connection with the leak of a military video that shows Apache helicopters gunning down unarmed men in Iraq, including two journalists, defense officials said Monday.
The classified video was taken from the cockpit during a 2007 fire fight and posted this April on the Web site Wikileaks.org. It was an unflattering portrait of the war that raised questions about the military's rules of engagement and whether more should be done to prevent civilian casualties.
Spc. Bradley Manning of Potomac, Md., was being held in Kuwait, U.S. forces in Iraq announced on Monday. Manning had been deployed with the 2nd Brigade of the 10th Mountain Division in Baghdad.
The statement released from Iraq said only that Manning had been arrested for "allegedly releasing classified information."
But Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters that Manning's involvement in the 2007 video provided to Wikileaks was "something (U.S. authorities) were looking at."
"The Department of Defense takes the management of classified information very seriously because it affects our national security, the lives of our soldiers, and our operations abroad," according to the statement from Iraq.
The video shows a group of men walking down the street before being repeatedly shot by the helicopters. The American gunners can be heard laughing and referring to the men as "dead bastards."
Among those believed to have been killed in that attack was Reuters photographer Namir Noor-Eldeen, 22, and his driver Saeed Chmagh, 40. Two children also were wounded.
An internal investigation concluded that the troops had acted appropriately. According to a July 19 summary of the results of the inquiry, Reuters employees were likely "intermixed among the insurgents" and difficult to distinguish because of their equipment, the document states.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates has personally criticized the unauthorized leak of the video.
"People can put out anything they want and not be held accountable. There's no before and no after, just the present," Gates said of the video.
The result is that "you're looking at a situation through a soda straw and you have no context or perspective," he added.
Manning's arrest was first reported by Wired.com. According to the website, Manning claimed to be the video leaker during an online exchange with Adrian Lamo. Lamo is a well-known computer hacker who pleaded guilty in 2004 to breaking into The New York Times' computer system.
"If you had unprecedented access to classified networks 14 hours a day 7 days a week for 8+ (plus) months, what would you do?" Manning asked, according to Wired.com.