By Tony Romm - 04/14/10 04:58 PM EDT
Defense Secretary Robert Gates slammed the owners of the website "Wikileaks" on Tuesday for releasing a video last week in which U.S. troops mistake a group of Iraqis for terrorists and ultimately kill a dozen, including two Reuters reporters.
While Wikileaks has described the events in that video, still available on its website, as "murder," Gates told reporters aboard a plane Tuesday that the clip had been published grossly out of context.
"These people can put out anything they want, and they're never held accountable for it. There's no before and there's no after," Gates said, as first reported by Reuters.
The secretary seemed to be referring to an investigation conducted shortly after the reporters' deaths. The U.S. military at the time found the soldiers had committed no wrongdoing, as they initially believed the crowd below contained armed insurgents, not Reuters staff members. Firing on those presumed threats qualified as operating within the military's rules of engagement, investigators noted.
Wikileaks, however, quickly shot back on Wednesday, defending its decision to publish the video last week.
In an unsigned e-mail, the site's press office criticized the military for making "false or misleading statements" about the 2007 incident and its later investigation. Wikileaks then promised "classified records which we will shortly release" that further prove no confrontation occurred before the U.S. military opened fire.