Newsmax: Haditha investigators doctored drone video to incriminate Marines; Update: Investigating officer's report added

We were overdue for a new bombshell from Phil Brennan. Read this for background. He’s got an intelligence source on the inside who’s been saying since last year that the drone video taken that day supports the Marines’ belief that there were jihadis in the area such that their assault on the locals’ homes was really an act of self-defense under fire. Problem: the drone video’s now been released to CNN and it doesn’t show any jihadis. Solution: the video was doctored.

Had the entire video been shown it would have revealed that the Marines knew exactly “who was inside” – insurgents were clearly shown entering the target buildings before the structures were bombed. If CNN had been able “to review the whole video, they would see that we did indeed have a definitive idea of who was inside,’” an intelligence officer told NewsMax.

The insurgents’ car parked outside the buildings “was packed to the gills with weapons, and we had just witnessed them complete an ambush on our ambulance,” the officer said. “We saw them enter the house, clapping each other on the back and congratulating themselves.”…

“This 8 to 10 hours, viewed in its entirety, shows men in black, with weapons, fleeing the neighborhood of houses 1, 2, 3 and 4 [the area where the civilians and eight of the insurgents were killed]. It follows their route as they meet up with other insurgents throughout the city. It clearly demonstrates the magnitude of the insurgents’ organization, skill, and timing in attacking Marines.”

The video, he recalled, “shows them parking, exiting the vehicle, and entering the housing complex. It shows Marines assaulting the building, insurgents fleeing out the back of the building, and Marines falling back from the assault as the insurgents defend the house.”

Funny thing: Frank Wuterich, who’s being court-martialed at this very moment for 13 counts of murder, never mentioned any of this when he finally spoke out about the incident on “60 Minutes” earlier this year. In fact, the only enemy action Wuterich claimed he was aware of after the IED went off was two or three shots which he heard coming from the south. Whether that was insurgent fire or Marines firing in another part of the city is unclear; it’s been widely reported that there was a lot of activity in the city that day. The reason they assaulted the first house was because it too lay to the south and Wuterich assumed that the fire must be coming from them — even though he admitted to Scott Pelley that he didn’t see any muzzle flashes or other indication of trouble inside the building. That was a key problem for another Marine officer interviewed by 60 Minutes for the segment, who said there are occasions when it’s appropriate to blind-fire into a structure if you know for a fact that there are some enemy combatants in there. How can you know, he was asked. “[A]lmost always, you have to see them,” he replied.

The interesting question will come if Newsmax is right and the tape does prove that jihadis were in the area but the Marines didn’t know about them. Whether the killings were negligent or not should turn, in theory, on the Marines’ mental state: if they went in aiming to neutralize the whole site without a strong belief that there were enemies behind the door, then from the standpoint of criminal law it shouldn’t matter if there were, in fact, enemies in the vicinity. Which is another way of saying, when is it okay to shoot first and ask questions later? The Corps is weighing that question as we speak.

Update: Thanks to Bryan for forwarding me a copy of the investigating officer’s report recommending all charges be dropped against Lance Cpl. Stephen Tatum for his role in the incident. Here are the key passages regarding the assault on the first house. The key exculpatory factor: the sound of an AK-47 being racked as they approach the building. No weapon was ever found, as far as I know, although doubtless Newsmax would say it’s because the jihadis inside fled out the back door before the Marines broke through. Needless to say, this strongly contradicts the opinion given on 60 Minutes that visual identification is necessary.