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It has become common for soldiers to take digital cameras, video equipment, and laptops to war. They carry the devices or attach them to their gear and capture sights and sounds that range from gory to mundane, and then share their images via the Internet.
Department of Defense Directive 5230.9 states that employees " including active duty military members " are required gain clearance for public release of information that pertains to military matters and national security, but sharing information in a private capacity is permitted as long as laws and ethical standards are upheld. Several military spokespeople interviewed for this story said footage of bombs and firefights are being permitted as long as they do not provide insurgents with strategic information.
Breasseale, a media relations chief who is scheduled to return home Wednesday, said the majority of soldiers in Iraq grew up in the digital age and are following the rules.
"I think they're just trying to share their experience," he said. "I don't believe most of them have any other intent. The overwhelming majority follow the rules. They're not supposed to show faces or anything that brings shame. We don't want to bring shame to anyone and showing faces is a massive violation of the Geneva Conventions. Showing dead Iraqis is wildly irresponsible and disrespectful."
Breasseale said the U.S. military does not want to get into a "tit-for-tat" with insurgents who post images of beheadings and other graphic video.
Some of the uploaded war video available on sites like YouTube and Ogrish.com contains images of soldiers stepping lightly, guns in hand, past Iraqi bodies, while engaging in urban combat.
When military leaders find prohibited content, they try to stop the person who is posting it and they can punish soldiers. Punishment can include docking pay, confinement and more, depending on which sections of the several-thousand page Uniformed Code of Military Justice have been broken.
"Sometimes it's untraceable if they're taking it with a privately owned digital device and uploading it through a private Internet service provider," Breasseale said.
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has spoken out against videos showing Iraqi bodies and a recent well-publicized video of a soldier in a mess hall singing a song that describes the soldier laughing as a young Iraqi girl is shot.
"We love the First Amendment, and we use it everyday," Ibrahim Hooper, CAIR's director of communications, said in an interview Friday. "The Internet is filled with anti-Muslim content, the vast majority of which we say nothing about. If it's something that deals with an official source, a credible source, we feel it is appropriate to challenge Islamaphobic content that promotes hatred or violence. If somebody is sending a "hi mom" from Baghdad, we have no problem with that. If it's video of war crimes or abuse, we have a problem with that."
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