Originally published July 11 2015
Pentagon declares journalists are 'unprivileged belligerents' who can be shot or killed on sight
by J. D. Heyes
(NaturalNews) Can journalists be considered enemies of U.S. and allied military forces? Absolutely, the Pentagon has declared in a thick, new instruction manual for waging war the "legal" way, and they can thus be targeted.
According to The Washington Times, journalists can also be terrorists, the 1,176-page Department of Defense Law of War Manual states. The book is designed to provide commanders with correct and incorrect ways of killing an enemy of the United States.
The manual says it is okay to shoot, explode, bomb, stab or cut the enemy; surprise attacks and killing retreating troops is permitted as well, though U.S. forces cannot employ poison gases.
The new manual is the first comprehensive, all-in-one legal guide for all four military branches; for decades, the services each had issued their own guides for air, sea and land warfare conduct.
The Obama-era document brushes aside the prior Bush Administration label of "unlawful enemy combatant" for terrorist organizations like al Qaeda in favor of a new term: "unprivileged belligerent."
Spies have often posed as journalists
But one notable section of the new manual pertains to a definition of journalists and how they are expected to stay out of any fighting.
"In general, journalists are civilians," the manual says, as cited by the Times. "However, journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents."
Grouping terrorist journos with those from bona fide news outlets and agencies led one officer to describe the paragraph as "odd." And one civilian lawyer who discusses war crimes cases labeled the wording "an odd and provocative thing for them to write."
Michael Rubin, a Middle East expert at the American Enterprise Institute, told the paper that the manual reflects today's sometimes confusing world of journalism.
"It's a realization that not everyone abides by the same standards we do," Rubin said. "Just as Hamas uses United Nations schools as weapons depots and Iran uses charity workers for surveillance, many terrorist groups use journalists as cover."
Over the decades of the Cold War, Warsaw Pact nations and the Soviet Union often posed undercover KGB and intelligence operatives as journalists. In one infamous case, as reported by the UK's Telegraph, then-KGB operative Vladimir Putin, now the Russian president, was photographed posing as a tourist during a visit to the Soviet Union in 1988 by then-President Ronald Reagan. Putin, the paper reported, was part of a group of "tourists" who asked Reagan pointed questions about the U.S. human rights record.
The Times noted that Rubin recalled a pair of al Qaeda terrorists posed as journalists to assassinate Taliban leader Ahmad Sha Massoud. Also, Chechen Islamists went on missions with camera crews in tow.
'Journalists can be combatants, too'
"Journalists are the new consultant. Anyone can claim to be one," Rubin said. "No American serviceman should ever be killed because a politician told them they had to take a foreign journalist at his or her word."
Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Joseph R. Sowers spoke to the Times, dismissing the inclusion of "unprivileged belligerents" for journalists. He said that the Defense Department does "not think that there is any legal significance to the manual listing" them "as sometimes being journalists because the manual does not, itself, create new law."
"That last sentence simply reflects that, in certain cases, persons who act as journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces or unprivileged belligerents rather than civilians. The fact that a person is a journalist does not prevent that person from becoming an unprivileged belligerent," Sowers added.
In the age of attacks committed by radical Islamist militants, unprivileged belligerents are usually classified as terrorists. If they are captured, they are not provided with all the rights of a prisoner of war under the Geneva Conventions. They can be subject instead to indefinite detention and tried by war crimes commissions instead of civilian courts.
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