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Leak: Blackwater, tear gas and other ‘non-lethal’ chemical weapons in Iraq

January 20, 2008

Julian Assange, wikileaks

On the 10th of January the New York Times published a widely reprinted article “2005 Use of Gas by Blackwater leaves questions” about the possibly accidental use of a single canister of tear gas by the private military firm Blackwater. This has triggered a number of followup stories in the last week.

The NYT article contains strong quotes about the harmful effects of tear gas and its illegality when used by the US military as per the Chemical Weapons Convention. In this case the severity of the quotes appears to have been partially motivated by rivalry between the public military (the US Army) and the private military (as represented by Blackwater). Regardless of the motivation the issue of CS gas usage by in Iraq is now an extremely contentious issue.

Wikileaks reported this back in November, and exposed something far more serious: proof of the United States Army acquisition and deployment of 2,386 NATO-labled “chemical weapons”, most of which are tear gas (CS gas) launchers or dispensers.

Our report traces acquisition (from public records) of a subset of the weapons and gives explicit detail as to every US Army unit holding CS gas and other “chemical weapons” (from a major 2007 military planning leak).

The NYT article and subsequent follow up stories in the past few days have made the issue live and of keen interest to readers.

The Wikileaks report came out in a busy news week and was not picked up by the angle press, the issue probably being considered too technical. However we believe the material is very strong and the NYT articles now shown or created a strong reader demand and provided a wealth of fresh quotes about the issue.

The Wikileaks report (includes a section on story development for journalists).

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