Thursday, January 21, 2010

Willie Apiata in Afghanistan

The NZ Herald is defending the publication of a photo of two NZ SAS soldiers in Kabul, after it was revealed that one of them is corporal Willie Apiata, VC. Apparently there is a convention not to publish the identities of soldiers in action as it puts them in danger. In the words of PM John Key "we don't want (the Taliban)to know the names and individual identities of members of the SAS because of the nature of some of their operations, and they would be at a greater risk if they can be identified" and "It puts at risk the lives of those individual soldiers because they can now be recognised".

Am I stupid or is this as contrived a piece of rubbish as I think it is? I just don't understand how the Taliban knowing the name of NZ SAS operatives puts them in danger. Surely the Taliban are intent on killing ANY foreign invader infidels they can get to? It seems especially absurd since the original photo was not titled and it was the PM that confirmed it was him.

I would have thought not wearing a helmet in a battle zone was the greater danger, but what do I know?


Q said...

Nandor, I suspect that it is more that publishing their pictures leaves them open to identification some way down the road.

The SAS are the type of guys who will be brought into covert ops and the like. The types of people the SAS would be running covert ops against would likely have significant intelligence gathering capabilities and thus publishing their photos increases the likelihood of exposure.
During a mission in Afghanistan where they are wearing a uniform I agree it doesn't matter much, but at a different moment in time on a different mission it could potentially mean exposure to one's enemies.

Nandor Tanczos said...

Hi Q

Thanks for your comments. I don't see how it applied though because the furore was about publishing a photo of Willie Apiata, who has already been well and truly outed by the NZ Government when he received the VC.

In addition I would have thought that if Al Qaeda or the Taliban or the IRA or whoever want to establish a database of serving SAS, they could more easily do it by taking photos of soldiers on duty than by trawling the NZ newspapers.

Anonymous said...

Hi man, as an ex-member of the UN Specal Forces, we were not allowed to be photographed while in the field as this removes the ability of our governments to deny our involvement. Because the SAS members are all ranked if something happens that is classed as a crime against humanity and there is evidence showing certain members there then they can be prosicuted. Un-oritorised missions have less denyability so to be caught can open everyone from the polititions to the grunts up to prosicutions.

Q said...

Nandor, while you are correct that Willie has been outed forever, that doesn't apply to his colleague whose face was also shown in the picture I saw. I notice now that many sites are showing pixelated photos that don't identify the other soldier but on the first day he was clearly visible.

With regard to your second paragraph I would argue that if a hostile group was compiling a database of SAS they would have to actually know where they are on any given moment in time to photograph them, whereas putting their pictures in the paper exposes them to the viewfinder of the entire world with no effort required to find them.

Anonymous also makes the valid point that there is no longer any plausible deny-ability available to the Government in the event that things go pear shaped. Right or wrong, bad things happen in war and these guys who are the best our Army has to offer deserve at least an element of anonymity.

While I would not condone any crimes against humanity I wouldn't want them exposed to too much liberal hand wringing either.

George said...

Right or wrong, bad things happen in war and these guys who are the best our Army has to offer deserve at least an element of anonymity.

What a bullshit excuse. My country right or wrong... what are you, some kind of lemming?

I wouldn't want them exposed to too much liberal hand wringing either.

You've just said that you want crimes against humanity to go unpunished. You creep.