Mickey and Patterico have been wondering about the LA Times coverage of the satellite evidence reported by CBS that would confirm a key detail in the United States account of the shooting incident involving Italian journalist Giuliana Sgrena.
One point of dispute - were the Italian rescuers speeding as they approached the checkpoint, and could satellite imagery really confirm that?
Eric Umansky and the Jawa Report are skeptical, for different reasons. Mr. Umansky notes, from the not-so-well classified report prepared by the United States, that three weeks after the incident, the Army used their radar to perform a speed check at the point in question:
On Friday, 25 March 2005 [weeks after the shooting], a certified radar operator conducted two traffic samples at BP 541 [scene of the shooting]. From 1809 hours to 1824 hours, 27 vehicles were clocked. The average speed at the Alert Line was 44 mph. The average speed at the beginning of the on-ramp’s curve was 24 mph. From 1956 hours to 2015 hours, 30 vehicles were clocked. The average speed at the Alert Line was 46 mph.
In other words, the Italians were driving all of about six miles-per-hour faster than average. That sound like crazy speeding to you?
Well. The report notes that the road was wet on March 4, the night of the incident. In fact, the reason this checkpoint was set up was to help secure the road, since bad weather made it impractical for a VIP to make the customary helicopter trip to the airport.
Secondly, note the times of the March 25 speed check - the first one, with 27 vehicles averaging 44 MPH, was done ending at 1824. On March 25, sunset in Baghdad was at 1819, with civil twilight ending at 1844; it was also a night of a full moon. Consequently, it may not have been dark for either speed check, and the report mentions that on March 25, the road was dry.
The March 4 shooting occurred at approximately 2050, several hours after sunset on a night with weather bad enough to ground helicopters, and only a crescent moon.
So, was 50 MPH "fast" on March 4, even though 44 MPH was normal on March 25? Quite possibly.
Now, there is another detail omitted by the LA Times - US soldiers turned back, without incident, 15 to 30 other cars that night. Their "inexperience" only resulted in one shooting.
Austin Bay has thoughts on the leaked report, and points out that, although CBS may be wrong on the specific point that satellite imagery was available to confirm the US account, we do have a tremendous amount of surveillance capability in Iraq.
My guess - since the military was clearly taking steps to secure this road prior to moving the VIP, is it unlikely that they had a Predator or some such device on station? As to why they did not mention that in the report, well, here is a pure "deus ex machina" plot device - the military did not want to reveal, even in its supposedly classified report, its full capabilities.
Wizbang wonders about that, too.
MORE: Latitude and longitude of Baghdad here.