US military manual says journalists are legitimate targets
The “Department of Defense Law of War Manual” explains that shooting, exploding, bombing, stabbing, or cutting the enemy are acceptable ways of killing your enemy, but the use of poison or asphyxiating gases is not allowed.
Surprise attacks and killing retreating troops are also permitted in the Pentagon manual.
The 1,176-page book states that journalists can be labeled “unprivileged belligerents,” an obscure term that replaced “unlawful enemy combatant” that was first used during the administration of President George W. Bush.
“In general, journalists are civilians. However, journalists may be members of the armed forces, persons authorized to accompany the armed forces, or unprivileged belligerents,” the manual states.
"Unprivileged belligerent" would refer to someone not offered the rights of the Geneva Conventions, and who would be denied prisoner of war status and can be detained indefinitely.
“It gives them license to attack or even murder journalists that they don’t particularly like but aren’t on the other side,” said Chris Chambers, a professor of journalism at Georgetown University.
Pentagon spokesman Army Lt. Col. Joseph R. Sowers said the manual is not significant and is not binding law.
"Members of nonstate armed groups, such as al Qaeda, who also do work that could be characterized as journalism, would continue to be unprivileged belligerents notwithstanding their work as journalists,” Sowers said.