Two years ago, the New Yorker's Mattathias Schwartz documented the brutal massacre Jamaican security forces undertook when they entered the notorious slum Tivoli Gardens to arrest—at the insistence of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency—drug kingpin and local hero Christopher "Dudus" Coke in 2010. They didn't find Coke, but they managed to kill 73 civilians in what the Jamaicans claimed was a pitched street battle with Coke's partisans. After it was all over, they found six guns.
One of the things Schwartz learned was that an American surveillance plane, dispatched by the Department of Homeland Security, was flying over the siege and relaying intelligence to the Jamaicans the whole time. DHS refused to release the video under the Freedom of Information Act, though, and Schwartz had to sue to get it. He prevailed, and he published portions of it yesterday on the New Yorker's web site.
The video is inconclusive—it shows "momentary flashes that could be gunfire or rays of sunlight reflected by windows" and the occasional "cluster of red pixels that might or might not be a dead body." It also appears to show Jamaican officers picking up shell casings from the ground, perhaps to mask the extent of firepower unleashed. But it also was taken over a six-hour period just before before the worst violence that Schwartz documented took place. DHS insists it doesn't have any more.
But given the U.S. government's reluctance to acknowledge its role in helping the Jamaicans, its not clear whether it's holding back. In internal State Department emails about the operation that Schwartz also obtained via FOIA and posted on his web site, an embassy official warns his colleagues to keep quiet about the U.S. involvement: "I'm sure that the [Jamaicans] would like us to be more supportive publicly, but I think we should let the smoke clear over its actions in Tivoli before we go on the record with our support of its actions."
The smoke is still clearing.