The Washington Post, owner of embattled Newsweek, missed an interesting detail in reporting on the latest development in the Koran desecration allegations.
Pentagon officials have said recently that the public claims by released detainees were not credible and that the terror suspects held at Guantanamo Bay had been trained to make such false claims.
Indeed, the FBI records cite at least one instance in which a detainee is said to have falsely claimed that a guard had dropped a Quran. ``In actuality the detainee dropped the Quran and then blamed the guard. Many other detainees reacted to this claim,'' the FBI document said, and that sparked an uprising ``on or about 19-20 July 2002.''
In other documents, FBI agents stated that Guantanamo detainees also accused U.S. personnel of kicking the Koran and throwing it to the floor, and described beatings by guards. But one document cited a detainee who accused a guard of dropping a Koran, prompting an "uprising" by prisoners, when it was the prisoner himself who dropped it.
The closest the WaPo comes to challenging the credibility of the detainees is this:
[Pentagon spokesman] Whitman said in his statement last night that al Qaeda members have been trained to lie about their treatment during incarceration, and that officials at Guantanamo Bay have had "a great deal of sensitivity to the importance of the Koran and other religious items and practices and . . . extensive procedures were put in place to respect the cultural dignity of the Koran." In January 2003, the Pentagon issued rules for handling the holy book.
Left unmentioned - we don't need to take Whitman's word for it that al Qaeda terrorists are trained to lie.
Lots of reaction at Memeorandum.
MORE: Picky, picky - the AP and the WaPo use the phrase "flushed *in* the toilet", and they put it in quotes. Reuters settles for "down" the toilet.
Well, flushed "in" the toilet answers the criticism that if the Koran won't flush, Newsweek's credibility is crushed. After the flushing, a rinsed Koran is left behind.
"Down" the toilet is harder to picture, unless the guard takes the time to shred the Koran first.
MORE: In comparison with the WaPo, the NY Times shines the light of reason, and the LA Times is a font of wisdom. The NY edition does not include the detail about the prisoner abusing the Koran, but delivers this, starting in the third paragraph:
Unlike F.B.I. documents previously disclosed in a lawsuit brought by the civil liberties union, in which agents reported that they had witnessed harsh and possibly illegal interrogation techniques, the new documents do not say the F.B.I. agents witnessed the episodes themselves. Rather, they are accounts of unsubstantiated accusations made by the prisoners during interrogation.
On Wednesday, the Pentagon dismissed the reports as containing no new evidence that abuses of the Koran had actually occurred and said that on May 14 military investigators had interviewed the prisoner who mentioned the toilet episode to the F.B.I. and that he was not able to substantiate the charge.
The accusation that soldiers had put a Koran in a toilet, which has been made by former and current inmates over the past two years, stirred violence this month that killed at least 17 people in Muslim countries after Newsweek magazine reported that a military investigation was expected to confirm that the incident had in fact occurred.
Newsweek retracted the report last week, saying it had relied on an American government official who had incomplete knowledge of the situation.
None of the documents released Wednesday indicate any such confirmation that the incident took place.
The LA Times had this, beginning in the fourth paragraph:
No independent verification has been made of the prisoners' claims. The FBI reports say that some prisoners, when asked, were not able to say that they had witnessed such abuse of the Koran, but that they had heard rumors about it.
One prisoner, the FBI notes say, "considers it his duty as a Muslim to believe the rumor until it is proven untrue."
ACLU officials said the documents showed that U.S. officials failed to take seriously allegations that guards were desecrating the Koran when the claims surfaced.
"The United States government's own documents show that it has known of numerous allegations of Koran desecration for a significant period of time," said Amrit Singh, an ACLU lawyer.
However, the Army instituted elaborate procedures to ensure sensitive treatment of the Koran at the Guantanamo Bay facility two years ago. Some prisoners told FBI interviewers that conditions had since improved.
In behalf of the WaPo, let's note that they run an editorial denouncing Amnesty International's use of the word "gulag".
And my guess is that the "truth" of the situation at Gitmo is contained in this excerpt from the Times:
The disclosures Wednesday did not support the specific assertions in the original Newsweek item that military investigators concluded that a Koran had been flushed down a toilet. They do, however, reinforce the contentions of human rights advocates and lawyers for detainees that accusations of purposeful mishandling of the Koran were common.
A former interrogator told The New York Times in a recent interview that friction over handling of the Koran began with guards' regular searches of the cells. "Some of it was just ignorance," the former interrogator said, insisting on anonymity because soldiers are barred from discussing camp operations. "They didn't realize you shouldn't handle the book roughly."
Though complaints about the handling of the Koran were routine, the former interrogator said, the situation eventually escalated. "It was two things that brought the desecration issue to a higher level," the former interrogator said. "The rumor spread among detainees that a Koran had been flushed down a toilet and that some interrogators brought Korans to the interrogation sessions and stood on them, kicked them around." The former interrogator had not witnessed those occurrences.
Erik Saar, co-author of "Inside the Wire" (Penguin Press, 2005) and an Arabic language translator in 2003 in Guantï¿½namo said in a recent interview that "the detainees actually liked to complain about how the Koran was handled because they viewed it as a cause to rally around" and one that would get the attention of the camp's authorities.
Finally, let's knock the Times for failing to note their earlier report:
The International Committee of the Red Cross said yesterday that it had given the Pentagon "multiple" reports from detainees in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, that American personnel had mishandled the Koran. The committee said the complaints from detainees then ceased.
The Pentagon confirmed that it had received these reports from the committee, but characterized the incidents as minor and rare and said that detainees themselves had also mishandled the Koran.
We had glumy noted in an update last week that the rule changes by the Pentagon were presumably in response to something.
ONE DAY MORE: The Times presents the preliminary findings of the military inquiry:
Inquiry by U.S. Finds 5 Cases of Koran Harm
By THOM SHANKER
WASHINGTON, May 26 - An American military inquiry has uncovered five instances in which guards or interrogators at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba mishandled the Koran, but found "no credible evidence" to substantiate claims that it was ever flushed down a toilet, the chief of the investigation said on Thursday.
All but one of the five incidents appear to have taken place before January 2003. In three cases, the mishandling of the Koran appears to have been deliberate, and in two it was accidental or unintentional, the commander said, adding that four cases involved guards, and one an interrogator. Two service members have been punished for their conduct, one recently.
Michelle Malkin gives us a good chuckle - the WaPo, corporate parent of Newsweek, had a hard time getting to the toilet.