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May 25, 2005

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Comments

TM

The NY Times leaves out that specific detail, but otherwise does a better job than the WaPo.

...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.

...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.

One document released Wednesday is an Aug. 1, 2002, memorandum from an agent whose name is deleted that recounts a pair of interviews the previous month with a prisoner whose name is also deleted.

The prisoner said that "the guards in the detention facility do not treat him well," the agent wrote. "Their behavior is bad. About five months ago, the guards beat the detainees. They flushed a Koran in the toilet. The guards dance around when the detainees are trying to pray. The guards still do these things." The document does not indicate whether the agent believed the account.

The documents include several other accounts of detainees' complaints about disrespectful handling of the Koran, but none describe its being flushed in a toilet.

...Since the Newsweek article was published, the Pentagon has been reviewing records, but "we still have found no credible allegations that a Koran was flushed down a toilet at Guantánamo," Mr. Whitman said.

Until the new batch of documents was released, no previously released F.B.I. documents were known to have mentioned abuse of the Koran of the type Newsweek reported.

Earlier complaints came in statements of inmates after they were released from custody or, more recently, in statements of current inmates to their lawyers.

...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 Guantánamo 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.

...The earlier release of reports in which bureau agents recounted witnessing harsh interrogations resulted in an investigation by an Air Force general of interrogation practices. That report, which was completed at the end of March, has not yet been released by the Pentagon.

And the WaPo editors object to Amnesty International's use of "gulag".

Jamie

It's a heck of a lot easier to believe in "harsh" interrogation techniques than in American military personnel "dancing around" in uniform, or standing on a Koran, IMHO. The whole Koran-desecration story reminded me of burning in effigy - something not a part of American culture but certainly (if pix I've seen in the news are any indication) a feature in the "Arab street." Consequently I just assumed from the get-go that the detainee(s) was/were manufacturing outrage for PR purposes.

I suppose it's not out of the question that the US military would add some culturally specific plays to their playbook in the name of efficiency. But I would love to hear from a devout follower of Islam about whether Koran-desecration would prompt him/her to "talk," or rather to be more firm in his/her resolve NOT to talk.

BumperStickerist

I'm waiting to find out that late one night the guards at Gitmo moved the 'Mecca : This Way' prayer sign ten degrees to the north.

The result of which is that detainees ended up praying towards Jerusalem.

Jeff

We have reports from a number of sources that the US military is desecrating the Koran in its "interrogations." The Pentagon denies the reports. Quickie question: at what point does the Pentagon's credibility come into question among pro-war righties? Quickie rhetoral/snarky follow-up question: if there had been reports of torture at Abu Ghraib before the pictures were released would the Pentagon have a) copped to the charges, as they always do; or b) denied the whole thing?

GD

You understand we're talking about Turkish toilets here, right?

Forbes

Jeff: Interesting concept: The sources are detainees that have serially played the children's game of telephone, and who've been trained to lie and use other examples of western openness to counteract interrogation should they be caught. And you're playing true to form as their tactics anticipated. Excellent!

Funny, I know. It's just me, but I'd give the US military the benefit of doubt before I'd give it to the detainees.

Quickie questions: When does someone, having bought into the idea that a 900+ page book can be flushed down a toilet, lose credibility? And loose their credibility because they're pursuing a fraudulent "fake, but accurate" line of inquiry?

What torture was depicted in the released A-G pics? (No disputing abusive guards and treatment.)

Finally, I thought you guys in the reality-based community dealt, you know, in the here and now. What's all this "what, if" hypothesizing?

Enjoy.

Lurking Observer

Jeff:

Actually, your second part isn't even a hypothetical. Before the stories broke, the US military was already investigating charges of abuse at Abu Ghraib. So much for "denying the whole thing."

But then, you already knew that, right?

TM

The Pentagon denies the reports..

Hmm, I thought they denied that any of this had been confirmed, and said that the investigation was ongoing.

Newsweek famously reported that the military had confirmed the reports.

Now, I should say I have not been holding my breath awaiting release of the report.

But there is the "cuts both ways" tidbit that after the Red Cross complained, rules were changed and complaints "stopped".

TJ Jackson

I love the people who always put the allegation that numerous "sources" have alleged torture. Lets see there's Betty Boop, Mickey Mouse, Mickey's cousin Eddie, Eddie's friend from the bowling alley. Yup I find that entirely credible. Oh did I mention they say Elvis saw the torture himself and signed an sworn statement to that effect.

Personally if they feed these jihaddies chipped beef on toast that might be grounds for torture, or if they forced them to watch Hillary's speeches. Naw that would be extreme torture.

This is the kind of stuff Andrew Sullivan, John Cole, the Kos kids and Willis peddle.

Jeff

All,

Although all of you make valid points, no one has responded to the question: at what point do you start to question the credibility of the Pentagon? My assumption is that there is no such point. Given that, it doesn't really matter what the reality is--you all will give the Pentagon the benefit of the doubt.

Forbes

Jeff: There is something called Congressional oversight. In more than a few Pentagon hearings that I've watched, there was a significant amount of credibility questioning going on. Perhaps not enough from your perspective, but if your base assumption is that the Pentagon is full up with under-oath serial liars, well, that's your burden.

But credibility questioning is a mis-direction. Information gathering and fact-checking seems the relevant approach. A policy difference is not a question of credibility, it's a question answered by elections.

TJ Jackson

Jeff:
Why is it the wingnuts always are ready to credit the MSM, jihaddies, and the enemies of humanity before the American government? I realize the Moscow, Baghdad, and Beijing have a special place in the hearts of those who say they support justice and peace. Why is that?

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