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copied from Moon of Alabama

Newsweek reported on May 9 about interrogators flushing a Qur'an down a toilet in Guantanamo Bay. This short report lead to deadly unrests in several countries and threats of a renewed jihad in Afghanistan.

Today Newsweek did issue a follow up to the story.

Some headlines now claim: Newsweek: Koran Story Untrue, Newsweek backtracks over Koran report and Editor admits Koran story in doubt and you can be sure to see many more like these tomorrow.

But does the new Newsweek piece, How a Fire Broke Out, really retract the story? I do not think so and you should not either, so please read on.

The article starts with a description of the current unrests and continues:

Late last week Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita told NEWSWEEK that its original story was wrong. The brief PERISCOPE item ("SouthCom Showdown") had reported on the expected results of an upcoming U.S. Southern Command investigation into the abuse of prisoners at Gitmo. According to NEWSWEEK, SouthCom investigators found that Gitmo interrogators had flushed a Qur'an down a toilet in an attempt to rattle detainees. While various released detainees have made allegations about Qur'an desecration, the Pentagon has, according to DiRita, found no credible evidence to support them.

How did NEWSWEEK get its facts wrong?

Up to this point there is no evidence in the article that Newsweek DID get the facts wrong. DiRita might say whatever he likes, the issues is still open - so why the above question I emphasized? Why at this point of the report? This reader listens up and asks:
Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong?

[NEWSWEEK, veteran investigative reporter Michael Isikoff] knew that military investigators at Southern Command (which runs the Guantánamo prison) were looking into the allegations. So he called a longtime reliable source, a senior U.S. government official who was knowledgeable about the matter. The source told Isikoff that the report would include new details that were not in the FBI e-mails, including mention of flushing the Qur'an down a toilet. A SouthCom spokesman contacted by Isikoff declined to comment on an ongoing investigation, but NEWSWEEK National Security Correspondent John Barry, realizing the sensitivity of the story, provided a draft of the NEWSWEEK PERISCOPE item to a senior Defense official, asking, "Is this accurate or not?" The official challenged one aspect of the story: the suggestion that Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, sent to Gitmo by the Pentagon in 2001 to oversee prisoner interrogation, might be held accountable for the abuses. Not true, said the official (the PERISCOPE draft was corrected to reflect that). But he was silent about the rest of the item. The official had not meant to mislead, but lacked detailed knowledge of the SouthCom report.

The elder story is double-sourced but one of the sources, a 'senior Defense official',  - sure about one detail - is now doubted to be sure of a second one? Because he did not deny it?

Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong?

NEWSWEEK was not the first to report allegations of desecrating the Qur'an. As early as last spring and summer, similar reports from released detainees started surfacing in British and Russian news reports, and in the Arab news agency Al-Jazeera; claims by other released detainees have been covered in other media since then.

Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong?

After the rioting began last week, the Pentagon attempted to determine the veracity of the NEWSWEEK story. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers told reporters that so far no allegations had been proven. He did appear to cryptically refer to two mentions found in the logs of prison guards in Gitmo: a report that a detainee had used pages of the Qur'an to stop up a crude toilet as a form of protest, and a complaint from a detainee that a prison guard had knocked down a Qur'an hanging in a bag in his cell.

Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong?

On Friday night, Pentagon spokesman DiRita called NEWSWEEK to complain about the original PERISCOPE item. He said, "We pursue all credible allegations" of prisoner abuse, but insisted that the investigators had found none involving Qur'an desecration. DiRita sent NEWSWEEK a copy of rules issued to the guards (after the incidents mentioned by General Myers) to guarantee respect for Islamic worship.

Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong?

On Saturday, Isikoff spoke to his original source, the senior government official, who said that he clearly recalled reading investigative reports about mishandling the Qur'an, including a toilet incident. But the official, still speaking anonymously, could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the SouthCom report.

So 'these concerns' surfaced in a different report? Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong? 

Told of what the NEWSWEEK source said, DiRita exploded, "People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said. How could he be credible now?"

(Can someone ask DiRita about today's credibility of those WMD-in-Iraq hypers in his department, including himself, - now that 'people are dead because of what these sons of a bitches said'?)

But lets not get distracted: Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong?

In the meantime, as part of his ongoing reporting on the detainee-abuse story, Isikoff had contacted a New York defense lawyer, Marc Falkoff, who is representing 13 Yemeni detainees at Guantánamo. According to Falkoff's declassified notes, a mass-suicide attempt--when 23 detainees tried to hang or strangle themselves in August 2003--was triggered by a guard's dropping a Qur'an and stomping on it. One of Falkoff's clients told him, "Another detainee tried to kill himself after the guard took his Qur'an and threw it in the toilet."

Did Newsweek really get its facts wrong?

Bader Zaman Bader, a 35-year-old former editor of a fundamentalist English-language magazine in Peshawar, was released from more than two years' lockup in Guantánamo seven months ago. Arrested by Pakistani security as a suspected Qaeda militant in November 2001, he was handed over to the U.S. military and held at a tent at the Kandahar airfield. One day, Bader claims, as the inmates' latrines were being emptied, a U.S. soldier threw in a Qur'an.

The article ends about there.

The essence of the original Newsweek claim and a new aspect was: "There is an official U.S. report about mishandling the Qur'an, including a toilet incident". This claim still holds. The version number or draft title of the official U.S. report may have been wrong. But the essence of the story still holds.

There must have been immense pressure on Newsweek to come up with some kind of retraction and they did it in an artful way. They do retract by non-retraction.

The question: "How did NEWSWEEK get its facts wrong?" is a rhetoric question. The facts were not wrong, but some details are unknown. Indeed the central abuse claim gets rolled out in more details, with more incidents and more sources.

In a sidekick towards the Pentagon the detail on General Miller's non-indictment, not reported the last time, is made public and DiRita gets exposed as the son of a bitch he is.

Some headlines may now say 'Newsweek was wrong'. But when concerned Muslims will  study the article, they will understand that in fact, Newsweek sticks to the original report and the additional reporting will add fuel to the fire.

The pressure that obviously has been applied to Newsweek here, did not help on the real issue. The non-retraction retraction might calm some internal U.S. concerns. The Muslim world will see this as the confirmation that it is and it will act upon it in a appropriate way.

Story by Moon of Alabama

Originally posted to Bernhard on Sun May 15, 2005 at 04:22 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  More than headlines (none)
    "Newsweek admits it was wrong" was the lead story on I think CBS Evening News tonight (Sunday), and I think that's the way the story's going to be played.  Clearly they were under pressure by the Administration, and the networks will similarly play it as a mea culpa.  And the story's probably true.
    •  it seems like gov't dictates to media (none)
      It's amazing that other media outlets are portraying this as an admission Newsweek got the story wrong.

      It's almost like we're living in a society where the media takes orders from the government, at least on issues relevant to national security.

      Bloggin Blagojevich's Blunders: do you want to see Roddy B challenged in the Dem Primary?

      by Carl Nyberg on Sun May 15, 2005 at 07:07:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  yeah, very weird reporting (none)
    I thought that when I read the AP story and didn't really find anything to back up the headline.  Technically, Newsweek admitted they were wrong on a point of fact: They claimed the allegations were contained in a report to a committee, and are now saying that the allegations may have been left out of that report, so their information on that was mistaken.  However, they haven't retracted the allegations themselves, which is obviously what the headline was implying.

    "See a world of tanks, ruled by a world of banks." —Sol Invictus

    by Delirium on Sun May 15, 2005 at 04:27:46 PM PDT

  •  Good catch (none)
    but the damage will be done, as the NYT headlines claims that Newsweek has corrected its reporting, so:

    • people in the US might end up believing it is not true
    • the Muslim world will certainly keep on believing it is true

    Good combination...

    in the long run, we're all dead (Keynes)

    by Jerome a Paris on Sun May 15, 2005 at 04:32:02 PM PDT

  •  another example of RWCM shoddiness (none)
    This is just outrageous.  And it's not over.

    The Winguts will go ballistic over this, and you know what, on the merits, they will be right.  Their agenda behind their outrage will be worng, but their point - the sloppiness of the media - will be correct.

    In a time when corporate media are so sloppy that investigation and verification remain undone, because telling the truth is expensive, you will have things like this happen.  

    This is not a matter of so-called media bias.  It is an example of the degradation of our media due to a lack of attention to telling the verifiable truth.

    We should not let the wingers distort this, and we should get ahead of this story.  

    We are not "compassionate conservatives." We are "fighting liberals." And we'll kick your ass.

    by Pachacutec on Sun May 15, 2005 at 04:32:22 PM PDT

    •  the sloppiness of the media (none)
      Just killed 20 folks on Afghanistan.

      Newsweek, please check your FACTS.

      The problem with the easy way out is that it has already been mined. Murphy's Laws of Combat

      by Sub Hunter on Sun May 15, 2005 at 04:37:57 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  newsweek didnt kill anyone (none)
        I think newsweek most likely made a big mistake but I think blaming them for the deaths that happened, and will continue to happen, is a bit much.  The fact that so many people are worked up to the point that they want the U.S. to turn over those "responsible" to be executed is a bit much.  If it did happen they have a right to be pissed, but demanding a head on a platter and threatening all out war is ridiculous.
    •  they're already going ballistic (none)
      Power Line, Instapundit, and LGF already have multiple  stories up.  Reynolds is already claiming "People died because Newsweek rushed to get out a story designed to make Bush look bad."

      I don't think Newsweek would write an article about Newsweek getting its facts wrong unless they really thought it was so.  But they do reveal that they delivered the story up the chain of command to the Pentagon for confirmation and they didn't dispute it.  Doesn't that sound suspiciously similar to the WH verifying the TANG documents for CBS?

      If the WH deliberately verified parts of the Newsweek story simply to make Newsweek look bad, then who is really responsible for the riots and the deaths?  Either that or it was completely overlooked by the staffer, in which case they're not exactly well-versed in the meaning of the Koran to the Muslim world.

      "Killing a man to defend an idea isn't defending an idea. It's killing a man." -Jean-Luc Godard, "Notre Musique"

      by dday on Sun May 15, 2005 at 04:39:53 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Better link to Newsweek (none)
      Editor Mark Whitaker said the magazine inaccurately reported that U.S. military investigators had confirmed that personnel at the detention facility in Cuba had flushed the Muslim holy book down the toilet.

      link is here:   Yahoo

      The problem with the easy way out is that it has already been mined. Murphy's Laws of Combat

      by Sub Hunter on Sun May 15, 2005 at 04:45:03 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  of course, we won't be allowed.... (none)
    ...get the stories of the prisoners...
  •  The right wing needs to shut up (4.00)
    Michelle Malkin: "Newsweek lied.  People died."

    Powerline: "Pathetic."

    John J. Miller: "Several people need to lose their jobs over this huge error."

    Jonah Goldberg: "Something tells me that if the White House made a mistake which resulted in riots, deaths, etc there'd be a just a smidgen more outrage than we'll hear about this."

    Jonah's comment seems to be an appropriate jumping-off point.  WOULD there be more of an outrage "if the White House made a mistake which resulted in deaths"?  It doesn't have to be a hypothetical question.  How much outrage has there been in the media over the Downing Street Memo?  Not much, eh?

    But set that aside.  Jonah finds it outrageous that the White House might be held to a higher standard for accuracy than Newsweek.  Isn't it, uh, LOGICAL that this might be the case?  Doesn't the US Government make an awful lot more life-altering decisions than Newsweek magazine, for God's sake?  Don't we expect the President to check his facts a little more closely than your average newsmagazine?

    But set that aside.  Where the fuck do these people get off blithely demanding accountability from a MAGAZINE, when their very right-wing way of life requires shrugging off every life that's been lost as a result of this Administration's actions?

    "Several people need to lose their jobs."  How many people lost their jobs over the decision to go to war in Iraq?  Oh, that's right, only the people who disagreed lost their jobs.

    "Several people need to lose their jobs."  How many people lost their jobs over Abu Ghraib?  Hint, right-wingers, you can't count penny-ante scapegoats, unless you would be fine with Newsweek firing the guy in the mail room over this!

    If right-wing standards of accountability were applied to this Newsweek story, the magazine's editor would get the fucking Medal of Honor.  The wingnuts need to shut the fuck up.

    •  Reactions (none)
      From the Middle of the road....


          WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Newsweek magazine on Sunday said it may have erred in a May 9 report that said U.S. interrogators desecrated the Koran at Guantanamo Bay, and apologized to victims of deadly violence sparked by the article.

      Two points: (1) If they had wrongly reported the race of a criminal and produced a lynching, they'd feel much worse -- which is why they generally don't report such things, a degree of sensitivity they don't extend to reporting on, you know, minor topics like wars; and (2) If a blogger had made a similar mistake, with similar consequences, we'd be hearing about Big Media's superior fact-checking and layers of editors.

      People died, and U.S. military and diplomatic efforts were damaged, because -- let's be clear here -- Newsweek was too anxious to get out a story that would make the Bush Administration and the military look bad.

      The problem with the easy way out is that it has already been mined. Murphy's Laws of Combat

      by Sub Hunter on Sun May 15, 2005 at 05:17:52 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Skeptical (none)
    Forgive me but I am skeptical that any retraction is because they now know they are wrong. A more likely reasoninig is that the Administration wants the riots to stop and this seems like the best way to do it.
    Truth be told, it probably happened.
    •  Truth be told, it probably happened. ?? (none)
      WHO are YOU to say this about our MILITARY??????

      The problem with the easy way out is that it has already been mined. Murphy's Laws of Combat

      by Sub Hunter on Sun May 15, 2005 at 06:12:19 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  THAT is the Abu-Ghraib fallout! (none)
      Here you have it, folks.  The real damage from the Abu Ghraib scandal.  Even if Newsweek truly fucked up (as opposed to throwing a retraction due to government pressure), no one will honestly believe it, except the freepers.  

      Certainly, it's almost too easy to imagine some Lynndie or Charlie Graner throwing the koran down the toilet, and flushing it down along with a good dose of stool in front of some shmuck who did nothing except being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

  •  This so-called retraction is clearly (none)
    for consumption by the Fox news crowd, and further intimidation at home. Nobody anywhere else in the world is ever going to believe there really was a retraction based on new evidence.  Why should they, even if there really were a "retraction"?
  •  Was just watching Fox... (none)
    ...I know, I know, but you have to keep an eye on the enemy, right?

    Anyway, caught the tail end of a discussion on this issue: Republican Asshole: "What I don't understand is....why are we giving these people books that help them keep their moral up. We should take away the Korans and give them Bibles. Somebody needs to drill some Christianity into these people."

    That makes my blood run cold. Who exactly are the barbaric and uncivilized people in this conflict?

    As the Talibaptists continue to accumulate more and more power over this country, it's time to rethink the situation. These Talibaptists are not just stupid, which we would live with for the next 3+ years, they are very very dangerous.


  •  These idiots have gotten Muslims exercised (none)
    all over the Arab world...

    They are not going to believe Newsweek.  They are going to believe the first story.  And they are not going to calm down.  This is a sacrilege to them.

    I'm just wondering this was some kind of trojan horse or Reichstag fire sent to piss these people off royally so they'll do something violent in response.  Bad enough that we had Abu Ghraib, but this could be a capper to a lot of Muslims.

    One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.--Bobby Kennedy

    by blksista on Sun May 15, 2005 at 06:20:01 PM PDT

    •  not this subtle (none)
      Does it seem likely that the Neo Cons have the cultural sensitivity or awareness to work at this level of subtlety?

      You're right, but on the larger level. The Neo Cons wanted to escalate the conflict for the purpose of producing more antagonism. They didn't calculate how the antagonism would happen. They just knew we'd do stuff to antagonize Arabs and Muslims and al Qaeda and the insurgents would do stuff to antagonize us.

      Bloggin Blagojevich's Blunders: do you want to see Roddy B challenged in the Dem Primary?

      by Carl Nyberg on Sun May 15, 2005 at 07:14:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  If it wasn't for Abu Ghraib, (none)
      This story wouldn't have gotten any traction anywhere except Al Jazeera and the like.

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