May 15, 2005

Newsweek Paragraph Sparks Violence. Were They Cavalier in Their Reporting?

It was one small seemingly insignificant paragraph to Isikoff, but the results were significant and deadly.

The unrest began this week after Newsweek published an allegation that American military interrogators had desecrated the Islamic holy book in an effort to rattle detainees at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. The report said that they had placed the Koran on the lavatory inside inmates’ cells and had “in at least one case, flushed a holy book down the toilet” .

AT LEAST nine people were killed yesterday as a wave of anti-American demonstrations swept the Islamic world from the Gaza Strip to the Java Sea, sparked by a single paragraph in a magazine alleging that US military interrogators had desecrated the Koran. lts were devastating.
Now it's beginning to become clear that the "devastating" paragraph wasn't true.

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. 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?"

Another reliable "anonymous" source. To make a contention with this sort of potential impact Isikoff should have had at least 3 sources two of which would be willing to go on the record. Don't these people have the slightest concern for the consequences of their actions. Are they so myopic in their zeal that thinly verified assertions are synonomous with fact.

The pen is mightier than the sword and when used indiscrimantly equally as deadly.

Update: Newsweek apologizes....sort of:

Last Friday, a top Pentagon spokesman told us that a review of the probe cited in our story showed that it was never meant to look into charges of Qur'an desecration. The spokesman also said the Pentagon had investigated other desecration charges by detainees and found them "not credible." Our original source later said he couldn't be certain about reading of the alleged Qur'an incident in the report we cited, and said it might have been in other investigative documents or drafts. Top administration officials have promised to continue looking into the charges, and so will we. But we regret that we got any part of our story wrong, and extend our sympathies to victims of the violence and to the U.S. soldiers caught in its midst.
Posted by Traderrob

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