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May 17, 2005
Newsweek Still Blames The Pentagon For Bad Journalism

Today's New York Times shows that Newsweek is sticking with its strategy of blaming the Pentagon for not censoring its false report of Qu'ran abuse at Gitmo. While Newsweek's editorial board finally issued a retraction claiming that the story could not be substantiated, which one would consider either an indictment of its single anonymous source or its reporters or editors, the magazine believes that the US military should have superceded Newsweek's editors and made the decision not to run the information:

In the interview, Mr. Whitaker expressed frustration at the Pentagon for not informing the magazine of questions about the accuracy of the original account until about 10 days after it was published. He added that the magazine was continuing to report on the underlying accusations of Koran desecration.

An article in the current Newsweek said the original report, written by a veteran investigative reporter, Michael Isikoff, and the magazine's national security correspondent, John Barry, relied on a "longtime reliable source" who told Mr. Isikoff that a new report on prisoner abuses at Guantnamo would include a mention of a Koran being flushed down a toilet. The magazine said it showed the original article to a Pentagon official who challenged one aspect of the story but not the report about the desecration of the Koran. ...

Military officials dismissed the complaints as commanders at Guantnamo conducted media tours of the facility during which they emphasized steps taken to demonstrate respect for Islam. Inmates, they noted, were given copies of the Koran along with a cloth surgical mask, which they used as a kind of sling to suspend the book from the wire mesh walls to ensure it did not touch the floor. ...

Last month, a former American interrogator confirmed to The New York Times an account given in an interview by a former Kuwaiti detainee, Nasser Nijer Naser al-Mutairi, who said that mishandling of the Koran once led to a major hunger strike. The strike ended only after a senior officer expressed regret over the camp's loudspeaker system, which was simultaneously translated by linguists at the end of each cell block, the former interrogator said.

In that case, the accusations were of copies of the Koran being tossed on the floor in a pile and treated roughly, but there was no assertion that any had been put in the toilet.

So Newsweek wants to continue its pioneering work in the efforts to uncover Qu'ran desecration, eh? Perhaps Isikoff and Whitaker won't be satisfied until hundreds or thousands lie dead in violent protests touched off by irresponsible reporting. The irrationality of the Islamic lunatics who create killing zones over such matters is their own responsibility, of course, but Newsweek still has not addressed what it saw as the newsworthiness of the reports, even if true. What issues were at play? What laws had been broken?

The truth is that Newsweek only reported this because it knew it would make the military and the Bush administration look bad by being culturally insensitive to radical Muslims. It counted on this kind of reaction to sell copies of its magazine and to get people talking about the publication, which has never been terribly relevant before. No other explanation suffices for the inclusion of such trivial and irrelevant reporting as to the conditions of Qu'rans at Gitmo or anywhere else, except perhaps to note the extraordinary measures and procedures the military has put in place for handling this material since 9/11. Sandy Berger gave top-secret material less respect than the military gives the Qu'ran.

Newsweek needs to quit blaming the Pentagon for not having an immediate answer for a trivial and ridiculous question and for Newsweek's impatience in waiting for a more substantial response before publishing the allegation. Unless the American media wants the military to assume editorial control over all news publications, that argument is a dead loser and only highlights the weaselly aspects of the reporters and editors involved.

UPDATE: Speaking of bad journalism, my good friend Kevin McCullough explains how in six steps Newsweek managed to screw up the story.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 17, 2005 2:20 PM

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» Keith Olbermann accuses the White House of Treason from Narcissistic views on News/Politics
Media: What is the crime? They didn't deny Newsweek story. [Read More]

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As in hit it out of the park, out of the atmosphere, and out of the plane of the solar system: [T]he state of the world is, you tell a Muslim country that U.S. interrogators are flushing that holy book, and it will hit the fan. What’s f... [Read More]

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» "I am God." from Obviously Right
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