Thursday, May 26, 2005

Will the FBI be forced to retract documented claims of Koran abuse?

Today's NY Times has the story about the FBI documenting Koran abuse.

Note that the article says military investigators couldn't "substantiate the charge" of Koran abuse. How was the prisoner going to do that? And what kind of intimidation might have been used to get the prisoner to retract his statement? Maybe forcing his head in the toilet to fish for the Koran? Or maybe he decided to change his story after a little waterboarding?

WASHINGTON, May 25 - Newly released documents show that detainees at Guant�namo Bay, Cuba, complained repeatedly to F.B.I. agents about disrespectful handling of the Koran by military personnel and, in one case in 2002, said they had flushed a Koran down a toilet.

The prisoners' accounts are described by the agents in detailed summaries of interrogations at Guant�namo in 2002 and 2003. The documents were among more than 300 pages turned over by the F.B.I. to the American Civil Liberties Union in recent days and publicly disclosed Wednesday.

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.

I'm hoping for more fireworks between Terry Moran and Scott McClellan in the White House Press Room today:

Moran: In light of the FBI documentation of Koran abuse at Guantanamo Bay, including an account of a Koran being flushed down the toilet in 2002, shouldn't the White House issue an apology to people of the Muslim faith?

McClellan: Who made you president?

Of course, I doubt we'd hear Bill O'Reilly weighing in this time saying McClellan ought to be slapped for being disrespectful.

Oh well, here's yesterday's actual exchange between Moran and McClellan:
Go ahead, Terry.

Q Scott, there's an FBI memo that's been released today through a Freedom of Information request. It dates from August 23, 2002, and recounts the interrogation -- the interview of a detainee at Bagram. And in this memo, the FBI recounts that this detainee says he had nothing against the United States, but the guards in his detention facility do not treat him well, their behavior is bad; about five months ago, the guards beat the detainees and they flushed a Koran in the toilet.

Now, there has been some statements coming from some administration officials since the Newsweek retraction of its story that a Koran was flushed down the toilet, that the United States government had no knowledge of any such allegation.

MR. McCLELLAN: This is referring to a detainee, right?

Q Correct.

MR. McCLELLAN: No, I think what the Department of Defense has said is that they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegation.

Q At one point I believe Mr. DiRita said that there was no such allegation.

MR. McCLELLAN: You can check with the Department of Defense on his words, but I know that they have publicly said that they have found nothing to substantiate any such allegations. There have been allegations made by detainees. We know that members of al Qaeda are trained to mislead and to provide false reports. We know that's one of their tactics that they use. And so I think you have to keep that in mind, as well.

Q For sure. How important is it --

MR. McCLELLAN: But in terms -- I mean in terms of if there's any abuse of detainees, we take any such allegations very seriously. And if there is abuse of detainees, we hold people to account -- you mentioned mistreatment of a detainee -- and we have done that, and we also take steps to correct any problems. And we have done that, as well.

Hmm...I don't remember any corrective action by the White House on Koran abuse...other than slamming Newsweek for publishing a claim based on an anonymous source.


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