Will Bush nominate Isikoff for Presidential Medal of Freedom?
UPDATE: Note to self. Always check Daily Kos first before writing about such matters. Susan Hu does a vastly better job on this incident than I. Go check it out, because there's a lot more to this story, including the fact that there are many other independent reports of similar allegations.
UPDATE II: After reading Susan's post, read Steve's comments to this post showing the eerie similarities to "Memogate". Newsweek links are here and here.
So, Newsweek is backing off the story about the alleged Koran-flushing incident. According to CNN (bold text is my emphasis):
...Newsweek magazine backed away Sunday from a report that U.S. interrogators desecrated copies of the Quran while questioning prisoners at the Guantanamo Bay naval base -- an account blamed for sparking violent riots in Afghanistan.
"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 [investigators'] report would include new details that were not in the FBI e-mails, including mention of flushing the Quran down a toilet."
Whitaker wrote that before publishing the account the magazine approached two Pentagon officials for comment. One declined and the other challenged a different aspect of the report, Whitaker wrote.
Myers said at the Pentagon briefing Thursday the military was looking into the allegations.
He said investigators had so far been unable to confirm a "toilet incident, except for one case, a log entry, which they still have to confirm, where a detainee was reported by a guard to be ripping pages out of a Quran and putting [them] in the toilet to stop it up as a protest. But not where the U.S. did it."
On Friday, Newsweek said, DiRita phoned the magazine and said that investigators found no incidents involving Quran desecration.
A day later, Isikoff reached his source again, who said that although he remembered reading investigative reports about desecration of the Quran, including a toilet incident, "he could no longer be sure that these concerns had surfaced in the [Southern Command] report."
DiRita "exploded" when Newsweek informed him that one of the original sources behind the report had partially backed off the story, the magazine said.
"People are dead because of what this son of a bitch said," DiRita told Newsweek, according to the magazine's report. "How could he be credible now?"
DiRita confirmed the quote to CNN.
He said investigators have found nothing to support allegations that U.S. troops had desecrated copies of the Quran, but turned up one case he said has now led to stricter procedures at the prison camp.
In that case, a Quran fell to the floor during a routine search, he said. The book was encased in surgical mask, which prisoners at the facility are given to protect the book.
Camp commanders have since established stronger procedures when searching near a Quran, DiRita said -- including a rule that allows only Muslim troops, interrogators or chaplains to touch a copy.
But Newsweek said Isikoff has uncovered more allegations of Quran desecration.
One, from an attorney representing some of the detainees, provided some declassified notes indicating 23 detainees had tried to commit suicide in August 2003 when a guard dropped a Quran and stomped on it. (Full story)
Isikoff found two other references to Qurans being tossed into toilets or latrines, the magazine reported.
U.S. military officials said such claims are standard terrorist tactics.
"If you read the al Qaeda training manual, they are trained to make allegations against the infidels," Army Col. Brad Blackner told Newsweek.
Well, yes. Which is why it makes a lot of sense to not institutionalize and engage in un-American behaviors that Al Qaeda can later publicize and use for recruitment (think Abu-Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay for example).
Now, Isikoff seems to have screwed up by relying on a single source and not getting documentary proof of the original allegation - and this is a particularly bad screw up if Newsweek is actually retracting the veracity of the story entirely. So, I would hope that Newsweek and other media outlets learn from this to be more careful about whom they trust considering the costly nature of this mistake. There is no excuse for shoddy journalism.
At the same time, once the usual suspects on the Right start braying for Isikoff's head - which I don't think is warranted here unless malpractice is revealed (as opposed to a genuine mistake in trusting the wrong source) - it might be helpful to ask them to tell DiRita to tell his Dear Leader to nominate Isikoff for the Presidential Medal of Freedom (to join George Tenet's company) and ask Newsweek to promote Isikoff (to match the treatment Condi Rice got). Although, I suspect that since the magnitude of Isikoff's mistake completely, completely dwarfs all the intentional fakery from Tenet, Rice, and Bush, et al., I suspect Bush and his foot soldiers may not be as willing to proceed down this path.
[Note to 101st Fighting Keyboarders and Trolls: Yes, this is supposed to be snark, but you guys and your Dear Leader have a habit of making truth stranger than snark].